Weeds that I dislike - and ones I have some affection for

Torbay Weekly

The weather is possibly the most popular subject us gardeners want to talk about when we need to pass a few minutes.

Second to that is either weeds or what pests are attacking our flowers or vegetables this week.

Often it’s both, with the weather conversation leading down the weeds and pests avenue.

With the highest rainfall ‘since records began’, whenever that was, there has also been an abundance of weeds.

Add a touch of sunshine and you can start to hear the creaking sound of weeds growing as soon as your back is turned.

That leads to the question, what actually is a weed?

My understanding of a weed is a plant that is growing where you don’t want it. A plant in the wrong place. And since effective gardening is about the right plant in the right place, the friction is understandable.

Mentally I’ve separated weeds into ones I dislike and ones I have some affection for.

However much I try to see the beauty in a bindweed flower, I still can t get over its serpent-like characteristics of immortality and silently and rapidly strangulating all in its path.

Give me Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) any day. This tiny geranium is prolific but its is also so easy to weed and pulls out of the ground whole with no effort whatsoever.

Since it can cover a large area removing it gives a smug sense of casual efficiency. It has minute pink flowers too that you need to get on your hands and knees to fully appreciate.

Another of the plants that would be in Slitheryn is Canadian fleabane or horseweed as its known locally.

This can broadcast 250,000 seeds from one plant and I'm sure it would be the first thing to grow back should there be a nuclear incident on my allotment.

It also has sap that irritates the skin, just in case the quarter of a million seeds per plant isn't enough.

Given the effective, multiple arsenal that weeds carry, often using different creative and determined operations they are to be admired on one level but removed on another.

While selective weedkillers are available on the market, it is more often than not easier (apart from dandelions!) to hand weed where you need to.

While we might bemoan weeding instead of planting or harvesting, this task is actually gardening and its what keeps us sane and in control of at least one area of our lives.

Learning to recognise and understand the characteristics, both good and bad of these plants, is half the battle of living with weeds.

Many, if not all, have quaint and long-forgotten names like ‘fat hen’, twitch, eggs and bacon and my particular favourite, lady jump out of bed (bindweed).

The main reason we dislike weeds is that they take nutrients from the flowers and vegetables we choose to nurture and they can look a bit unsightly too.

My favoured method of dealing with weeds is to hoe over the top of them on a dry day and leave them to wither in the heat.

The nature of weeds is that they come back so doing this regularly will keep things weed free.

A more recent approach is the no-dig method.

It is possible to cover the weeds with a substrate that will rot down, I use cardboard, and then place mulch or compost on top and keep repeating the pattern.

It’s much easier to knock the top off the compost and disrupt the weeds in this way than having to dig down three feet to remove a gnarly old dandelion root.

Having said that, dandelions are beautiful flowers and can be put to use in the kitchen to good effect.