Weeding. It's what we do any rainy and damp spring and early summer.
Wet and mild conditions result in lush growth in our gardens, and not only the trees and borders burgeon into growth- the weeds do as well. Gardens that looked pristine and well-groomed rapidly become overgrown and rank with weeds. Weeds will swamp your plants, robbing nutrients and moisture from the soil and, becoming taller, take light and energy that your garden plants need to thrive.
You must be vigilant and remove them. Weeds survive because of their ability to grow quickly and seed prolifically. Some gardeners use selective sprays to get rid of weeds but you can lose precious plants from spraying. You may be concerned about the impact of sprays on the environment, and only use them in dire circumstances. There is really only one other solution- weeding by hand.
If you had to leave your garden to the weeds for a few weeks in the late spring, you would return to find scotch thistles and dandelions had sprouted, chickweed sprawling in the shade, shepherds purse dangling those cute and lethal seed-heads over your borders.
In a wet season there are weeds in the garden that we do not see when drier or drought conditions limit both plant and weed growth. Chickweed particularly has loves damp conditions, and great milk thistles and dandelions shoot up in many gardens. Bearing in mind the old gardeners adage "one years seeds means seven years weeds", you can spend days literally on your knees weeding.
It is important to remove the weeds before they have a chance to set and drop seed, creating problems for you in subsequent seasons- many weeds are annuals and by carefully eliminating them from your borders you can reduce the chore in future - or at least until the next wet summer! Scotch thistles, those great grey-green monsters bearing pretty mauve-pink flower heads will not return to haunt you next year if you 'grub' them. A daunting scotch thistle problem can be handled by relentlessly removing the main, flowering part of the plant as the root will not come away the following season.
Couch grass or 'twitch' must be pulled out cleanly and none of the root left
Other weeds are more pernicious and you must remove the entire root and stem or they will reappear, phoenix like, seemingly right after the next shower! Dandelions, docks and couch grass (twitch) must have every last scrap of root removed or they will recover and re-infest your garden. So work thoroughly and don't simply pull away the top growth of these weeds in your hurry.
The value of mulching also is clear as you weed your way around. Apart form the many other benefits, a blanket of mulch prevents many weed seeds germinating. Borders mulched over the previous winter should have relatively few weeds and can be quickly hand weeded with the weed roots coming away cleanly and quite easily. Areas due to be re-mulched during the coming winter will not only have far more weeds but are harder and slower to clear.
And what to do with those great loads of weeds you cart from the borders? Compost. A large bulk of green matter such as this, added to your compost piles will heat up enough to kill the majority of the weeds and seeds. It is far better to put the nutrients back into the garden than carting it to the council dump.
There is another benefit of weeding by hand, you can console yourself as your back aches and your fingernails break; it is a chance to be out in the garden, close to your plants and devising new schemes and dreams!