If your find yourself faced with a piece if ground containing nothing but weeds the first thing you are going to have to do is to clear it. There are a number of ways to tackle this
problem all with their advantages and disadvantages.
- Your first thought may well be to dig them out with a garden fork, and you set out into the garden, fork in hand, and a heart full of spirit. About 10 minutes later some of the shine is going to start coming off the idea! Digging a garden is slow hard work, you only have 24 hours in your day and a lot of things you need to do. If this, and the VERY painful back injury you will soon be suffering from is not sufficient the following may well be. If the weeds are established you will have things like dandelions and docks with long tap roots which break off when you try and dig them out leaving the end of the root to re-grow. In addition, you will have couch and nettles with spreading roots which snap off when you dig them out leaving little pieces which re-grow. A 1 cm piece of couch root will still survive and flourish if buried 40 cm deep. I could go on listing weeds which will fight back when you start to dig them out but I’m sure you will have got the idea now. Unless you are dealing with a very small area the odds are you are going to come off second best to the garden.
- Cover it and hope the weed die from lack of light. If all you are dealing with are annual weeds and you have plenty of patience this will work but really this more a preventative measures than a cure. With perennial weeds the time taken to kill the weeds will in all probability be far longer than the covering with survive, any holes and gaps and the weeds will just grow out of them and flourish (as will also happen around the edges) and you have to factor in the cost of purchasing the covering and them disposing of it when you have finished.
- Burning them off with a flame gun has largely fallen from popularity, largely I suspect as a result of the potential for a very large insurance claim! Flame guns only kill off anything above ground such as leaves and stems leaving any underground parts to re-grow the very next day. Their big claim always was that they killed any weed seed but this only holds true for any on the very surface as buried seeds will be protected. A word of warning not only is there the very real danger of burning something that shouldn’t be (most importantly yourself!) but they are not always the easiest of things to get going and once lit take time to heat up to their operating temperature (I’m thinking particularly of the paraffin one.)
- Reach for the sprayer. The garden centre and do-it-yourself stores contains a bewildering array of different garden chemical but in practice they are all just about a dozen different products presented in different ways. In fact the vast majority are based on one chemical, glyphosate. Why? Used correctly is safe, kills all different types of weeds including the roots and you can use the ground as soon as the weeds are dead. But; (and there is always a but) if you let the weedkiller fall onto any plants you what to keep it will kill them as well, so you need still weather. Also it takes time to act, so you need a period of dry weather so that it is not washed off before the plants take it in and then patience as it can take a couple of weeks for the weeds to die. Though it is a non-selective weedkiller (it kills all plants indiscriminately) it is more poisonous so some than others and things like nettle may take more than one treatment and large plants like brambles are best cut down and the once they start to regrow treat the young shoots.