Clays Horticultural Society’s June meeting provided members with much food for thought with the topic ‘The Wonderful World of Weeds’.
Until her retirement, Sally Smith was the Head of Information and Training at the Ryton Organic Gardens near Coventry. She is now a freelance speaker and runs small workshops from her home near Matlock, for those particularly interested in organic gardening.
The definition of a weed is a herbaceous plant, not valued for use or beauty, growing wild and encumbering superior vegetation. Otherwise – a plant growing where the gardener doesn’t like it or want it!
Wild oats are a particular pest for farmers and have proven very difficult to kill. Scarlet Pimpernel, however, can be useful; otherwise known as ‘the poor man’s weather glass’, it only opens when the sun shines.
Unfortunately for us, the Romans introduced many weeds, including ground elder (gout weed, grown as a treatment for gout). Not to be outdone, Britain was also to blame for spreading weeds, particularly to the colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries. Australia now has 2,500 weeds brought in mostly by travellers!
The weeds listed as particular pests are Giant Hogweed, Japanese knot weed, Ragwort, and Himalayan balsam. The latter can shoot seed pods up to seven metres. All these should be systematically destroyed as they are harmful to humans and animals.
Common problems for most gardeners are docks, dandelions, nettles and goose grass.
Fat Hen is another nuisance – it produces 70,000 seeds per plant and seeds 1,700 years old have been discovered still fertile! Bind weed, nickname ‘Devil’s guts’, is in the list of the world’s most serious weeds. It will love your gardens as it prefers disturbed soil. It doesn’t grow on rough ground.
To try to keep weeds to a minimum, hoe your beds before planting annuals, but after for perennials. Change and improve your soil, drain soggy areas; dig less and cover beds with green manure or compost. Supress weeds by putting down cardboard and covering with mulch. Close planting is advised, so weeds have no room to grow.
For further advice go to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Society has just held a successful Open Gardens Day in Wheatley and Sturton, which they plan to repeat next year. July’s meeting took the form of a visit to Binbrook Fern Nursery and the next general meeting will be Monday 19th September at 7.30pm in Wheatley Village Hall. The speaker will be Doug Stewart on ‘The Way We Were – Gardening 60 Years Ago’.