Weed control – is this the gardener’s toughest job?

Weed control dandelion seeds

It is said that gardening is all about the gardener’s efforts to control nature and controlling weeds must be one of the hardest tasks that the gardener has to do.

Weeding and weeds can especially be a challenge when you are new to gardening because it’s not always easy to identify which plants are the weeds and which plants are not. They can also be a challenge when you are re-creating or reviving a garden that has been left unloved.

But, like almost anything in life, the extent to which we are troubled by weeds is largely determined by our attitude towards them.

I confess to having been an anti-weed fanatic in the past, patrolling my garden on the lookout for weeds like a tramp in search of cigarette butts, head down, shuffling, obsessed. But in recent times I’ve developed a grudging respect for weeds, after all, the reason that they are able so comprehensively to invade our gardens and landscapes is because they are among the most advanced plants in evolutionary terms.

Weeds succeed because they have developed extremely efficient ways of either staying alive or reproducing themselves. They may do this by sending deep tenacious tap roots down into the soil which regenerate whenever the upper parts of the plant are removed, or they may have a fast track life-cycle whereby they germinate, grow, flower and set seed all in a matter of weeks.

Of course, I don’t welcome weeds into my garden and am as exasperated as the next person by the constant re-emergence of the perennial weeds that my garden is host to. But I have managed to develop a slightly more tolerant attitude to these unwelcome guests.

In many respects, a gardener’s relationship with weeds is likely to depend upon whether he or she gardens organically or with the use of chemicals.

The gardener who uses chemicals clearly has some powerful weapons at his disposal in his or her war on weeds.

But as well as exercising some weed control, those weapons are capable of causing a fair degree of collateral damage, whether by harming plants that the gardener wants to keep, or by more broadly damaging the garden’s ecosystem.

If you garden organically, on the other hand, you either have to be willing to accept the presence of some weeds in your garden for at least some of the time or you have to adopt and maintain a more long-term strategy of weed prevention.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of ways that the organic gardener can manage weeds and we’ll look at them in the posts in this weed control series. We’ll also look at some of the ways that weeds can be a beneficial presence in our gardens.

Weed control resources

You’ll find more weed control resources here:

The Gardening Step by Step weed control series

Weed identification

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