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  Weeds in your Garden.

Good and Bad weeds.

        Of course, not all  weeds are to be despised and the organic gardener  who gets rid of them all is wasting  a valuable natural asset. Many weeds will attract insect predators, some also provide food for birds and butterflies and others, like the clovers (Trifolium  sp.), can be used to fix nitro-gen in the soil. So, before  making an indiscriminate  onslaught  on native plants, pause for thought.
       Indeed,  I  recommend growing cultivated plants in the ornamental garden that are close to their original  wild species because they will attract the same insect life.
      However,  I am not suggesting  that you allow nature to take over, as your cultivated "foreigners" will be at the mercy of some pretty tough "locals", who will give scant regard to "entente cordiale".  Most weeds must be rigorously controlled,  but there are a few that should be allowed to stay if you have room. I  have grouped together those which have to be removed ("Bad Weeds")  and those which can be beneficial  ("Good Weeds").
              BAD WEEDS
  • The underground creepers should never be allowed to flourish or they will take over in next to no time. Amongst these be particularly  ruthless  with ground elder (Aegopodium  podagraria),bindweed (Convolvulus  arvensis),  couch grass  (Agropyron repens), Canada  thistle  (Cirsium arvense), rosebay  willow-herb  (Epilobium  angusti-folium) and Japanese  knotweed  (Potygonum cuspidatum). The  surface  creepers like creeping buttercup (Ranunculus  repens), ground ivy  (Glechoma hederacea)  and cinquefoil (Potentilla sp.) are slightly easier to control,  but be diligent.
  • Weeds  that spread by seed are not difficult to control, provided they are pulled out or cut down before they-have  a chance to seed. Keep an  eye out for bull thistle (Cirsium  vulgare) and broad -leaved  willow-herb  (  Epilobium montanum).
  • Plants with tap roots (long, thick, fleshy  roots that go straight down into the soil) like docks (Rumex sp.) and cow parsley  (Anthriscus sylvestris) should be dug out.
  • Storage roots (tubers, corms,  bulbs or rhizomes) often break off in the soil when the plant is pulled up and this can be a means of propagation. The worst of the lot is oxalis, which-must be dealt with as soon as  it shows even an exploratory  leaf. Constant  hoeing is the only answer. unless you can leave a sheet of black plastic in place for at least a year.
Having made sure that the real villains  are banished forever, try to give room  to some of the less invasive plants.  As gardeners,  our interest lies in the cultivation of plants for beauty  and interest and for the purpose of feeding our families. How far you allow nature to take over is a matter of judgement  and will depend largely on the size of your garden,  and the range of  wild plants you can grow will depend  upon the soil, site and location. In my own garden the pretty yellow snapdragon flowers of toadflax  (Linaria vulgaris) and the pure white clusters  of white campion (Lychnis  alba) or red campion (Lychnis dioica) are always allowed  to remain. In the borders where  these "weeds" have access to artificially  fertile soil, they really thrive and produce flowers  that rival any cultivated hybrid.
It has been said that if the dandelion  (Taraxa-cum officinale) only grew in Tibet, we would be sending plant hunters  to collect  it and we would pay huge sums of money  to nurserymen to propagate  it. It may be common,  but it is an undeniably  pretty flower. Do not let it  seed, however, or it will outstay its welcome.
The stinging  nettle (Urtica dioica) is an anti-social plant, but do allow some to remain if you can because  it is an extremely  important food for butterflies.
  • The corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas)  used to be a common  sight before chemical  weedkillers  made it virtually  extinct in cornfields. It is a favourite with finches  when it  seeds,  so it is certainly-worth growing.
Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) and herb robert (Geranium robertianum)  are valuable nectar plants for butterflies and bees, but can be a nuisance  if allowed  to seed.
If you have an old tree stump in the garden, you can make an attractive feature of  it by covering  it with ivy (Hedera hetix). Many birds and insects use ivy as a home  and a food plant.
  • Allow chickweed  (Stellaria  media) to grow in winter to help prevent  the ground becoming waterlogged.  It will rot down after digging  in supplementing compost and manure. Do not let it grow in summer  as, once  it gets a hold, it can be particularly  troublesome.
  • The teasel (Dipsacus fullonum)  is a tall, stately plant with large seed heads which attract gold-finches, who will travel far for the seeds.-The flowers attract butterflies and other insects.
Another insect attractor is lamb's quarters (Chenopodium  album),  which was a  favourite vegetable  in the Middle  Ages.
Finally,  there  are the leguminous plants that will fix nitrogen  and release it into the soil once they' are dug in. For example. the medicks  (Medicaga  sp.) and clovers Trifolium sp. can be allowed to remain  in winter.

Garden Planters

One of the good things about having planters is that you have less weeding to do. You will have some to do though. If you can tell the difference between the weed and the plant that you are trying to grow - pull the weed out while it is small.  Planters have limited soil, nutrients, light and water. The resources that get devoured by weeds. Weeds tend to be fast growing and voracious devouring all the nutrients that your plants need to flourish.
  • Add mulch to planters, containers and raised beds just as you would normally. Mulching will go a long way toward preventing weeds.
  • Plant your planter to avoid weeds. Canopy plants such as hostas will not let enough light reach the soil for weeds to germinate.  One of the really attractive features of planters is that you can plant more densely than you would in a garden bed because you can add nutrients and water as and when they are needed. You can move the smaller planters to catch the sun.

Sowing Garden Seeds

Useful Weeds
(Medicago  lupulina)
      A nitrogen-fixing plant. It also attracts butterflies, bees  and hover-flies.

Lamb’s Quarters
(Chenopodium  album)
      Attracts hover-flies, which eat aphids, and bees. High  in iron, protein, calcium and vitamin  B, and an excellent spinach substitute.

(Linaria vulgaris)
   Good source of nectar; a decorative plant with delicate, yellow  flowers.

(Stellaria media)
    Good source of green manure because  it grows  rapidly. Birds like to eat the seeds of this plant.

(Senecio vulgaris)
     Good source of nectar for butterflies  and  bees, although  not an  attractive plant.

Red Campion
(Lychnis  dioica)
     Attracts bees  which pollinate flowers.  Also butterflies  and moths drawn by a perfume released by the plant at night - which attract birds. When  cultivated, the size of the flowers increases.
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