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Gardening without weed killer - am I wasting my time?

(81 Posts)
TyrionsNextWife Sat 20-Apr-19 14:12:48

I have a large garden that was overrun with ivy and brambles, I’ve spent months clearing them and I’m making good progress. The problem is, everywhere’s now being taken over by things like ground elder and dandelions. I’ve been clearing them by hand but I don’t really think I’m getting anywhere and there’s a lot of ground to cover!
I’m wary of using weed killer for a couple of reasons - firstly there’s loads of beautiful plants dotted around that I don’t want to damage, and more importantly my gardens full of bees and other wildlife that I don’t want to kill or scare away.
I don’t care about perfect flower beds and manicured lawns (it’s very much a country cottage type garden) but I do want to keep the weed so under control.
Any ‘natural’ suggestions or do I just have a choice between weeds or roundup?

ThatDeadlyJetty Sat 20-Apr-19 14:17:19

Are the dandelions in Borders or the lawn? Regular mowing would help with the latter. Or - just embrace them as early food for the bees? I do a bit of mowing, a bit of beheading of dandelions, and a bit of chopping them out as deep as possible wih an old steak knife.

Little and often is the way. Haven you kids to train to pull the dandelion buds off?

Ground elder - no idea. I've been lucky enough to never have encountered that.

scarus Sat 20-Apr-19 14:25:22

There seem to be a million dandelions just come up in the last week. I've never seen so many. I'm not worrying too much about them.

Ground elder. You can buy those spray weed killer bottles (will be glyphosate) from Wilkos or B&Q and if you just spray the ground elder leaves as they come through, nothing else around it will die. They're pretty dilute.

Mner2019 Sat 20-Apr-19 14:29:00

They were talking about weeding on gardeners question time on a recent radio 4. The panel were encouraging more pulling up and less weedkillers. We have a large garden and I tend go through each border 3/4 times a year and pull out the obvious weeds. We don’t use many weed killers. It is not the tidiest garden though. A good hoe is a must!

BeetrootBonanza Sat 20-Apr-19 14:45:18

Depending on how many plants you want to keep that are already in the beds, you could look at trying the 'no dig' cardboard and compost weed covering method followed by Charles Dowding. He has lots of good videos on YouTube and instructions on his website.

madcatladyforever Sat 20-Apr-19 14:49:15

I've never used weed killers and I have a beautiful garden. I've just pulled up or dug up weeds enough over the years that they have never come back. I've managed to get rid of bindweed and everything.

Harebellsies Sat 20-Apr-19 14:49:54

Dig up the dandelions with a weeding tool. It isnt a losing battle, ground elder you will need a few sessions of digging all the roots out but it will be worth it and you will be able to keep it under control. Covering large areas with a cardboard box is also a shortcut.

AbsolCatly Sat 20-Apr-19 14:55:02

I have an ongoing battle with ground elder and assorted weeds

I pull some every so often and don't worry too much about what I can't reach

My planting helps keep some of it down as I have low growing bushy herbs & shrubs that don't allow much through (and stops me really seeing what's there) and couple of weed fabric/gravel areas

Dontsweatthelittlestuff Sat 20-Apr-19 17:41:42

When we moved here I spent weeks hand digging out ground elder, seizing soil, washing roots of plants it was tangled in and eventually I got it all. I have always hand weeded as I don’t lie to use chemicals but after an accident last year which as effected my mobility this spring I have had to give in and use chemicals on the block paving and patio. I weeds were getting out of hand as very little had been done since my accident last summer. Now I have it back under control I will go back to hand weeding and I am going to get one of those weed burners for more stubborn weeds.

mrsgandy Sat 20-Apr-19 17:55:55

Thanks for reminding me to go and do some weeding and stop wasting time on mumsnet.
I read boiling water is fantastic.

We won't use chemicals because of the pets . I did buy s prt friendly one but it didn't do any good .

ticketsonsalenow Sat 20-Apr-19 18:03:49

Plaster roundup gel on ground elder and dandelion leaves, that way you get no drift of spray onto anything you want to keep.

yamadori Sat 20-Apr-19 18:05:15

Brambles and ivy - I have no idea. I wish I did, because I have a small patch of woodland overrun with the things.

Dontsweatthelittlestuff Sat 20-Apr-19 19:04:12

Ivy and established brambles need something a bit stronger than round up.
You want something like SBk tree and stump killer and paint it on the leaves with an old paint brush. Might need more than one application depending on how much there is to get rid of.

CurlyhairedAssassin Sat 20-Apr-19 19:36:13

Watching with interest.

Re ivy and brambles..... I know it sounds stupid, but how many leaves do you have to paint that stuff on? I cut all my ivy and brambles back to just a little bit. So would I just paint he stuff on the growing bits and that would be enough to kill he whole plant?

Also, next door stupidly planted a common honeysuckle a few years back to grow through a tree. I realised last year why after a while he cut it back and he didn’t keep any his side, it’s cos it grows like feckiing ivy and has strangled a few plants my side where it grew under the fence. It’s a bastard. It’s all along a whole border as we have done minimal gardening the last 3 years due to various things.

So, I’ve pulled up what I can but where it’s growing from under the fence I can’t get that up. Can I put tree and stump killer on any Green bits that’s xome up? Is that even legal as it might kill the plant completely and it IS coming from his side (even though it seems he’s realised what a pest it is)

Sorry to hijack, OP!

Dontsweatthelittlestuff Sat 20-Apr-19 19:48:15

You really need some foliage to paint it on as the weed killer works by the being absorbed via the leaf and travelling down to the root to kill it and stops the plant from making nutrients to grow. That why it takes a few weeks for the plant to start to die.
If you have cut all the foliage off then you could use a needle and inject the sbk into the stump.

Dontsweatthelittlestuff Sat 20-Apr-19 19:51:24

You can’t put weed killer on the plant coming through from next door without their permission as it will kill the whole plant. All you can do is cut it back to the boundary.

Emus Sat 20-Apr-19 19:54:22

I would avoid weed killer if I were you as I'm sure I read somewhere the other day that weed killer - specifically on dandelions - is killing the bees shock

madcatladyforever Sat 20-Apr-19 20:49:38

I dug up 80 foot of brambles and ivy to put a new fence in and then immediately dig up any bits that grow back. After three years there is nothing coming up.

IamEarthymama Sat 20-Apr-19 21:01:33

Please don't use weedkiller, I do understand the appeal but honestly the effect on wildlife and pollinators is dreadful

We use white vinegar and find it effective
But the best method is good old pulling it all out

I love dandelions though, like suns in the grass!
As they start to go over I deadhead them so there aren't too many seeds flying around. I use the petals to make a salve and eat the young leaves in salad. I cook nettles too.

I have tackled Japanese knotweed, ground elder and horsetail and still say, regular digging out lets you keep things under control.

alternative weedkillers

yamadori Sat 20-Apr-19 21:02:12

I can't use anything stronger than tools on my ivy/bramble problem as the land is in the corner of a nature reserve and chemicals aren't allowed there.

It's backbreaking stuff.

HumphreyCobblers Sat 20-Apr-19 21:07:26

ground elder looks beautiful when it flowers!

I would say that the size of your garden influences whether you can keep the weeds down by hand or not. If it is a large suburban garden you should be able to manage but if you are talking a couple of acres then I would go for the weedkiller tbh, at least in some of it.

Dontsweatthelittlestuff Sat 20-Apr-19 21:25:31

Please don’t use vinegar in your garden. Household vinegar will just kill the above ground weeds or small seedlings. Larger tap roots will just reshoot. Stronger vinegars of around 15/20% are needed to kill the deep rooted weeds and they are just as harmful as use of commercial chemicals.

That link also mentions the use of bleach and salt as weedkillers. Both will work but they will kill everything they touch and contaminate the ground so nothing will grow there.

3dogs2cats Sat 20-Apr-19 22:11:48

Honeysuckle is not a weed. Cover the ground, either with ground cover plants, or with cardboard and mulch.

Wauden Sat 20-Apr-19 23:13:45

Roundup causes cancer in humans.

MrsBertBibby Sun 21-Apr-19 08:11:56

Brambles you can sort with digging. This place was awash when we moved in, now there are just a few in stray corners.

Ivy is great for bees and birds, an important autumn flower and winter berries. Just RIP it back to the margins annually. Again, we have tons of it, but it is now more or less at bay.

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