How to Handle Spring Weeds


Once the first day of spring has come and gone or should I say sprung and gone, many plants start to wake from their winter slumber. Along with the plants awakening, we get the other early risers the weeds of Ireland which start to strengthen from spring onwards. If you manage to tackle the weeds in your beds and borders whilst they are seedlings, you will save yourself a lot of work in the months to come.

Annual weeds

Annual weeds such as...
- Shepard's Purse (Capsella bursapastoris)
- Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)
- Annual Nettle (Urtica urens)
- Knotgrass (Polygon aviculare)
- Chickweed (Stellaria media)

All of these can be hand pulled or dug out. Most annual weeds are relatively shallow rooted, so if you pull them before they set seed you will get no further problems from them. Apart from Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) which can set seed even after pulling or hoeing.
Should you have a large area of annual weeds you can use a contact herbicide such as Weedol or Gramoxone. Please follow the guidelines supplied by the manufacturer regarding application rates and safety issues.

Perennial weeds

The term perennial weed covers such terrors as...
- Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
- Bindweed (Convovulus arvensis)
- Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
- Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum japonicum)
- Common Sorrel (Rumex autosa)
- Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium)
- Oxalis (Oxalis latifolia or Oxalis corymbosa)
- Marestail / Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
- Thistles (Cirsium acaule or Cirsium arvense)
- Docks (Rumex acetosa)
- Couch grass (Elymus repens) known in the west of Ireland as Scutch grass

Pulling these weeds is usually ineffective, digging can be quite successful but you must ensure you remove every last inch of root. Any piece of the root left in the soil will allow the perennial weed to regrow, which is why sometimes even the most ecologically friendly gardeners reach for the chemical solution. The most effective type of herbicide to use on perennial weeds is what horticulturalists call a translocated or systemic herbicide. This form of herbicide will travel from the leaves to the furthest tip of the root; gardeners commonly use Glyphosate for this purpose. Glyphosate based herbicides are available under many names including Roundup, Gallup and Touchdown. Remember follow the manufacturer's guidelines closely regarding application rates and safety issues.


If you have not already mulched your beds and borders, I would advise you to do so after ridding them of weeds. A common mulching material is a 5 cm layer of chipped bark, this greatly slows the germination of further weeds. As the bark mulch breaks down it will provide organic feeding matter for your plantings. Gravel, shingle or slate mulch's are also very effective at weed prevention, albeit without providing additional feeding for your plantings.

Irish weeds seem to grow amazingly fast and we all face the same battle against them.

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