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5 Weeds British Gardeners Can’t Stand (and How to Get Rid of Them)

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5 Weeds British Gardeners Can’t Stand (and How to Get Rid of Them)

They say that one man's trash is another man's treasure; but with us green fingered folk, it's more like one gardener's wildflower meadow is another gardener's weedy patch. However, there are a few plants that most gardeners will agree are a downright nuisance.

We were feeling rather in the mood to complain, so we rounded up a few of our least favourite and most hated varieties. But we didn't stop there, of course – we've included some advice on how to get rid of these pests. Good luck in your mission – we hope you find this helpful!

Bindweed

With its large, heart shaped leaves and white flowers that look like miniature trumpets, it could be easy to mistake bindweed for a pretty plant that deserves a spot in your garden. However, most fairly seasoned gardeners will tell you that bindweed is the stuff of nightmares.

Its attractive exterior hides ulterior motives – it is a beautiful assassin, and will invade and take over your garden completely, if you let it.

BindweedImage credit: Andrew Hill

The problem with bindweed is that it just doesn't know when to stop growing – and it doesn't discriminate against the types of plants it will leave in its wake. Bindweed will happily smother everything, from those prize-winning roses, to the hedge that borders your garden.

And once it's invaded, it's difficult to eradicate – particularly as it can grow from both root and seed.

How to get rid of it:

Dandelions

We can blame the kids for this one. Though blowing on a dandelion 'clock' to 'tell the time' might be fun for little ones, the end result is quite the opposite for their green fingered guardians when the blighters pop up all over the lawn (flowers, that is, not children).

The bright yellow flowers soon transform into seed heads, or 'clocks', and it all starts again – and what's worse, is that they don't even keep time accurately...

 DandelionsImage credit: r. nial bradshaw

And while the flowers shouldn't really be totally despised – they do their bit to attract bees, and can make a lovely wine (and even sandwich fillings for the Victorians, as explained in this interesting article from the BBC) – the sheer number of plants that can pop up, seemingly instantaneously, can infuriate even the most relaxed gardeners. And if you want a perfect lawn, they simply have to go.

How to get rid of them:

  • Snapping the plant off at the bottom of the stem won't do. Leave just a small portion of the root behind and the plant will live on to attack another day. However, dandelions have taproots that can reach lengths of up to ten inches, and they're brittle, so you need to be careful. Ensure that the soil is wet, and try using a tool such as a knife or screwdriver to help things along. Check out this great article that deals with pulling up dandelions.
  • If you're happy to simply stop any further spread of the weed, then just mow the lawn before the flower turns into a seedhead. This method is particularly useful if you don't have much time but want to keep on top of things.
  • Another great way to keep on top of them is by keeping rabbits or chickens, who will happily eat the flowers for you.
  • You could always use chemicals, but if you'd prefer an organic weed killer then try mixing a killer cocktail of vinegar, salt and washing up liquid and spraying it onto the flowers. This useful article from the US will explain how to create this dandelion-killing concoction.

Nettles

Not only do they sting us, but they also tend to rather take over our borders when allowed. It almost seems that all we need do is pop inside to turn the kettle on, and by the time we've returned the flowerbed has been replaced by a thatch of evil plants.

Maybe that's a little dramatic, but our distaste for this plant is completely understandable, especially seeing as they are such hardy things.

  NettlesImage credit: Leslie Seaton

How to get rid of them:

  • If it's stinging nettles in your garden, then we probably shouldn't have to tell you this (not twice, anyway) but it's worth mentioning – get yourself some decent, thick gardening gloves to work with, and ensure your arms and legs are covered too.
  • If you're facing a particularly large patch, maybe consider also wearing a mask or a scarf around your face.
  • Try to cut down the plants before mid-summer, or when the plant is young, to prevent it from seeding.
  • Ensure you catch as much of the roots as possible, because – yep, you guessed it – pieces of roots with nodes can produce a new plant. Check out this helpful article on tackling nettles for more tips.

Horsetail

This weed is neigh joke (sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves)! The shoots look a little like the leaves of a fir tree, but you're not likely to have any trouble identifying it – the sheer speed at which it will take over your borders will give it away. That is, before it moves onto your lawn and patio... and potentially pinches your lunch if you dine al fresco. Okay, maybe not that last bit, but it is a pretty hardcore weed...

 HorsetailImage credit: homeredwardprice

How to get rid of it:

  • The trick with horsetail is to get to it before it takes hold, if you can. The plant grows incredibly quickly, and roots can reach down as far as seven feet into the ground. When it gets to this stage, it's very difficult to remove.
  • As this helpful article on horsetail explains, the roots can even reach into neighbouring gardens and grow into plants there.
  • If the weed is well-established, try shielding it from the sun in order to kill it off, as horsetail hates the shade. Use a bin bag to cover the plant from the sun, and then plant something else which will grow taller than the horsetail (which usually reaches around two feet in height), as this will help to create shade if the plant returns, and prevent it from thriving.
  • Spraying the plant with vinegar may also help if you want to keep things organic, though a strong chemical-based weed killer may be more effective.

Japanese knotweed

This is a particularly sneaky weed, and one that's on the government's hitlist of invasive plants – you're legally required not to let these spread if you have them on your property.

The plant tricks newbie gardeners by dying back during the winter, only to return with a vengeance during the summer and grow to over seven feet in height. The flowers are pretty, but don't let it fool you – it wants to take over your garden.

 Japanese KnotweedImage credit: dankogreen

How to get rid of it:

  • Irritatingly, once it's established, there aren't really any quick fixes for Japanese knotweed. As the roots can reach such a long way down, it can be difficult to get the whole plant out.
  • Use a herbicide on the almost inevitable regrowth, and hopefully eventually the plant will die – though it may take a number of years.
  • Under no circumstances should Japanese knotweed be thrown out with your normal household waste. Take it to a licensed landfill site, or burn it in your garden.
  • This brilliant article on Japanese knotweed contains some practical advice on dealing with it.

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