There are no weeds!

There are no weeds in the garden.  We work with the natural plant community that has developed here since 1984.  Some members of this community are very vigorous and we aim to control their vigour so these do not dominate.  Some years some do but generally a balance is maintained and we do not use herbicides.

We use some simple techniques for dealing with our background plant community.

Graze like a cow

The soil is full of countless seeds all waiting their chance to grow.  They need light to get going so if we keep them buried they will remain dormant and not be a problem. As far as possible we do not dig the garden, or dig out weeds, as this only opens the way for vigorous re-colonisation of the bare soil.  Much of the time we simply pull off the tops as they become apparent in the wrong place.  Carried out regularly and repeatedly this weakens the unwanted plant and regrowth is suppressed - even a patch of Japanese knotweed succumbed to this over a three year period.

Match vigour to vigour

Some of the more vigorous species are only a problem with dainty neighbours.  We grow vigorous species with vigorous neighbours and let these thugs battle for supremacy - with only occasional interventions this works.  We grow stinging nettles with pink Geranium 'Claridge Druce', the blue comfrey Symphytum caucasicum and carpeting pink dead-nettle Lamium maculatum - none can win and it looks good but the battle is ongoing.

Tie up, Torture and Off-with-their-heads!

Uber-vigorous species; bramble, wild clematis, put on metres of growth each year and unmanaged would take over the garden completely.  These are tied in to railings, posts, and to themselves, as they grow.  The clematis is cut down completely at the end of each year and great lumps of bramble are cut off as needed.  Both are great plants for wildlife and earn a place in the garden but we need to be firm!  Creeping thistle can send it's roots metres underground in a season to pop up all over the place - in beds by the lawns it tries to make a break for it, it is simply mown off as the grass is cut which stops it in it's tracks - in the beds itself it is pulled out just as it forms flower buds, this stops it from regrowing for the season (earlier and it is back in a couple of weeks).

Birth Control

Vigorous seeders like sow thistle and bramble do not go in the usual compost bins as this would spread the seeds around the garden as we mulch.  These seed-bearing stems are added to a 'dirty' compost heap in the wildlife reserve area where they are a habitat and blackbird foraging site, from here the seeds cannot spread around.

Wet composting

For the only plant that is a serious problem - Three Cornered Leek, Allium triquetrum - we use wet composting.  Any bulbs un-earthed and seed-heads are simply added to a large bucket of water to rot submerged.  This kills the seeds and they can be safely added to the compost heap after a couple of months, (this can be rather smelly but drone fly larvae, rat-tailed maggots, live in the stagnant soup, so we don't mind).  Wet composting is suitable for all invasive plants (except bog plants!), seeds and roots all break down safely when submerged.

an oasis in the city