Jean Vernon chooses the best of the weedbusters
It's not just the garden plants that are romping away in the borders. Weeds are making the most of the warmer, wetter weather and colonising any bare patch of soil. Time spent dealing with these culprits now will be man-hours well spent.
Reap the benefits Applying a surface mulch does wonders for the border. Strulch is made from organic shredded straw that has been treated with minerals. It smells sweet, is light and easy to handle, and stops the soil from drying out if applied to saturated soil. Price around £6.99 per 100l pack from garden centres, the manufacturer (01943 863610; strulch.co.uk) or the Gardening Catalogue (0845 130 1304; www.organiccatalogue.com).
Green solution Some persistent weeds can be a nightmare to eradicate, so this plant is a useful addition to the armoury. Tagetes minuta exudes substances that deter the growth of some relentless weeds such as bindweed, ground elder and couch grass. It's not especially pretty but if you're a "green gardener" it's well worth a try. Price £2 per packet from Chiltern Seeds (01229 581137; www.chilternseeds.co.uk). For a topical solution, acetic acid is the active ingredient in Natural Weed Spray from Doff (0870 220 4570; www.doff.co.uk).
Off with their heads An old-fashioned but still effective way to deal with annual weeds is to hoe them off at ground level, chopping off their heads and weakening re-growth. Choose a dry day when the soil is crumbly and not claggy. Caldwells (01925 628800; www.caldwells.eu.com) makes a traditional Dutch hoe that costs around £15 and is available from good garden centres.
Finger first Use a weeding finger from Burgon & Ball (0114 233 8262; www.burgonandball.com) as an extra digit to root out weeds from nooks and crannies without getting your fingers dirty. It costs around £9 from good garden centres.
Last gasp Sometimes smothering the soil with a weed-blocking fabric is the only way to stay in control of bare soil. WeedBlock Natural from Easy Gardener (020 7225 5040; www.easygardener.co.uk) is 70 per cent Ingeo, a man-made material that is derived from sustainable agricultural resources such as corn. It prevents weeds from germinating but allows water to pass through to the soil beneath. A roll costs £14.95 from B&Q stores.
Shoots and leaves One of the best ways to get to grips with persistent weeds is to use a systemic weedkiller that is taken up by the plant and transported throughout its leaves, shoots and roots. Look out for a new range of glyphosate-based weedkillers from Bayer (0845 345 4100; www.bayergarden.co.uk), including Lawn Spot Weeder (£3.99 for 500ml) and Spot Weeder for Paths and Patios (£3.99 for 500ml). Alternatively, try one of the aptly named Weed Busters from Westland (www.gardenhealth.com), which costs £3.99 for a 1-litre ready-to-use trigger pack.