Weeds can be curbed with regular maintenance
As a weed is a plant growing in the wrong place or an undesirable species which is sometimes questionable with regard to the actual named species the problem of weed control is paramount for any gardener.
I believe that if you weed when no weeds are present you never have any weeds; in other words, by hoeing the ground regularly and breaking the soil surface, one destroys germinating seedlings. If weeds are persistent, they may originate from pieces of root introduced in to the beds and should be removed by removal of the whole root by digging with a garden fork. Using the ubiquitous wide bladed hoe only exacerbates the problem as it often chops the problem root into smaller parts, thus proliferating the problem further.
Chinese Fan palms Livistonia chinensis amongst others unfortunately have been characterised as invasive, when the simple act of removing the flower spike before it sets seed would eliminate the problem. As a secondary measure, if the seed has set and dropped, remove the seed before it germinates. Otherwise self-seeding can be prolific. A perfect example is on the golf course of the Fairmont Southampton. Trees are not necessarily dirty because they drop foliage or seed, it is simply poor land management that creates the problem; if one does not vacuum the house, dirt accumulates, so why not keep on top of weeds on a regular basis?
The recent concern over palms and other plants being butchered to clear Belco lines is a perfect example of questionable maintenance. So much time and money is spent on short term solutions, i.e. trimming back just enough to clear the overhead cables, that the long term objective of keeping growth away from overhead cables is forgotten. Property owners should in such cases be responsible for their property, which also highlights the planting of hedges which proceed to grow into the road or footpath
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and therefore is viewed in many ways. Without labouring the point, if done correctly, you can can create a feast of colour and diversity in the garden with the plus that good plant selection also reduces weed growth, especially from April to October.
Ground cover plantings are by far the best way to cover bare soil whilst creating interest with flower, leaf shape and colour. When inter-planted with shrubs, they broaden the horizon of interest and in many cases give extended coverage to the summer season. Ground covers are an interesting mix of plants ranging from succulents to ground hugging flowering plant and a good range in-between. When used correctly the effects are like a carpet of colour, especially with the use of Lantana and its many varieties and colours, some like the purple and the white being ground hugging types to the intermediate growers with heights of 18 to 24 ins and the taller varieties up to three feet high. Pentas are also great for long term flowering if like the Lantana flower heads are removed after flowering also with a range of colours and dwarf and regular varieties, though I find the dwarf types are not as strong. Several of the Salvias of various colours are also worthy of consideration, especially Salvia leucocephala, with grey foliage and purple blue flowers. These low growing ground covers offer colour and excellent weed control when maintained regularly; look out for caterpillars on Pentas and scale on Lantana.
Senecio vitalis is low growing with finger-like foliage and yellow flowers, while S. macroglossus is a rambling ground cover/vine with yellow flowers, there is also a variegated form and S. confusus has orange flowers and blooms prolifically during warm weather.
Osteospermum are ground hugging or some varieties with a more upright habit and a range of flower colour, fast growing best in full sun creating a good ground cover for controlling weed growth.
Agave and Aloe are relatively hardy in many areas and offer a slow growing plant with excellent character for most gardens, with leaf shape, colour and habit adding much interest to a mixed border. As they mature, they produce plantlets which in time create an interesting clump effect. New varieties are available from the nurseries and certainly worth trying, but I prefer the species to hybrids as they are more proven in our climate. Also worth a place in the garden are the Kalanchoes which are becoming popular and found in various colours. Though a little difficult to handle, the new varieties of Euphorbia Crown of Thorns have much larger flowers than the species.
To add some character with leaf shape consider Iris species and varieties, also Dietes and Hemerocallis Day Lily, with sword-like foliage and a range of flower colour. Ornamental grasses also create interest, especially Penisetum setaceum purpurea or purple fountain grass. Tiger grass (Thysanolaena maxima) grows to approximately five feet and is ideal for hiding trash areas or similar. Miscanthus sinensis zebrinus or Zebra grass has interesting stripes on the foliage which is a good contrast against dark green foliage.
I am not a proponent of chipped horticultural waste being used as a mulch. It is often far too coarse and has not started to decompose into humus and is often spread as a thick layer on top of soil, which reduces the movement of rain/irrigation into the soil as well as fertilizer and therefore the root zone.
Well composted material which is crumbly and fine to the touch can be incorporated into the soil and will benefit the soil structure.
Good maintenance equals healthy, colourful weed-free gardens in tandem with the old saying the answer lies in the soil, but you have to do your part to make it happen.
Remembering Damon Allen
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