Wally Richards – weeds & wellbeing

The milder winter we are currently experiencing has lead to a slow but sure continual growth of weeds.

When I checked the other day, I was very surprised how the weeds in the garden had advanced over the last few weeks.  Sufficient rain, along with soil temperatures still reasonable means the vegetables are growing nicely but so are the non wanted plants we have come to know as weeds.

Onehunga weed

In my case I don’t worry too much about the weeds as I have chickens who need their greens so the weeds become an asset for them. Every few days I will harvest a crop of weeds and toss them to the chooks. This has lead me to the conclusion it would be a good time to discuss weeds and their removal.

Firstly I do not use any herbicides (weed killers) as they do damage the soil life and worm populations, and as I have free ranging chickens along with my four Shar Pei dogs, I do not want these to be affected in any way from toxic sprays.

All my weeding is done by hand, which I find very relaxing and a good way of relieving any stress from day to day living.

It is interesting to note that a  published scientific survey from the UK proved that as little as 20 minutes a day gardening or being amongst plants made a substantial  contribution to one’s wellbeing. Two hours a day reduced the chances of heart problems by a good percentage. In summary: gardeners have better health overall than non- gardeners!

Weeding by hand is an art in itself.  You can use a hand trowel or fork type hand trowel, but I find a sharp, long bladed carving knife the best.

You slide the blade into the soil next to the weed and slice through the top section of the tap root or root system while holding the weed in the other hand. The weed comes away cleanly with little soil attached to the remaining roots. This soil (if taken a deeper cut) can easily be tapped off the roots with the same blade. Pulling of weeds by hand often breaks the weeds off near ground level where they will come away again. This happens more so in dry or heavy soils where the roots have a good hold on terra firma.

If you wish to dig over or fork over an area, then the removal of the existing weeds first (as above) makes for a better job. Many dug-in weeds, especially grass weeds, have a tendency of reappearing later on unless removed or buried deep.

For those that do not want to weed by hand there are always hoes such as the Dutch Hoe that can be used to also to slice off weeds just below the surface and then dug in or picked up and removed.

If you want to spray and use organic weed control sprays then choose a product like Yates Greenscape or use cheap cooking oil or vinegar. For these to work well the soil needs to be on the dry side and the spray applied on a sunny part of the day when the weeds are a bit dehydrated.  They will further dehydrate the weed’s foliage. Perennial weeds will reappear and require further treatment.

If you don’t mind using chemical herbicides then you have a good range to choose from.  Glyphosate ones such as Roundup, Zero etc are the most widely known and accepted. Glyphosate’s action works on the growth of the weeds.  It is first absorbed by the foliage and translocates to the roots, where it comes back up through the plant with its growth, killing the roots and foliage. If there is zero growth, (which can happen in winter and during summer drought conditions) there is no kill. If the chemical cannot enter the foliage because of surface tension on the leaf, shiny leaves or hairy leaves then there is no kill.

Thus knowing this you can enhance the weed killer in two ways. Add Raingard to the mixed spray and it will act as a bridge to assist with the chemical to enter the foliage. Then add nitrogen to the mix by dissolving the likes of sulphate of ammonia or urea in water and adding to the spray. The nitrogen stimulates growth and speeds up the kill factor. The likes of Roundup are recommended to be used at 10ml to one litre of spray water. The 10ml rate is the highest rate needed to kill the hardest to kill weeds (that glyphosate can control) If you doubled the dose to 20 ml you wouldn’t get any better results.  By adding the Raingard to the mix you will find that a solution of 5 ml per litre will do a nice job on most weeds that glyphosate can control. Then add to this the nitrogen and your time factor till the weeds are dead will be markinly reduced.


If you would like the dead weeds to disappear faster then you can add either Mycorrcin Plus or Thatch Busta to the spray and either of these two liquids will speed up the decomposition of the weeds greatly. Basically that is what we want – the total removal of weeds as quickly as possible to make areas tidy. Another aspect of placing the Mycorrcin or Thatch Busta into the glyphosate spray, is that it helps counteract the damage done to the soil life by the chemical, so its a win win situation.

There are hard to remove weeds, or plants that have become too vigorous such as ivy and need to be removed. This is where some of the chemical sprays certainly cut down on the work involved. With Ivy, cut the trunks of the plant coming out of the soil and paint the stump immediately with either Woodyweed Killer or Amitrole. Then spray the foliage with Amitrole.

In the cases of Bamboo, wandering jew, couch or wild onion, cut off the foliage just above ground and remove, then spray the stumps or foliage left with Amitrole, Raingard and Mycorrcin. The removed foliage can be placed in a heap and sprayed with Mycorrcin or Thatch Busta to decompose it faster.

Woodyweed Killer can be used similarly for the likes of convolvulus, onehunga, fennel, dock and honeysuckle. Paspalum can be controlled by ‘wiping’ the glyphosate solution over the tops of the weed. Oxalis also can be controlled in a like manner, but don’t work the soil afterwards. Instead mulch the area and spray any new growth as it appears. Alternative is to use one table spoon of baking soda to a litre of water with Raingard and sprayed over foliage. This will work in certain conditions without harming other plants not related to Oxalis, when the soil is on the dry side and on a warm sunny day. Once again mulch later on and don’t work soil, repeat spray new foliage in similar conditions.

2 comments on “Wally Richards – weeds & wellbeing

  1. Mark on said:

    I do agree that weeding is relaxing and stress reducing. Unfortunately of late I’ve been too busy to do as much as I would like and I’ve resorted to laying old cardboard boxes over the bare ground in the veggie garden to smother the weeds. Do you know if this will affect the soil pH? And if so what to do about it?

    Any tips on how to get rid of jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum)?

    Thanks for your articles.

  2. Wally Richards on said:

    The cardboard will break down and should not effect pH and be on benefit to soil and worms.
    For Jasminum polyanthum cut off where its rooted into the ground or lift runners.
    Treat stumps with Woodyweed Killer from yates/

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