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« TV Gardener David Domoney shocks Judges at BBC Gardeners' World Live | Main | The green, green grass of Wimbledon »

BBC Gardeners' World announce worst garden problem

BBC Gardeners' World Awards 2009There are many jobs to do in the garden on an ongoing basis. Every garden is unique and has different requirements throughout the gardening year. We hope that every garden would have a lawn in it, a fact that the Gardening Media seem to over look, especially the BBC.

The Team at BBC Gardeners' World have for three months we've been asking you what you like and don't like about life in the garden. They received thousands of nominations and now the results of the Gardeners' World Awards 2009 are in.

The worst gardening problem according to the BBC Gardener's World viewers and readers is garden weeds, with Bindweed featuring as the most hated weed in the garden.

I think the biggest problem with weed control in the garden apart from the poor media received by pesticides is that gardeners do not understand the way some of the weed killers or active ingredients contained within them actually work to kill the plant - a matter of good education. If a product is a 'total' it will kill nearly all green vegetation, if it is 'selective' it will kill specific weeds and not others. Reading the product label is so important!

More details of the awards can be viewed on their web site and for the purpose of our blog, we are really only interested in the lawn or weed bits.

The key constituent of a pesticide is the ‘Active Ingredient’ expressed as g/l or grams per litre on a product label. The higher the g/l of each product the greater the amount of active ingredient in the bottle or packet.

The ready to use sprays are ideal as they do not require mixing or human contact with the active ingredient but you will probably only get around 15g/l whereas one you take home and mix up yourself will give you 120g/l. Sometimes the product you are purchasing has such little active ingredient in it that if you do not apply it correctly, the amount of active going down to tackle the task is so weak the final results of the application may be deemed as poor Ready to use packs or ‘swan necks’ are convenient to use but provide poor value for money and poor results generally in our view and are ideal for small areas and small projects.

Some weed control products have a mixture of active ingredients such as Glyphosate, Oxadiazon and Diflufenican so that you get the added benefits from each separate active ingredient, Contact, Systemic or Translocated and Residual control of the weed problem - in this case you should be onto a winner so long as your timing is right!

Weed Killer can be broken down into certain groups -

Contact - These work on contact with the leaves of the plant. They start to work as soon as they are applied to the plant, normally turning the weeds black quite quickly, especially n sunny days. After as little as 10 minutes some treatments are impervious to rain. They are fast-acting. Leaves turn yellow then brown. It’s all over in a few days. New plants can be planted or seeds sown straight after the initial application has dried on the weed leaves. Example Active Ingredients include - Paraquat (but not now available), Oxadiazon with trade names of Pathclear and Weedol.

Residual - mostly total weed killers. These are normally applied as a blanket spray (all over an area) direct onto cold soils over the late winter and early spring months as a blanket spray to form a barrier in the top few inches of the soil to prevent the dramatic spring 'burst' of weeds. Some residual weed killers can stay in the soil for up to two years but most amateur products will be naturally broken down by the soil microbes when the soil warms up in the spring and early summer. The majority of residual weed killers are total - that is they will kill all green vegetation and should not be applied to lawns! Ideal for gravel driveways and hard standing areas like paving and tennis courts etc. Example Active Ingredients include - Oxadiazon, Diquat, Sodium Chlorate under trade names of Pathclear, Weedol and Sodium Chlorate.

Systemic or Translocated - Totals and Selective types, see below. These types are applied as a foliar spray direct onto green vegetation in the growing season and ideal for 'blanket' or 'spot' spraying. The plants will naturally absorb the product through the leaves and down to the roots. They will kill most things green, including lawns so unless you want to totally kill off your lawn and start again, please do not apply a translocated total weed killer to your lawn. Example Active Ingredients include - Glyphosate, Diflufenican, under trade names Roundup, Tumbleweed, Pathclear.

Selectives - not to confuse you but these are systemic/translocated in their mode of action like the systemic and translocated totals. They are applied as a foliar spray in the growing season and the weed killer active ingredient is absorbed through the leaves into the plant and down to the roots. When you apply a selective weed killer to your lawn, if applied correctly, it should not kill the grass plants, only the weeds in the lawn. This is where it gets the name 'selective' - it is choosy about what it kills! The active ingredients works on the basis of pretending to be a natural plant growth hormone and after a few days you will notice the stems of Daisies and Clover for example start to twist and distort. This is natural, the weed will go into super growth, and grow quite big in fact, the plant cells out grow themselves and hey presto after a few weeks, the weeds cannot cope with their new found fame of excessive growth and shape and die – they literally out grow themselves.

It is important to ensure that you have not mown the lawn three days before or after application. This is to ensure maximum weed leaf area to absorb the product and then give the product time to work within the plant. If you mow to soon, you literally end up with the product applied ending in the grass box! The longer you leave the mowing after application, like a week, the better the kill will be. Wait 6 weeks between applications and re apply to solve the weed problem. Make sure you feed the lawn before a selective weed killer application so that you do not surprise the grass, should it be weak as sometimes you can 'shock' the grass with the weed killer application. The grass and weeds should be growing actively with rain imminent some 12 hours later. If you apply a selective weed killer when the weather is dry, the weed control effect will be much slower as the metabolism of the weed plant will be much slower to conserve water. Example Active Ingredients include - Dicamba, Mecoprop-P, Fluroxypyr, Chlorpyralid, MCPA under trade names of Verdone Extra, Lawn Clear, Evergreen & Lawn Builder as two or three in one products.

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Always read the label. Use pesticides safely.


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