Tuesday 23 September 2008


Hand-weeding and roots

Today I have finished digging my last bed. Finally - exactly one year since I got it - the allotment is mostly clean! Which of course does not mean that I do not have to keep weeding (as indeed I have done with the rhubarb and artichoke beds today) or clearing spent crops in order to plant green manure, but the worst is over!

Talking of clearing and weeding, I have not yet learnt how to use a hoe, probably because I do not feel particularly comfortable with it. I prefer digging altogether or using a daisy grabber for the smaller hand-weeding work. And since my way of hand-weeding made me pretty much familiar with roots, I have decided I am going to make this post about weeds and particularly their roots.

First thing to say: from what I can see most roots love to be chopped, so that they can multiply endlessly; this is especially true of bindweed, but also of dandelion and dock (someone says that only the upper 9cm are able to reproduce).

I have taken pictures to show the most common weeds' roots in my allotment, below more details.

weeds' roots

A. Dandelion has very long roots of a brownish color, they tend to snap easily at all lenghts so you need to dig deep to take them out.

B. Dock is quite similar to dandelion in having very long roots, but these tend to be quite large or with multiple taproots; they tend to snap at the base of the leaves, and the colour of the stump is bright pink. You need a bit of work and deep digging to pull them, especially when the plant is biggish.

C. Creeping buttercup spreads by runners above and below the ground from what I can see, and they tend to snap at the base of the leaves, so you need something to help you pull the whole root out from below.

D. Nettles are a good weed in that they are attacked by aphids that ladybirds are particularly fond of and they also attract carrot fly so I guess they can be used as sacrificial crops. They make a good liquid feed, accelerate composting and young leaves are also edible. The roots are yellow and ramified.

E. Couch grass has long, white, wiry roots, quite superficial, so they are easy to pull out.

F. Bindweed has long, deep, soft white roots that break so easily and even the tiniest fragment regrows scaringly well. It is the weed I hate the most!

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