Q. We are having some trouble with a steep bank. We want to plant with ground covering plants but until they grow we need to suppress weeds, have you any suggestions?
A. The simple answer is to mulch between the weeds as far as possible with bark chippings or compost. This may be a problem on a steep bank however. "Landscaping fabric" a woven plastic material available from garden centres and horticultural suppliers is good if difficult to lay between plants in situ.
My own approach would be to get a small 1L hand sprayer (or a bigger sprayer if you have it, but on-off control is important) and go around spraying carefully and very close up with a systemic weedkiller such as "Tumbleweed", use a piece of board to hold your ground cover plants out of the way and be as careful as you possibly can. You don't need to spray the whole of the weed plant, but aim for the centre and as much leaf area as you can.
Q. We have recently moved into a new house where the garden has not been attended to for several years. The entire garden is taken up with a very ferocious weed which we have been told is "Japanese Knotweed".
We have tried digging it up several times but the roots seem to go down forever and we can't seem to get rid of it, it seems very determined ! We want to patio the area but need to get rid of the weed first.
We have 2 cats so am not sure what we can use to get rid of this weed without causing them any harm.
A. Japanese knotweed was introduced initially as a garden ornamental, but is now rapidly running amok in some parts (like in your garden!).
If you try and dig it out, you will invariably leave several broken pieces in the soil that will re-grow. With such perennial weeds, the only way to go is chemical. First of all dig as much up as you possibly can and take it down the tip (i.e. not onto the compost heap), stand back and let it re-grow. It will grow, but weakened as much of the food reserves are now down the tip. When there is plenty of leaf apply a weedkiller such as glyphosphate, Murphy's "tumbleweed" or the like. Keep the cats out of the way while you do this, (anything gentle enough to be animal safe is also pretty plant safe). The weedkiller needs to left a couple of weeks at least to do its job right down to the roots (follow the instructions on the container, you don't need to keep the cats out of the way all this time).
I'd then have another go at digging and remove any remaining pieces. It depends on how bad your infestation is, you may be ok now, or you may need to leave it to grow and then weed kill again. Long winded and laborious, but it will work.
Alternatively, if you are determined not to use chemicals, cover the whole area with old carpet or thick plastic, pull it up every so often and pull/dig the growing weeds, put the carpet back. In this way the weed roots will constantly be supplying energy to make new growth, but not be allowed to replace it by ever having any leaves in the daylight. This will take at least a year, maybe more.
A. There's no easy way to do this and no particular trick to it. Your first assault should be physical, just go and pull it up as well as you can, a fork will help to lift some of the root from the ground. It will come back at which point when there's a good amount of foliage to soak it up - a weedkiller containing glyphosate that is taken down to the roots should be applied. I'd then alternate physical with chemical until it's gone, say a couple of each treatment.
Before you start all this though, consider what you'll be left with - probably lots of bare ground that if it's in the dry shade of trees won't really support anything else. I've an area at the bottom of the garden where a ramshackle old fence is covered with ivy growing in the shade of a large walnut tree. I trim the ivy with shears when it comes out sideways too far and it's kept off the lawn by the mower. There's nothing else that would grow in that place without suffering from lack of water and food or from pest or disease attack and also look so healthy.
So before you start attacking the whole area, decide in which places the ivy is a pest and in which places it's a blessing.
Q. We have an Oak tree in the garden. It was there when the house was built and it is about 30 feet high with a branch spread of about the same. We have allowed ivy to grow up the trunk to hide bark damage caused by the builders (a piece about 20" by 12" was ripped from the trunk). The trunk is now smothered in ivy and it is growing up into the branches. We have been told it will eventually kill the tree. Is this true?
A. Will it kill it? Maybe, maybe not, it will probably take years if not decades. Will it make it less healthy than if it were not there - certainly. Is it unsightly? to my eye - yes, maybe not to yours. Bare wood stripped of bark will stay healthier if kept open, ivy will make it damp and sheltered and allow all kinds of insects and fungi to potentially gain a foothold.
Q. I have ivy growing up a my house which is pebble dashed. I want to remove the ivy and would appreciate any tips of when is the best time, how? etc.
A. Ivy clings very tightly and if pulled off, will leave marks behind that will be difficult to scrub off, and probably in an awkward place too.
There's not really an easy way to go about it, if you cut off the shoots just above ground level and leave it for a while (at least a month) to go dry and brown before you start pulling it off, then it will be easier and you'll have less marks. Just grab a shoot from the bottom where it's thickest and pull steadily upwards, that way it's less likely to break and leave you loads of little bits to get off separately.
You'll also need to dig up the roots, as cutting off the shoots will stimulate them to produce more. As for timing, now (early October) is pretty good as regrowth will be weaker and slower as the days get shorter and temperatures lower. Watch out for regrowth in the spring and dig again if necessary.
Q. My husband is adamant that we have to remove all the Ivy that grows on and up our trees. I have asked numerous gardeners for their advice, and they say it doesn't do any harm, my husband still disagrees and says the Ivy will eventually kill the trees. Please can you confirm either way. Many thanks.
A. It's not really as clear cut as that. I wouldn't say it doesn't do any harm as the ivy is going to compete with the tree for water, nutrients from the soil and light in the branches. A large healthy tree shouldn't be too bothered by it, but a smaller or ill / damaged tree could be killed by the ivy. Not so much "killed" as pushed over the edge when it's already close.
I have a similar situation in my own garden with ivy eventually growing up anything vertical. Personally I don't like it much in trees and so I tend to pull it off. My wife quite likes it so I let it grow up a few trunks but stop it short of the branches, it also does a brilliant job of covering up an large ugly water butt.
It's not as black and white as your husband claims, but his view point is not without merit. I'd work on the basis of do you like it or not?
A. Cut off at just above ground level and remove the stumps, you could leave a portion sticking out for leverage to help get the stumps out. Privet will sprout strongly from cut stumps if left. You could alternatively use a stump killer chemical.
Q. My walls are being attacked by ivy. What is the best and easiest way to eradicate it?. I have tried spraying with Roundup but it has little effect apart from killing a few leaves.
There's no quick and instant
solution. The best way is to cut it off just above ground level and let the growth
wither, it should be easy to pull off after a month or so. It will re-sprout again
from the stump - very strongly. Spay the leaves with round-up again and apply a
stump killer. You may need to repeat the cut and spray more than once.
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