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It All Began in Milton Keynes....


When I started out in gardening my first job was as part of the gardening team in Milton Keynes Shopping Centre, in the days when we still had C&A and Woolworths! I loved that job and learned so much from the two gentlemen I worked with.


The senior gardener was a fantastic American man who taught me so much. When he asked me “What time you got?” he was asking what the time was, not how much spare time I had. I learned a whole new pronunciation of the word 'aluminium', and I learned that if I was cheeky, I would be sent to weed the mahonia beds. (If you are not familiar with the mahonia plant – it has prickly leaves!)


I would love to say it stopped be being cheeky, but it didn’t. That gentleman is still my friend some 30 plus years later, and I think he would agree. However, I didn’t start this tale to talk about my lack of appropriate gravitas, I want to chat about weeding.



“Bleurgh”, I can hear you thinking it already. Weeding is one of those jobs that needs doing no matter what size plot or pot you have; we might as well grasp the nettle (literally) and get on with it.


Commonly weeds are defined as a plant in the wrong place, so by definition a rose growing in the middle of a lavender field is a weed. There are tings we can do to reduce the number of weeds that we have, make removing the little monsters a little easier and, given their potential value to wildlife, even embrace some of them (that is different to giving up, I promise.)


· Planting plenty of perennials in our beds, especially ground cover plants can help to cut out the light getting to the soil and allowing weed seeds to germinate.

· The same can be achieved by mulching the plant beds. Mulching is when we cover the ground with bark chippings, gravel or more traditionally, good old well-rotted manure! If you are mulching with anything other than manure, it is a good idea to put a layer of weed suppressing matting underneath. This is sold in your local garden centre and is usually a roll of black fabric.

· Hand weeding can be very therapeutic (I am told!) Trying to stand back up again is not so relaxing. There are kneelers available that have handles to help us get back up, and many can be turned over to become a stool to sit on. It is always a good idea to ‘try before you buy’ as some are more comfortable and sturdier to use than others.


· If you prefer not to kneel down (this includes me) you can use long handled tools to help you hoe and indeed dig out weeds. These can comfortably be used while standing or sitting and are available with extra support wrist cuffs. There are a range of hand tools also available with ergonomic handles and wrist cuffs.


· Weedkiller is an option, and organic versions are available at your garden centre. Always check the label regarding pets, children and wildlife. While this is a seemingly quick solution, it doesn’t remove the weeds, you will be left with the dead brown plants to remove or hoe into the ground.


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Finally, if you can’t beat ‘em, embrace ‘em. I have a small garden, but there are a couple of patches at the bottom that I allow the nettles to grow in. Many people leave a patch of their lawn unmown to allow clover, dandelions and buttercups to take over. The bees and butterflies are very grateful of the flowers in both cases. If anyone asks, it is your wild flower meadow!


Take on the task of weeding in the same manner you might approach any activity. Just attempt a small patch at a time, that way you will have that sense of achievement when it is completed, rather than feeling overwhelmed by what is still to be done. The rest of the patch can be done later or on another day. Ensure you have the right clothing on – experience tells me to wear long sleeves and proper trousers when tackling brambles, not shorts and a T Shirt! Decent gloves are also important when handling thorny weeds or stingers.


Weeding can be a little daunting if you have dementia, there are decisions to be made between plant V’s weed. You could ask your family support to allocate a simpler plot for you to weed where you recognise what is what, or where everything has to come out. Alternatively you could tackle one weed at a time, for instance take out all the nettles, then go back to take out all the sticky weed etc. Don’t be afraid to ask for prompts or help. We all need that sometimes.


Many weeds can prompt great childhood memories, making daisy chains, telling the time by blowing the seeds off a dandelion head, or simply checking if someone likes butter by popping a buttercup under their chin. They all work you know. I love butter, so every one of my chins will light up like Blackpool Illuminations!


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