Grandpa Haxnicks offers advice on Ground Elder

Dear gardeners,

Over winter it is easy to forget about some of those nasty perennial weeds that lurk beneath the soil. One of the most rampant, vigorous and downright stubborn of these is ground elder, also known as gout weed, bishop weed and most appropriately jump about. Left unchecked, it will spread from one tiny corner of the garden and invade all useful growing space by spreading its network of underground stems (rhizomes). In an alien like fashion it can regenerate into a new plant from just a tiny fragment of those underground stems.

Ground Elder

This weed has driven my friend The Potty gardener...well...completely potty. Living in a rented property where ground elder has been able to take a firm hold she has turned to gardening in pots, but there are other alternatives and as I am often asked for advice on beating the evil weed then I thought that it would be good to share that advice with you.

For a serious invasion of ground elder you will need time, patience and lots of black polythene!

Dig up any cultivated plants in the area and gently tease out any ground elder rhizomes from their roots. Do not put the weeds in the compost!

Replant your plants in pots or clear soil

Dig out the ground elder. You will need to dig to a depth of about 2 foot and be very thorough, making sure that you get out every last scrap of those rampant rhizomes. A second digging over is often required a few weeks later to catch the ones that you missed.

Ground Elder root

Alternatively you can cover the area with black polythene to starve the ground elder of light for at least a year and possibly two. A few years ago I helped friends clear a large patch of ground about 12ft square. The digging took us a few weeks and because they couldn't bare to stare at black polythene for two years we seeded the area with grass and mowed it regularly which seemed to work very well.

You can, of course turn to a glyphosphate weedkiller, but for a large patch of ground that can be expensive, so I tend to advise that you use it for small areas or to keep on top of any new growth after an initial clearing.

There is one saving grace for this pesky perennial, that it is edible. The young leaves are slightly nutty and can be used in a salad or cooked in butter like spinach. So if you can't beat it, eat it!

Goodbye for now,
Grandpa Haxnicks

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