Weed Control for Fruit Trees and Fruit Plants
The harm that weeds do to fruit crops is obviously much less than that inflicted by pests and diseases. Nevertheless, there are several important reasons why they should be prevented from becoming too numerous.
The first is purely aesthetic. No one likes to see a garden, or even a section of one, choked with weeds. It looks awful and gives the impression of slovenliness.
The next point concerns the whole garden. If weeds are allowed to flourish and prosper in one part of it, they will quickly spread from end to end. The idea that weeds will stay in one place is ridiculous and it is usually the worst weeds that are the most invasive. Bindweed and ground elder are two examples; if these are left to themselves, they will quickly expand their territory.
The most damaging thing that weeds do is to compete with cultivated plants for the food and water that is present in the soil. Although the obvious sufferers are the smaller fruit plants, likeand , those higher up the scale can also suffer.
Because weeds are largely spreading and shallow rooted, they are able to intercept much of the water that lands as rain. Although the same can hardly be said about plant nutrients, the weeds will certainly take their share of anyapplied. This, in fact, is recognised by commercial fruit growers who will sometimes control the vigour of their trees and bushes by either allowing weeds to grow beneath them or by killing them.
The same effect is achieved by sowing grass belowto reduce their growth rate and induce fruitfulness. It just shows how great the effect of weeds can be even on something as large as trees and bushes.
Of course, in the case of strawberries, weeds not only represent competition, but, if allowed to grow unchecked, their size can actually smother and stunt the plants.
A particularly annoying and apparently immortal weed amongst bush and cane fruits is. This wraps itself around the shoots and branches, often right to the top. It can even delay ripening of the fruits by shading them from the sun, as well as making it far harder to pick them. Most weeds, though, are simply competing for water and nutrients.
As with pests and diseases, the best time to control weeds is before they do any harm. Usually, the simplest method of control is, but only when the ground is dry enough. You only have to touch the weeds when they are tiny to kill them. Later on, when they are a couple of inches or so high, they can still be hoed out, but this may not always be easy and, anyway, they will already be competing with the fruit by then.
The golden rule withis to kill them before they are in flower. Once they reach this stage, they will usually set seed, even if they are subsequently killed. When hoeing weeds that are in flower, always rake them up afterwards and put them straight on the compost heap.
There are many weedkillers to choose from, but, for annual weeds and seedling, a diquat-based one (‘Weedol’) is the quickest and easiest and it kills the weeds almost instantly. For established , like ground elder, thistles and bindweed, glyphosate is much more effective as it is systemic in action and, thus, gets right down into the roots. Several products are based on this. Both these materials are absorbed solely through the leaves and are inactivated by contact with the soil.
If there is grass growing intentionally beneath trees, any broad-leaved weeds can usually be killed with a lawn weedkiller.
A natural alternative to the hoe and the weedkiller is a good mulch, as already mentioned. This is a great smotherer of weeds and is usually most effective when applied just after the seedlings have appeared. The mulch kills the tiny plants and prevents any more coming up.
Of course, a more attractive way of keeping weeds down is to grow ground-cover plants; but then you have to remember that they too will be competitors!