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War on Weeds

In the Garden > Gardening Tips, Books, Techniques and Tools

Every year thousands of viewers write to Burke's Backyard and tell us that weeds are ruining their lives! Don has been through all the letters and compiled a list of the problem weeds, starting with with worst, public enemy number 1, bindii. 

Many parts of Australia have been affected by drought in recent times. Lawns in those areas have tended to thin out and die back. Dryness combined with mowing too close has created perfect conditions for bindii to thrive. It’s important to tackle the problem before the prickles appear. Control methods include: Spraying with products such as Chemspray Bin-Die, which will also kill other broadleaf weeds. (Note: products containing Dicamba can harm nearby shrubs and trees, so be sure to follow the directions on the container.) Removing the bindii by hand. Keeping the lawn well maintained, thus providing competition for the weeds. Water and fertilise regularly, and raise the mower height up a notch so that you don’t scalp the grass.

Wandering jew
This succulent herb loves damp, shady parts of the garden. It has shiny leaves and long, brittle trailing stems. It can be hand pulled or raked, but every tiny piece must be removed or it will reshoot. Herbicides such as Roundup or Zero are worth a try, but you might find spraying with Starane 200 more effective. With wandering jew, as with most other weeds, persistence is the key to success.

Asthma weed
Often found on roadsides, embankments and old, neglected gardens, this sprawling perennial herb produces copious amounts of wind-borne pollen. It can cause respiratory problems. Spray with Roundup or Zero.

Some oxalis species, such as soursob and pink oxalis, are very invasive weeds. If you have them in your garden, Don advised against trying to dig them out. Instead, use a hand-held spray bottle filled with a glyphosate based product, such as Zero or Roundup. Whenever you notice the oxalis give the leaves a spray, taking care not to let the herbicide touch any other plants growing nearby. With repeated applications over 12-18 months, you should beat the problem.

It's not easy to eradicate invasive bamboos, but it is possible. Don suggested the following method: Cut off each stem about 30cm (12") above ground level. Water and fertilise the clump, using any fertiliser you have on hand. When vigorous, new growth appears (this will only take a few weeks) treat with a glyphosate based product such as Roundup or Zero. It will also be necessary to locate and treat culms that have suckered in other parts of the garden.

Repeat treatments may be necessary.

Onion weed
If the onion weed is in the lawn it is best to simply learn to live with it. If the onion weed is in garden beds, spray with a glyphosate-based product, such as Roundup or Zero. Trying to dig out onion weed will only make the problem much worse. There may be thousands of bulbs in the soil and they'll keep coming up, so persistence is the key. It's a good idea to have some spray ready so that you can repeat spray whenever you see new shoots appearing. If there are other plants nearby it may be best to apply the glyphosate with a small paintbrush, to ensure it only makes contact with the onion weed and not plants you want to keep growing well.

Lantana is a garden escapee, which was originally introduced from South America via Europe. It quickly invades disturbed areas, and is a serious problem in bushland and rainforest. Fortunately it is not difficult to remove from domestic gardens. It can be pulled out by hand, but because it has spiky stems you'll need to wear gloves.

Asparagus fern

Wear gloves and remove by hand. Cut away the prickly stems and then dig out the crown of the plant - a sharp knife works well for this job.

Rose tip: Don warned against using products such as Roundup or Zero anywhere near roses or members of the rose family.

Product information

100ml Bin-Die costs about $9
1 litre Starane 200 costs about $39
1 litre ready to use Roundup costs about $10
500ml Zero weedspray costs about $15

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