Q: Any advice on the best way to tackle creeping buttercup without using weed killer? It’s starting to take over some of my flower beds, where it’s smothering perennials and smaller shrubs. MJ, Co Kilkenny
A: Creeping buttercup, or Ranunculus repens as it is known botanically, is a very persistent, resilient, native perennial weed that easily spreads by seed and can quickly form dense mats of low rosettes of foliage linked by the many long “runners” that each plant throws out. Left undisturbed, it can colonise very large areas of ground, which is why it is not unusual to see large meadows lit up by its brilliant yellow flowers in summer.
While the flowers are loved by pollinators, there is no denying the fact that it can easily become an invasive weed, especially in gardens and allotments with rich, damp or poorly drained soils.
There are several organically acceptable ways to effectively prevent it taking over your flower bed. Start by giving the latter a really good tidy-up (this is a great time of year to do so), cutting back old foliage and dead flower stems and clearing away any fallen leaves. All of these can go on the compost heap.
Next, use a mixture of selective hand-weeding and hoeing, reserving the latter only for areas where you are sure that you will not accidentally damage any herbaceous perennials or bulbous plants coming up through the soil.
Good tools that are fit for purpose are essential. For prising its stubborn octopus-like roots out of the ground, I recommend the hand-tool known as a daisy-grubber (also known as a “fulcrum weeder”), with a head shaped like a snake’s tongue. Favourite hoes include the oscillating hoe (choose one with a narrower blade for border work) and what is known as the swoeRead more on irishtimes.com