Allotment Tips – Couch Grass

Look after the edges and the middle will look after itself’ – zero tolerance for Couch grass?

One of the challenges of an allotment is controlling perennial weeds. That is weeds that have a life cycle that is longer than a year and so won’t just die off over the winter. A weed that is a particular problem on the Howe is Couch grass.

Couch grass generates root systems that are actually rhizomes, that is they contain food for the speedy generation of a network of underground stems that produce new grass plants from nodes on these stems. These networks of stems need to be removed as they will otherwise takeover the ground and outgrow anything you try and cultivate.

This can seem a daunting task but can be managed by tackling small sections of your plot, preferably in the winter months when growth slows down.

1. Decide on the boundary of your plot and mark out the first section from one corner.

2. Strim the path and edge of the plot so that you can see what you are doing, and then mark out the section with a line, where you want the edge of your plot to be.

3. Cut the ground along the line with a spade and then fork into the bed area carefully excavating the network of couch grass stems.

4. Try to avoid breaking the stems and leaving any sections of root in the ground as they will regrow. This is why using a rotavator is problematic until you have got rid of the couch grass as it will just cut up the stems and exacerbate your problems.

5. Once you have cleared a section you will get some regrowth in the first year from the bits of rhizome you missed, but if you remove it straight away you will soon end up with a plot free of couch grass. The stems can grow very fast and very long!

6. When you have cleared your plot, to protect your plot from infiltration from your paths, you will have to recut your boundaries each year and excavate any rhizome growth about a foot into your plot.

And hence the old sage allotmenteer saying, look after the edges and the middle will look after itself.



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