I thought it would be best to confess. I am one of the world’s greatest cultivators of couchgrass. Well, I assume it is couchgrass although, according to various authorities, it may well be something else botanically. But I am sticking with couchgrass as a generic term referring to what you see in large clumps above on my shitty bank. My shitty bank is essentially stones and spoil from the swimming pool excavation, and so you may say, what do I expect? And you would be right. I have no expectations of not growing couchgrass. But this late Spring season when, like last week, you get the fatal combination of warm sun and rain, is when the couchgrass seriously moves in.
And I am much more relaxed about it than I was eleven years ago. I now understand that it just comes with the territory in a largely agriculturally surrounded village. And, although I will welly in later when the rain stops and do some pulling up, knowing that this wet period makes the soil, such as it is, able to loosen its grip on the couchgrass roots- I also know that time will help me. In about six weeks or so, shitty bank will be crispy dry and the couchgrass will burn and dry. As long as I have made a bit of a dent in it with my pulling activities, time and weather will keep it at bay till the frosts come. I also know that there is no point in planting small, delicate plants on shitty bank as they will not rise above the couchgrass guerrilla tactics.
Here is an example of how I have learnt to live with couchgrass in a damper part of the garden.
Here, by the ruisseau, is a sunny and dampish part of the garden, which also increases the likelihood of bindweed. Here, after various attempts at handling the couchgrass, I am opting for ground cover that will blot out most of it, leaving only what I call ‘wisp management’- same technique as above, but again, only after rain, the gentle, sharp tug will bring out root and all…for now.
Just to the left of this group, I have a new colony of Phlomis russeliana, which will do a grand job in a month or two. I read about Phlomis russeliana as a weed suppressant in the helpful Noel Kingsbury blog. He helped me see what I could have noticed for myself as I love this plant and have lots in the garden in all sorts of different spaces. But, in the photograph above, you can see that the Japanese anemone works too…You just have to always manage the suppressor as well. Otherwise the suppressor becomes the tyrant.
On the subject, briefly, of bindweed, I have also grown Tagetes minuta from seed, following helpful advice from Sarah Raven’s website and the Wellywoman blog, another great source of help and advice. I have about 25 good looking small plants, which I am going to plant in a couple of places and try out. It sounds as if you need to plant them in groups around the affected area and the chemical extrusions from the tagetes root is what deters the bindweed. It’s got to be worth a try, and at the worst, you have extra, feathery foliage that looks quite nice without much else in the flower department.
But meantime, I did do one thing in time this year- staking the herbaceous paeonies, and this one, not sure which it is, looked terrific even after another blasting by heavy rain. Good for the soul.