Tuesday 11 August 2015

The glyphosate posts

 Review of past posts
A great supporter and former neighbour, professor John Taylor used to nag me that I ought to make a record of my naturalistic and labour saving methods in maintaining Bolton Percy cemetery.

My basic philosophy is that if I take care of the weeds the plants will grow themselves. Nature abhors a vacuum.
There is obviously more to it than this whether in a cemetery or in a garden. Not only does one need to know how to recognise and understand your plants but you need a speedy and effective way to control weeds. There are no good public accounts about how to use glyphosate in the way I do and one of the reasons I blog is to tell anyone who will listen!

Is this pretty ragwort a weed? It is classified as a noxious weed and is a problem that when dead this toxic plant is palatable to grazing animals. I do not allow it in my cemetery gardens. My normal strength glyphosate is not quite strong enough and at the end of my day I return to give it a second dose.

What my blog lacks at the moment is bringing my glyphosate posts coherently together.
Today I try to point a way through the thicket.
The thicket? If you don’t like using glyphosate this creeping thistle is quite vulnerable to mowing or strimming at this stage of growth
Summaries of past posts
In ‘batting for glyphosate’ I make out a case for using this herbicide. I have not changed my mind that for me it is very safe and effective. In my own case maintaining over six acres of mainly naturalistic gardens I could not garden without it. There is much doubting comment on the net about this wonderful material. I intend in the future to write a more forthright post as to why I think such comment is misguided and wrong.

In this post I make some introductory comments about some of the basics of using glyphosate. In particular I emphasize that for anyone with other than the smallest garden they ought to invest in a decent knapsack sprayer. A good knapsack with the appropriate nozzle can be much more accurate than even a hand sprayer. I use a yellow cone nozzle, rather than the type often advised in the literature written for farmers by agricultural engineers!

I ordered the cheaper Berthoud sprayer for delivery to Brendas’s son in France. It makes life much easier on my visits!
It has recently paid for itself several times over to kill a very large area of box caterpillar that had devastated his box hedges. (next post)

Gardeners invest huge amounts on items such as lawn mowers and other machinery but tend to buy a cheap knapsack which apart from being endlessly frustrating and inaccurate to use soon falls apart. A good professional sprayer will last ’for ever’. Myself as a frequent user who is very poor with machinery and to whom maintenance is a thing that other people do, get at least 2000 cycles of use before I think of getting a new one. Every ten years!
I am currently ordering an all singing and dancing Berthoud sprayer (illustrated in the link) for Jackie Giles who is one of the wonderful people now helping in Bolton Percy cemetery garden.  It now costs £165 already assembled. The cheaper Berthoud model (above) at about £130 is almost as good but I think you have to assemble it – so that cuts me out!
My advice to get a good sprayer for glyphosate is contradictory to my advice when spraying your cabbages or even a short hedge with insecticide when I suggest you use a very cheap two quid hand sprayer.

Shield for spray nozzle illustrated on a bottle of french glyphosate. I have never used one and never intend to!
In my post about buying glyphosate I made some very guarded comments about purchasing commercial glyphosate. I was more outspoken in last weeks post!

In this post I discussed a few points about mixing glyphosate and calculating the appropriate strength. I also wrote about spraying the over-grown village plot which was a field of ground elder spreading out under the hedge up to the public footpath and also onto neighbouring perimeter gardens. I was adamant that it was as important to eliminate the ground elder under the hedge as well as on the rest of the plot. I described how I do not spray such a plot walking in a straight line with my nozzle held at a steady height.
With my nozzle pointing downwards I more duck and weave adjusting my spray direction to the nature and contour of the patch that the nozzle hovers over.

This was a frivolous short post about brand names. It makes the important point that glyphosate is out of patent and anyone can manufacture it. Only Monsanto and any company with which they have shared the brand name can call it Roundup.
All forms of glyphosate are for practical purposes exactly the same but vary hugely in price and concentration.

All these french brands of glyphosate for practical purposes are exactly the same
In some respects a significant post that starts to tackle something that most gardeners and gardening writers shy away from - spraying amongst garden plants. Fraught with difficulties in inexperienced hands selectivity by directional spraying is perhaps best avoided by most people but without it I would find it impossible to maintain the large areas I do.
That is not to say that in most gardens there are not large weedy areas near to, but not intimate with garden plants that can easily and safely be sprayed. For example it is relatively easy to spray under a hedge or under shrubs and trees without damaging them.

Selectivity by timing is exemplified by spraying a weedy daffodil plot when the daffodils have died down dormant, or spraying couch in a herbaceous border when the herbaceous plants have completely died down.
The post also gives the traditional advice to get rid of perennial weeds before planting a new garden or garden feature.

This iris is not quite dormant but by carefully directing my nozzle down I eliminated the couch grass with a single spray in late November

Gardeners are sometimes confused because glyphosate is slower in Winter and won't kill perennial weeds that have gone dormant. It won't kill dormant garden plants either which is a huge advantage because it will kill still green weeds growing amongst them. In addition weeds mechanically controlled in Winter by such as hoeing will re-root in wet conditions whereas sprayed weeds will die.

This revolves around the fact that adverts for rival products to glyphosate portray it as slow. Good gardeners 'manage' their gardens and don't want a quick fix for the day. It is not slow to become inactive in the soil and enable replanting and will eliminate perennial weed better than any rival.

Glyphosate always gets the blame for any sick plants in a garden no matter that it may not be the cause. I review how to recognize damage and avoid it. This post ends with using glyphosate in a hand sprayer to eliminate convolvulus (bindweed).

You can hardly see the ceanothus under Steven’s bindweed! I sprayed it last July and the weed has not returned. There are just a few little corners in the garden where I had missed the odd bindweed and where a second treatment would be desirable!

This post is not strictly about glyphosate but about controlling coarse weeds in grassland

Not about glyphosate as such but about the benefits of minimum cultivations in limiting carbon dioxide pollution and efficiently producing food on a world wide scale. Glyphosate facilitates most no till or low till systems. I believe the world is a much better place for its existence.

In separate posts I write about how to use glyphosate to control these difficult weeds

There are many ways to control weeds. Here the ubiquitous epilobium needs yanking out. I would normally just throw them onto the ground but at this stage it will still set seed.


  1. I hate to complicate matters ( no I don't really) but you could create an index page pulling together the posts and adding a link on the sidebar as I have for courgette recipes, Talk to Cathy (sorry Cathi)

    1. Thanks a whole lot Sue!!!!
      Seriously though - I'll have a go soon. It all wants a bit of tidying up anyway. I've just been too busy. Is your link a gadget?

    2. Sue will have noticed that I learned to do a link in the comment box on my previous post..
      I am always ready to take advice!

    3. Cathi - yes the sidebar link is an image gadget - that's got Roger thinking,.

      Roger - I had noticed the live link/

  2. Roger, could you not tolerate just a little ragwort somewhere out of the way, as presumably there are no grazing animals in the cemetery? It is the only food plant for the very beautiful red and black cinnabar moth, which looks like a small red butterfly when it flies during the day. It's nature's own ragwort controller....if we don't wipe it out along with the ragwort.
    I admit that I'm being a hypocrite as I don't like ragwort in my own garden. Not because of its toxicity, but because it's one of the 'flying seeds' weeds, and if you are nice to them they take advantage!


    1. Yes you are right Sarah!
      I have been mindful if I left them to seed as they do freely everywhere these days they might be a problem to me
      The authorities just ignore the statuary obligation to control them on roadsides for example which I think they still have.
      Perhaps I will leave just a little clump well away from the road and surrounding fields.
      At the moment there is just the odd one that I have missed and so far I have killed them before they have achieved flowering.
      It would be nice to get some pictures of the cinnabar moth.
      It won't be the first time I have changed my philosophy as a result of a blog comment!

  3. I don't want to pretend I know lots about ragwort and the law, as I don't. However I did read a few web pages about it a while ago, as there does seem to be some confusion on the subject. Briefly, my understanding is that if it's close to grazing or haymaking land then you should be doing something about it, but more than 100m is low risk and within reason it should be left as part of the wild flower mix. Seeing a cinnabar is a real treat, and they do make ragwort seem like a good idea. Sadly I don't have a photo of one, they have always flown away very quickly. In disgust at my inedible plants no doubt!


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