After a very warm wet winter I am looking out at my garden with dismay at all the weeds that are taking over everywhere, wondering when I am going to have good weather coincide with inclination to deal with them.
A weed is a plant growing where it is not wanted. But many of the common plants in gardens all over New Zealand are in fact invasive weeds that are now causing environmental damage. Three quarters of our weeds started off being planted in gardens as ornamental plants but started to ‘jump the fence’ and then became a problem. Invasive weeds are a big threat to our biodiversity, can damage ecosystems and destroy the habitats of native plants and animals.
I was absolutely amazed when I started to investigate and discovered how many garden plants are classified as invasive and should be removed. I discovered a great website www.weedbusters.org.nz that has been set up by organisations such as Department of Conservation (DoC) and regional councils to try to get New Zealanders involved in taking action to limit the spread and establishment of weeds. People play a large part in spreading environmental weeds, often without knowing it, and Weedbusters aims to educate people and raise awareness to turn this problem around.
The website is an amazing resource to help you identify weed species. There is a list of weeds – in alphabetical order, with photos; information on weed control, disposing of weeds, articles and information on what is happening in your community. They have a free Weedbusting Guide that tells you about using herbicides, and controlling weedy herbs and ground covers, vines, shrubs and trees. There is a great series of booklets for each region called “Plant Me Instead” – these have pictures of the problem weeds and some suggestions for alternative planting. You can download your booklet for free or ask for a copy to be sent to you. Aucklanders need to get a copy of the Northland booklet.
My favourite is the Weed Quiz where you have to correctly name a set of weeds from their photos. Get 4 out of 5 right and you are a “Weed Expert” and with 5 out of 5 right you become a “Weed Jedi“. It is a strangely compelling exercise that makes you feel good about not being outside pulling out weeds because at least you will be able to recognize them when you do get out there – when the rain eventually stops and the garden is no longer a bog.