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Wheatgrass can quickly become a nightmare for any hobby gardener in the garden. She is persistent and stubborn. When fighting them, a lot of sweat can flow. Below are the best ways to combat it.

In a nutshell

  • Couchgrass is very competitive and inhibits the development of crops
  • Fighting is tedious and requires patience
  • Clearing the area, one of the most effective methods of combating it
  • Use of total herbicides not recommended

Correctly identify root weeds

First, a few brief explanations about couch grass (Elymus repens) in order to better recognize them. The root weed, also known as creeping couch grass, belongs to the sweet grass family (Poaceae). It is very feared in the garden and also difficult to combat. Rapid propagation occurs through root rhizomes growing underground and through seeds in the fall. It can germinate in the ground for a long time. Weeds need a lot of light to grow. It is not very viable in shady locations. In addition, the weed is a good host for various fungal diseases. Other characteristics to recognize couch grass are:

  • perennial
  • branched root runners running horizontally 3 to 10 cm deep below the surface of the ground
  • Rhizomes light to white in colour
  • Roots reach a depth of 80 cm
  • growing above ground in clumps
  • upright culms
  • Height from 50 to 150 cm
  • Flowering between June and August
  • two rows of loosely standing flower spikes
  • gray - green colored
  • Seed formation in the second year
  • loves calcareous and nitrogen-rich soils
Source: Matt Lavin from Bozeman, Montana, USA, Elymus repens (3739406828), edited by Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 2.0

Once root weeds have been recognized on the beds, targeted action is necessary to prevent further spread and damage to crops.

Notice: The annual growth of the root suckers can be up to one meter. Up to 150 daughter plants can develop from a single plant each year.

methods of combat

Once couch grass has settled in beds and lawns, it is always relatively difficult to banish it from the garden in the long term. Sometimes it is not easy to spot, usually only when it is larger, for example in the lawn. But then it's high time to fight couch grass to prevent further spread. Over time, the root weeds would displace useful and ornamental plants from the beds. For the removal of the creeping couch grass, however, a little patience and sometimes muscle strength is required. There are several options for combating and long-term removal.

Fight by hand

In this case, simply tearing it out or chopping it off would only bring short-term success. New culms would constantly sprout from the deeply rooted rhizomes. Milling or hoeing the affected areas is also not recommended, because the root suckers would be crushed and get or remain in the ground. A new plant can grow from every small piece of root. Fighting by hand is a tedious affair. It may take a growing season or two to see results. But still, this method is the most effective. The best way to do this is as follows:

  • Carefully dig out couch grass plants with a digging fork
  • take all the roots with you
  • then pull remaining flat and long roots out of the ground
  • remove every piece of root

As a rule, the soil covered with couch grass is quite loose. The processed bed should then remain fallow for a while. It is important that recurring weeds are removed. It is also possible to regularly mow the plants above ground. Even so, the root weed can be starved out in the long term. In any case, the weeds must not flower, otherwise they will self-seed. Furthermore, the roots should not be disposed of on the compost heap. There they can then spread again unhindered. Disposal in the residual waste is better and safer. On the other hand, they can also be used to prepare tea for coughs and colds.

Tip: Many hobby gardeners swear by planting potatoes in these areas. The shading of the ground by the lush foliage of the plants is intended to prevent new growth. However, it is questionable whether there is a hundred percent success. Just try it yourself.

Cover airtight

Another option is to deprive couch grass of light and air to grow. Corrugated cardboard can be used here. This is very environmentally friendly as it almost completely decomposes within 12 months. A thick, opaque film also fulfills this task. The procedure is as follows:

  • Laying out the area in early spring
  • before that, mow the stalks close to the ground
  • Cover the entire area with corrugated cardboard or mulch film
  • Cover with a thin layer of soil or bark mulch
  • Cover at least 12 months, also leave longer
  • Smother plants and their roots
  • Fertilization necessary after clearing the area
  • corrugated cardboard in particular removes nutrients from the soil

Green manure very successful

Another method to combat couch grass is green manure. This successfully suppresses couch grass growth. At the same time, new nutrients are made available to the soil for other plants. Particularly suitable for this are:

  • winter vetch
  • canola
  • oil radish
  • buckwheat
  • Mustard / yellow mustard
  • Phacelia
  • Jerusalem Artichoke
  • Nasturtium

You have to sow very densely so that the root weeds are deprived of light. You can also achieve good results with marigolds. These are simply planted around the bed. The root excretions of these plants are not tolerated by couch grass. Other plants that prevent further spread of weeds are:

  • Bergenia
  • cotoneaster
  • ivy
  • evergreen honeysuckle
  • thyme
  • marigolds
Wild thyme, wild thyme, Thymus serpyllum

Tip: You should avoid using legumes, because they enrich the soil with nitrogen, which in turn promotes couch grass growth.

use of herbicides

A few words on that, however, for the sake of the environment, it should not be used. Total herbicides are used here. This not only destroys the weeds, but also useful and ornamental plants. It should be used in dry, warm weather. The active ingredient is developed in the plant and kills it down to the root. Measures to prevent the spread of couchgrass are always better than combating them with herbicides.

preventive measures

There are several ways to prevent the spread of these stubborn root weeds:

  • Mow the lawn at least once a week
  • balanced fertilization and irrigation of the areas
  • in the case of lawns, the setting of root barriers or lawn edges
  • Avoid nitrogen fertilization of the soil
  • Don't undermine quacks
  • no storage of the roots on the compost
  • early detection of weeds
  • don't let it bloom
  • use of high-quality seed for lawns
  • Be careful when fertilizing with horse and cattle manure
  • Animals eat grass, which means it can spread
  • Application of a layer of mulch in beds
Why are couch grass so difficult to control?

This root weed is rooted in the soil to a depth of 80 cm. Simply chopping off or tearing out is not enough here. The roots must be completely removed from the soil. Even the smallest remaining piece of root will sprout again. It means constantly weeding, weeding, weeding. It may take a long time to remove.

What are the best methods of combating it?

The most effective way to remove weeds is by hand. To do this, the plants and their roots are lifted out of the ground with a digging fork. All remaining roots must then be carefully removed. This also applies to every new shoot.

Are there home remedies to fight couch grass?

Some hobby gardeners swear by a solution of vinegar or salt, or just boiling water. These remedies are effective. However, we do not want to recommend them here. The substances are not very environmentally friendly. They can get into the groundwater and, at the same time, they have a lasting negative impact on the work of the microorganisms present in the soil.

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