Weedkillers and another viewpoint

I think with all Garden designers there has to be a link to hands on-gardening and as a Garden Designer its important for me to carry out some maintenance on clients' gardens to truly understand their day to day problems. I can't be completely sure; however, I suspect that most, if not all garden designers also share a passion for avoiding pesticides and weedkillers. In some of my previous blogs I mention that I ensure my own garden in Essex is a chemical free zone, as I just can't get passed the idea of using chemicals in a garden where you are also growing food (which I do).  Food producers and supermarkets add way too many chemicals to our food already, without the need for gardeners to start doing it and many of their products are produced with the assistance of chemicals.

The problem is that with most pesticides and weedkillers the manufactures don't naturally advertise the downsides of using their products but it should be in the technical data relating to the product. I accept, they also go some way in limiting the collateral damage (particularly in pesticides) but the mitigation of damaging the friendly insects is inadequate. It is also true that when a pesticide is used it is way too easy to ignore the damage you're doing, as it's ‘unseen'. I doubt anyone goes around after spraying pesticides recording the damage to the good insects and pollinators that has been done but nonetheless it does happen. It's a bit like the approach of governments around the globe in ignoring climate change. They know its happening and millions are suffering but we all recognize there is just too much lip service going on as our planet continues to warm up.

Back to speaking on a more local level, it's down to gardeners to think carefully about the use of pesticides and avoid them at all costs, as there is usually a way to control problem pests by natural means. See my previous blogs on the subject. https://www.gardencreationbygarycurtis.co.uk/gardening-blog/pest-control-aphids and https://www.gardencreationbygarycurtis.co.uk/gardening-blog/pestcontrol-slugs

In regard to weedkiller, I also take the same view but I was recently made aware of an article by an outreach coordinator of “Drugwatch” of their website that examines the damage a particular chemical used in weedkiller can do directly to our own health.


The website link is https://www.drugwatch.com/roundup/ . The weedkiller ‘Roundup' is a very popular residential and commercial weed killer. It uses the active ingredient ‘glyphosate' and the article examines the link between long term use of Roundup and non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other health issues. Now Bayer (the manufacturer) has gone to great lengths to prove Roundup is safe to use, however the World Health organisation's International Agency for research on Cancer concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans based on studies on the effect on animals and there is strong evidence that glyphosate may damage cell DNA”.

The article should make you ask yourself that when you use a weedkiller containing glyphosate are you just killing weeds or are you guilty of adopting a similar attitude to climate change that governments around the world choose to take? Although, this time the threat is not in some distant land or to some unknown insect or plant but to your own health.

There are many weedkiller options on the internet and some do not contain glyphosate, and these tend to be boldly highlighted on their labelling and some are based on Acetic acid, but there are some really tough and persistent weeds.

In smaller suburban gardens its usually easier to manage weeds but if you have a large estate garden, similar to some I've worked on, which can be infested with Brambles Rubus fruiticosus, Marestail Equisetum arvense, or Broadleaf Docks Rumex obtusifoli, it's a totally different problem.

On large estate or gardens weed infestations aren't always picked up at the very first stage and invasive weeds can really take hold and I do not wish to gloss over the difficulty in dealing with those situations.

Garden Designer in Essex and Suffolk


Before I get ‘hammered' on-line, I'm aware Brambles present a ‘thorny' argument as to being a desirable plant for wildlife but in an ornamental garden it's a tough ask, to be rid of pervasive weeds without the use of an effective weedkiller. To this end the only true means of eradicating them is to dig them up and with some weeds even that is a task in itself due to complex root systems.

Ultimately the argument on the safety of glyphosate is worth thinking about an checking out yourself but whether to use weedkillers or not aligns with the one piece of advice I often give to clients generally in regard to weeds; that is to, firstly ‘out plant' the weeds with cultivated plants and secondly, just ‘dig up' the tough ones that still persist.

In my own garden in Essex I do get weeds like everyone else, but if there's a space for a weed, I put a plant in it or just dig the weeds up as they appear in there immature state. This approach is mainly for three reasons!

  • It's cheaper exercise than going to the gym
  • Your garden benefits
  • You can be proud to have joined the ranks of the non-weedkiller user group (if indeed one exists).

It's a “win win win” situation!