The back of our veggie garden, directly in front of the composting area, is separated by a small fence. Behind this fence live four charming redcurrant bushes and a forest of strawberries. During the first summer in our house we enjoyed a lot of strawberries from this part of the garden. Last year, however, I noticed a growing trend. Maybe it was something we changed, or maybe it was just bad luck. It seemed the back part of our garden was getting taken over by this weird green, leafy plant. We were told it could be eaten, if one so desired. We did not desire. My strawberries were soon engulfed by these beastly plants, with only small pockets of mint surviving the takeover.
So earlier this year, I decided to take action, because I’d noticed it had started spreading, out through its flimsy fence into the veggie patch. A veritable disaster, I assumed. I began working on it at the end of winter, before it even had a chance to grow. Easy, I thought to myself, I’ll just dig it out. How hard can it be?
After patiently waiting for the earth to thaw, I got down on my hands and knees with my little spade and started digging around. I soon realized that a small spade probably wasn’t going to cut it, so I grabbed my trusty shovel and dug in. And what I heard, was not the delicious slicing of sweet earth, but the horrendous noise of smashing through roots. What I quickly discovered, was that in the back section of the garden, these nasty plants had become so entrenched, that they had basically obliterated the soil. There was little room for anything else to grow.
Realising that what I was doing was probably going to be a waste of time, I decided that the most important thing was to save the veggie patch. Of course, removing the source was ideal, but it would have taken weeks to remove all the Giersch from the back. So hubby and I came up with an alternate plan – we dug out the fence, layered material to stop the weeds getting through behind it, and dumped tanbark over it all. Just try and get through that, Giersch, we sniggered.
Giersch, it seems, is known by a few English names such as ground elder, herb gerard, bishop’s weed, goutweed. I found this fear-enducing sentence on Wikipedia: Once goutweed has been removed, the patch should be carefully monitored periodically for a few years. New shoots should be dug up and destroyed. This species is native to Eurasia, and has been introduced around the world as an ornamental plant, where it occasionally poses an ecological threat as an invasive exotic plant.
Unsurprisingly, the war wasn’t over. While the back part of the garden was now separated from the veggies, I still had to deal with the encroaching Giersch already in my garden, which would continue to spread if left unattended. We visited our local gardener, with a sample of the stuff, which unfortunately, left them shaking their heads. There was something that killed it, they said, but that method was illegal in Europe due to it causing cancer. The only way to remove it, apparently, was to pull it out manually, bit by bit. Because every tiny little root that is left just continues to grow. They wished us well as we left, shaking their heads and laughing a little, I suspect.
And so my project began: my pre-spring project. I spent hours… countless hours… probably over 20 in total, digging with my little spade, separating the roots from the earth and putting it back in. It was tiresome, though I did feel a high sense of satisfaction when I finally put down the spade for the last time and looked at my perfect patch of uncontaminated earth.
And it worked… I have to be vigilant – because the damn stuff pops up in random places, but overall, I have managed to remove it from the veggie part of the garden.
The rear section is another problem altogether. Although we succeeded in separating it from the main garden this year, I fear our methods won’t hold for long. The small cuts we made in the material to allow the redcurrants to grow were enough to let the Giersch through as well. Next year, we’ll have to pull out all the dirt from the back section and replace it with uncontaminated dirt. And when I say we… I mean someone else. Someone we pay to do that. I’ve done my part!