BOOK REVIEW
Controlling Weeds cover - 14k Controlling Weeds: without using chemicals
by Dr. Jo Readman
pub. Search Press/HDRA, 2000
Paperback, 292x216mm, 64 pages, 7.95
ISBN 0 85532 934 3


'Controlling Weeds' is a re-issue of a book published by Search Press in association with the HDRA back in 1991, and this new version comes at a time when gardeners are increasingly interested in non-chemical control of pests and weeds.

The book splits the information into a naturally progressing sequence of sections, rather than into chapters, while the simple language and plentiful illustrations make weed identification and Readman's pearls of wisdom easy to absorb.

Throughout the book one is staggered at how effective weeds are at colonising the soil. Chickweed, for instance, is quoted as having a life-cycle of only seven weeks but is capable of producing up to 15,000 million plants a year. Cinquefoil can spread 10sq m in a season, and Field Bindweed 25sq m.

Readman begins her exploration of the subject by defining a weed as being 'a plant in the wrong place', further refining her definition by saying that weeds are essentially plants which compete for the light, water, food and space occupied by the plants you want to grow.

After dealing with the life-cycles of weeds, their vegetative spread and regenerative capacity, the book moves on to an illustrated 'Know Your Weeds' section. Almost every weed is illustrated with a photograph for identification, along with text descriptions that describe the nature of the plant, physical appearance, and so on. Sometimes there are references to bits of old folklore surrounding a plant, and there are frequently physiological details which will help readers understand a particular weed's tenacity.

Just when you might be thinking that weeds were all bad, and should be blitzed from your garden at the end of a flame-thrower, the author inserts a section on 'the benefits of weeds'. Here she reminds us that weeds are often beneficial to wildlife, that they contain nutrients which should be returned to the earth, and that some of them can be eaten (there are even a few recipes included). There are also some useful thoughts on using weeds as 'indicators' of the condition of the soil.

Perhaps the most important part of the book for any gardener is the 'Principles of organic weed control' section. It is here the reader will get to grips with the science of composting, and the armoury of techniques, strategies and implements that the gardener can employ against invading weeds. Comprehensive, and full of useful details, the section isn't really rocket science. Rather, the author puts all the facts together to provide the reader with a methodology for tackling weeds.

The one lasting memory I shall carry with me from reading Jo Readman's book, is a picture of a goat near the back with a piece of accompanying text which advises that goats are the best antidote to bramble patches. You have been told!

Verdict? Very useful, although the page size doesn't make this a practical book to carry in your pocket. Not expensive for the information and illustrations contained, and you will save a whole lot of money by not having to buy expensive chemicals.

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