Knapweed in moderation is quite an attractive wild flower, thistle like without the prickles. But too much is pernicious.
For most of the time we’ve been here we’ve been trying half heartedly to control it, mainly by snipping the flowers off before they seed. But lately it has got out of control in the meadow and blanketed large areas, inhibiting the fritillaries and orchids for which the plot is so valuable.
Knapweed two months after the summer mow of the meadow – growing back fast ready for next year’s assault.
So decision time: chopping it down does not make much difference because there’s a big root system and it regrows fast. The only serious way to deal with it is to dig it out clump by clump – so we did, using a deep and narrow trenching spade with a steel handle that allows a lot of leverage to be put on the blade.
The roots are tough so the soil can be shaken off easily enough by banging a clump against the spade.
The job takes a long time, and there’s at least 100 square metres of weed. But there doesn’t seem to be any really effective alternative as we cannot possibly use chemicals and mowing only persuades it to spread sideways and flat along the ground instead of up, rather like plantain in a lawn.
The aim is to do a couple of hours every now and then so that the whole lot will be out by the time the heavy frosts come.
The start of the job, with the first area cleared of knapweed.
The earth looks bare but it is bound to be full of grass and other seeds and will rejuvenate very quickly. Any knapweed seedlings with be searched out and destroyed as they sprout.
Care was taken to avoid too much damage to the remaining plants – though apart from cowslips and grass most had been blanketed out by knapweed, whose leaves are easy to distinguish from the cowslips scattered between the clumps.