Friday, 5 December 2014

Couch Grass (Elymus repens) Removal.

The Dangers of Wheely Bins
Beware The Bin - it can turn nasty.
      I know from talking to friends that climbing into wheely bins and jumping up and down to compress its contents is not an original idea. On the face of it you would think it was rather a good one, enabling you to get more in. However I feel a responsibility to let the public know it is a recipe for disaster: In my case, the bin was situated against the wall on the narrow path between our house and next door's fence. The bin men weren't due for another week and I'd got a lot of prunings to get rid of. I didn't fancy the monotony  of feeding them individually into my shredder, so the bin was a good alternative. It was about quarter full when I decided it'd be relatively simple to get myself in and do a bit of compressing.

      One unfortunate thing about wheely bins is that they are pretty high, so getting one leg in first, then manoeuvring to get the other one in resulted in elevating my voice a couple of octaves.
Anyway, I recovered from the near sex change and tried the first tentative compressing jump, Unfortunately, the wheels  were situated about a foot away from the wall and the movement caused the top edge of the wheely to press against said wall. Interestingly, this set of circumstances proved that law of Newton's - for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction - I never really understood it til then. The wheels trundled across the path while the top stayed in contact with the wall. The whole contraption, with yours truly in it, jammed horizontally across the path with the wheels against the fence and the lid pressing me further into it. My head was sticking out at an extreme angle and the edge of the bin was giving a fair idea of what being garroted feels like.

      My immediate reaction was to shout "er, help!" in a strangulated voice resulting from the pressure on my larynx. This brought no rush of rescuers footfalls and a few moments thought gave me the realisation that this was a good thing. The amount of help I'd have got from my wife or caring neighbours ('quick - get the camera- the daft bugger's up to his tricks again'), and the months/years of mickey-taking, made this a bad idea. On the other hand, waiting for the bin men to turn up and try to empty me into the back of their grinding monster was equally unappealing.

      Being jammed in a wheely bin is extremely debilitating:  You are completely helpless. This led me to think of  the old westerns where John Wayne or someone would tie up the outlaw with a couple of quick turns of the rope that could be easily negotiated by a two-year-old. A wheely bin would have been far more effective. However the saving grace in my situation was the fact that one arm was free, After a short period of peacefully lying there thinking about it, I was able to awkwardly push sideways against the wall with one hand, In this way, bin and me eventually became at an angle on the path and I crawled out like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. My wife would have changed the simile to a bluebottle coming out, but I never gave her the chance and, to this day, she never heard about it.
Uprooted couch grass

      The dangers of wheely bins are outweighed by their usefulness and brings to mind couch grass (Elymus repens) as a good example. Putting the roots of this stuff on the compost heap is a recipe for disaster. Unless your heap heats up very efficiently (and a lot don't), you will end up with bits being spread around the garden when you use the resulting compost. Far better to let the bin men take them away to where they will be killed off by the extreme temperatures in the council recycling unit.

      Chemicals based on Glyphosate (look on the container labels and the constituents of weedkiller or pesticide will always be displayed in small print even if they are not reflected in the trade name) will kill couch. However the problem is that it is not selective: if the grass is growing through herbaceous plants it will kill them as well, so a way round this is to remove the base of a pot, place it over the grass and spray inside. The best time to do this is in the spring when the grass is growing vigorously and so the chemical is translocated throughout, killing the whole root system.

      I've approached the problem in a front border by removing all the herbaceous plants and diligently forking out the shallow growing roots of the grass. This is hard work in a heavy clay soil but my garden is light and sandy, so the job is relatively easy. I will now go over the bed once every few weeks, forking out any new growth from remaining bits and, in the spring, I'll replace the herbaceous plants, having diligently removed any couch lurking among their roots.
Bed awaiting regular forking to remove remnants
      With pernicious weeds like couch and marestail it pays to remember that removal of any green growth as soon as it pops up will prevent photosynthesis taking place. This puts paid to the subsequent build up of sugars which are stored in the roots as growth energy. By starving the enemy in this way it will eventually disappear. I've made that sound very easy, but it takes real dedication to carry through to the end. I've even managed to get rid of marestail (Equisetum arvense) in this way. The problem with this system occurs when weed growth is coming under the fence from next door's garden. In this case the only thing to do is shoot the neighbour. It won't kill the weeds, but you'll feel happier.


  1. Thoroughly enjoyed your story John. It certainly brightened up an otherwise dreary evening.

    1. Thanks Marie-Louise. I enjoy your cards and await your next blog with interest. Best wishes.