Weeds can seriously impair the growth of young trees and shrubs by competing with them for moisture and nutrients. An area at least one metre diameter around young trees should be kept weed-free by hoeing carefully, by applying a layer of old carpet, a thick layer of cardboard, newspapers or organic mulch, or by using chemical weedkillers.
Mulching feeds the young tree and conserves moisture, as well as keeping weeds down. Some mulches, such as garden compost, grass clippings and farmyard manure, often contain weed seedlings and these will have to be controlled. Other mulching materials such as bark, brewer’s grains and mushroom compost are weed-free.
Chemical weed control is very successful but must be used properly. Contact weedkillers, such as Basta, will deal with grass and soft weeds. Soft weeds and tough perennial weeds can be spot-treated with Roundup. Brushwood Killer is useful for killing brambles and other scrub, including ivy.
As trees and shrubs get older, they can usually cope with weeds, being bigger and able to shade them out. Woody weeds such as brambles and elderberry can become a problem and should be dug out as soon as they are noticed. Other weeds such as bindweed might need to be spot-treated with Roundup.