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Ground elder.... everywhere!

I inherited an established cottage garden with lots of variety of plants 3 years ago. Lots of herbaceous plants, bulbs, shrubs etc. I’ve slowly been getting to grips with it and starting to get it more towards what I like (cottage garden with a bit more uniformity and more than one of each plant- lots of dividing of shrubs going on!) 
however I have a huge ground elder problem... I have been pulling it out as much as I can but last year I didn’t get in the garden as much (heavily pregnant, c section and that heat!!) 
This year I am trying to get it back under control. So far I am digging up as much of the ground elder as possible- but it is still winning. So do i;
a) continue to pull out as much as possible when I can (but being aware I will miss some and won’t really win) 
b) remove all ground covering plants, leaving the larger perennials/ shrubs (things like peonies, geraniums) and spend this year trying to get as much out as possible
c) plant something to smother it... is there something?? 
d) another solution? (Move house? Lol)


  • Oh god, I feel your pain!
    I also moved to a cottage this year with a garden infested with ground elder. Luckily for me though (in some ways) the garden had been abandoned and there was nothing worth saving bar a couple of roses, so I had a clean slate to work with.
    A month in and we have almost removed all the elder.
    It is bl**dy hard work.
    We have dug over all the soil (in the process, removing skiploads of builders' rubble, an old air raid shelter foundation etc) and carefully threaded out the elder roots. They are quite succulent and pale brown, so quite easy to spot against earth, at least! 
    Carefully digging with a fork seems to work best, turning the soil over and gently removing the long sections of root.
    It can be done on areas which are planted,  but yes, it is harder. 
    If you have areas you could consider uncovering (pot up your ground covers if they are worth it, but be aware of any elder root you are taking with them, cleaning the roots off of your ground covers very well) and use new compost.
    Then you could dig/hoe the blank areas of soil and take up as much as you can see.
    If the elder is in the lawn, then it won't work - it'll have spread a vast network of roots underneath (as our was), so we decided to just take up the entire lawn. 
    It all needed a good dig and feed under that lot anyway.
    Elder will regrow from any bit of root you miss, but it also doesn't like being constantly disturbed, beheaded, starved of light, so with some covering in black plastic sheeting here and there, vigilant hoeing and forking and turning over soil where and when you can, you can get on top of it.
    Some say you'll never get rid of it, but I've friends who have (they also had blank canvasses to start with though).
    It depends how much time it bothers you!
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,411
    In a rented place a few years ago we had ground elder, and it was coming through from next door through the hedge. Impossible. So I made a raised bed from brick, with weed membrane to the bottom, filled with imported soil and grow bag compost. You could presumably do the same over a larger area with sleepers. 
  • DampGardenManDampGardenMan Posts: 1,054
    I've had and have the same problem. Where I can, e.g. between big shrubs, I cover it with ground membrane and then chuck chipped anything on top. Eventually the chippings break down and form enough of a "soil" to support things like snowdrops, crocuses and even bluebells. The ground elder does eventually make it to the edges but it's not too hard to keep that in check. I'm sure however if I ever took the membrane up (down for over 20 years in previous garden) the g.e. would be back inside a year.

    When it's in grass I just ignore it and mow when I feel like it. Or not if I don't.

    Apparently we have the Romans to thank for it!
  • SueAtooSueAtoo Posts: 337
    I let ground elder get a hold last year so now I'm digging. Where possible I'm digging up perennials, cleaning their roots and replanting. Where they're too big I make up strong, root-killing weedkiller with a little wallpaper paste to make it sticky then 'painting' the ground elder leaves with an old paintbrush (wearing a rubber glove). When an area is cleared I keep a small spray bottle of weedkiller for any emergent leaves. Paste mixture also works on bits that have made it into the lawn.
    East Dorset, new (to me) rather neglected garden.
  • MissMMissM Posts: 36
    I seem to recall that my mother got rid of her ground elder by smothering it - with old carpet! Same idea as DampGarden Man. It is also apparently edible...
  • Some people seem to love hard work! Weedkiller is by far the best way to deal with it. If it's between plants, just sponge it on. Ground elder = DEAD!
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,568
    I agree with @glasgowdan. By all mean spend the rest of your life battling with getting rid of it by hand if you've nothing better to do, or just treat it in spring when it , very conveniently grows earlier than most things, and just be done with it.
  • BerkleyBerkley Posts: 428
    It’s one of the first things I do every Spring - zap the ground elder! As Hostafan 1 says: it appears very early and a dose of weed killer at this time works brilliantly. I used to have a huge problem and it certainly hasn’t disappeared. But the problem is now much more manageable. I used to dig it up “removing as many of the white roots as possible” but found that to be a waste of precious time that I could spend doing much nicer things.
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