Weed crews battle rain-fuelled growth

Humid weather brings challenge for weed control as local authority spending cuts force cutbacks to spraying regimes.

Warm, wet weather is causing chaos for grounds-maintenance crews trying to cope with rampant weed growth and budget-forced reductions in spraying regimes.

Amenity Forum chairman John Moverley said recent high rainfall and soaring humidity had created the ideal medium for weed growth in parks, sports grounds and woods as well as by rail tracks, making control a monster challenge.

Will Kay, managing director of Languard, which mainly looks after paths for councils and roads for the Highways Agency, said warm weather and downpours have caused waist-high weeds and huge control problems.

"The problem is compounded by local authority budget cuts," he said. "One London council used to do three sprays a year but has stopped spraying paths altogether. Others have cut back from three or four to once a year.

"Another local authority phoned to say residents were complaining of waist-high weeds on paths, but it too has gone from three to one spray a year. The adage 'one year's seeds are 10 years weeds' rings so true," he added.

Landscape Services managing director Will Stops said his Bristol-based grounds-upkeep contracting firm was having a "nightmare" with weed clearance. Stop-start rain patterns ruled out the use of weed killers, which would get washed away, he explained.

"The weather is causing rapid weed growth and we are having to resort to strimming, which must be repeated almost every visit even when these are at regular intervals. This has a big impact on staff time."

Nurture Landscapes director Paul Bean said: "It's been unusually wet. We are in the tricky situation of having to find a window of opportunity between downpours to get out there and clear weeds.

"There's not much you can do but reschedule work and be smart in how you plan jobs to take the opportunity when the weather is right."

Industry view

John Moverley, chairman, Amenity Forum

"These challenges of weed control become greater especially in local authorities where budget cuts have already bitten and economies affect frequency of spraying. On top of this, there is the issue of flooding, which can often make control impossible and increase costs."

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