Weed of the Month: creeping buttercup

00:41, Feb 11 2013

Of all the weeds that I wage war on at Wild Estate, creeping buttercup is one I almost love. I may despise its persistent and ever-present sight, poking its little trefoil leaves from under the mulch, from the sides of the raised beds, making appearances dead centre in the middle of my carrots. But I quite I admire the shape and form of the plant; it's easy and satisfying to pull out the roots where a mother plant has sent out long spindly runners, it doesn't spray seeds around when I rip it up like dock and grasses do, and it takes little effort to render an area buttercup-free. Only I hate having to do it on such a regular basis.

It's not only 'vigorous' - a way of saying 'bloody fast growing' in gardener-speak, but also one of those weeds where you have to get out all the root so the plant doesn't magically regenerate. While the roots of the runners can come out easily, the mother plants often have strong roots that seem to penetrate the core of the earth.

Creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens) seems to love our place because it thrives in wet, poor soils. It runs rampant through the lawn and into Shirley's garden in particular, and in the strawberry patch, it's a recurring problem. It seems oblivious to layers of mulch that are designed to supress weeds. It's also pretty oblivious to some herbicides, according to this article from Massey University. I don't use herbicides anyway, so I have perfected a technique for clearing creeping buttercup by hand. It helps if the soil is moist, so if you're weeding on a hot day, wet the soil first. Get your trowel underneath each of the runners, or you can do this with your fingers, lifting the roots from the soil rather than pulling them out. I use my hand trowel to get right underneath the mother plant's root to lift it out, and ferret around with my fingers to make sure I've got all the root out. Until next time.

Do you have an issue with creeping buttercup? How do you deal with it?

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