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Nasturtiums – Friend of Foe?

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Right now, right across the climates, Australia is starting to experience milder weather. Whether it be a relent from the striking suns of summer in cooler and temperate zones or whether it be a drier period in the tropics, mild weather brings its own challenges in the garden. One of the big challenges is the proliferation of weeds but this is not the only problem. This is also the time that so called ‘nuisance plants’, which are not technically weeds but not always appreciated, really can start to take hold of your garden.

One such plant is known as a Nasturtium, from the Tropaeolum genus (and NOT the genus ‘Nasturtium…which is VERY confusing). Right now in gardens throughout Australia you may be facing a decision, even if you are not aware of it! What decision is that? Well…it is whether or not to let any Nasturtium’s that might pop up in your garden take hold.

Why is this a ‘decision’?
If you are new to gardening you might look at the picture of a Nasturtium and be asking ‘why wouldn’t I let that plant grow, it looks beautiful!’ Indeed, Nasturtium’s are actually very attractive plants and it is for this reason they are not generally considered as weeds, because many people actually want to grow them. The issue with Nasturtium’s is that they grow so very well and will, if allowed, just about take over any other plant in your garden. They grow so profusely that if left unchecked can actually cause a lot of stress to your other plants as they try and compete with the nutrient hungry Nasturtium.

The other issue with Nasturtium’s is that once you plant them, or allow them to grow, they will come back year after year regardless of whether you want them to or not. I moved into my current residence around August last year and haven’t seen a Nasturtium growing until very recently. Nasturtiums really do like autumn because the milder weather really suits them and gives them time to prepare either for the cold, wet of winter, or the dryer humidity in the tropics.

Just recently a few of these have started popping up all over my garden. They obviously start very small, but if I don’t decide soon if I want them or not, they will start to take over. As beautiful as the flowers actually are, I am not generally a fan simply because of their growth habit. As such, my decision is to get rid of them.

How to get rid of Nasturtium’s
Though I am sure there is a chemical way of doing it, I like to advocate a very simply, environmentally friendly way. So, how do you stop them taking over? Simple, pull them out when they are small! As soon as you see a Nasturtium starting to grow in your garden, pluck it out. You may not quite get all of its roots, but it will take a little while to grow back. Even better, dig down around it with a small hand shovel and make sure you’ve got it all.

A real benefit to this is it means you stop them before they get the chance to flower and drop seeds for next season. This will diminish the amount that return next year, making your job easier. Now, this isn’t foll proof because Nasturtium seeds like to travel with the wind, so they can be blown onto your property from other peoples gardens, but if you at least stop ones on your property getting the opportunity to flower you will go a long way to eradicating them.

Of course, if you like them and don’t actually mind them taking over, if you see them growing in your garden just let them be! They really will take off without the need for any help and a garden bed covered in Nasturtium flowers is actually quite nice. Just be prepared, if you let them go crazy this year, expect them to be back in force in the future also.

This is just one of many plants you may discover ‘popping up’ in your garden in the next few months. Not all of them are as difficult a choice to keep or not because not all of them are nice! The main thing to keep under control is any weeds that try and take over, very few ‘weeds’ are considered nice by anyone! Good luck.

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