Ideas for 'managing' a Wild Verge?

I live in part of a new build area where in my particular little cul-de-sac the developers created a ‘wilde’ verge all the way along one side of the cul-de-sac about 1.5-2M deep from the fence, planted with some tiny hawthorns (I think) and the rest left with mud and wildflower seed (?). Each houshold is responsible for the stretch opposite them. It’s all about 2yrs new now. It has progressed each season and we have all duly let it grow and last year and now this year we each cut it down in the Autumn. It has looked quite pretty when it grows up in the summer - however it now appears to be getting rather to full of dock plants, nettles and thistles. I’m sure it’s great for wildlife but it’s getting a bit difficult to live with. I’d like to maintain the area oposite my house but am reallly not sure how to proceed. Should I try to dig out some of the big dock plants and nettles? We have thought of maybe adding some (wild?) daffodils. The hawthorns do not appear to be growing very much - should I attempt to ‘help’ them i.e clear around them or feed them? or leave them? Digging and feeding seem sometimes to be counter-productive? Ideas for how to work with this area would be gratefully received.
Susan Barnett HANTS


Hi Susan :wave:t5:. For semi-wild areas in my garden, I find some gentle editing the best way, removing species that you don’t want for whatever reason. Docks really need to be dug out, they have big tap roots that will grow very deep. They’re good mineral accumulators and pioneers on bare ground but they will take over an area. Nettle roots are yellow and gnarly and much easier to pull up. If they’re in an area, indicates moisture and fertility. And same for thistles, get them up before they self-seed everywhere.

Daffodils and other native bulbs would be great (RHS plant finder has a native filter). And yes, do help out the hawthorns. To help them along, you can mulch around the base of them with some compost or chopped up comfrey leaves.

Hope that helps :slight_smile:


Thanks so much for your tips and advice. Meanwhile I bought the ‘Wild about Weeds’ book but dock and nettles don’t seem to get a mention! I’ll have a go at digging out some of the docks - I didn’t know they are mineral accumulators - also, they did attract some goldfinches so I like them a little better now! there’s just way too many of them…
Thanks again for your reply.
kind regards :smiley:


Docks are one of the few plants I’d come down hard on in a managed space, them & brambles, just because they’re so tenacious once established. On the subject of goldfinches, Teasels are a great wildlife plant, although do be aware that they self-seed readily

Have a word with the author, he’s around here somewhere! :wink:

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Thanks again. I spent a large part of yesterday trying to dig out some of the docks - I couldn’t get the whole tap root out, they were massive, so I resorted to sawing it off as far down as I could get. :sweat_smile: I know they will grow again but hopefully a little weaker? I’m thinking if I get the leaves off when they start and don’t let them grow the seed spikes maybe I can wear them down over time! The mess I made digging might help one or two of the wildflower seeds i’ve got find a home - haven’t sown them yet… I was thinking of putting teasel in the back garden but on reflection maybe the ‘wild verge’ is a better place to give it a go. It’s very interesting having this ‘other’ i.e. not the normal garden, space to deal with.

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That will definitely weaken them. You can use the leaves as a mulch, they’ll be full of nutrients, but make sure to get rid of the roots! There’s a really interesting podcast mentioning what I’ve heard described as “scissor weeding”, where for less pernicious plants, you cut them off at the base, because if you pull up lots of plants when weeding, that disturbs the soil and introduces the opportunity for unwanted seeds to germinate. Good luck with The ‘Other’ Garden, I like the name!

Hiya! Thank you for buying Wild about Weeds! :slight_smile:

It was a tricky book to write when choosing which weeds to include because of limited space but first and foremost I wanted it to be a design book rather than a book focussed on other uses for the weeds. Though it does cover some of those. I also didn’t want it to become a weeds encyclopaedia as that would take away from the main message and there are lots of other great wildflower books for that purpose.

So with nettles, technically they should go in the ‘bad weeds to avoid in gardens’ section but I couldn’t put them in there because they are so useful - and for wildlife too. So I gave them a little nod in the image on the first page and also mentioned it in the directory pages at the back under edible and nutritious weeds. I wrote a bit more about nettles here:

For dock, I would put this under the bad weeds section for sure. Good outside the garden in the wild for wildlife but not something I would want in my garden personally.

Both of these weeds aren’t particularly pretty to me, which is why they don’t play a particularly big role in the book.

Weeds is a topic I’d love to revisit in the future in other books, because there is so much to discuss about them! :smiley:

For your main question, I agree with everything @forestgardenwales has said, and would follow those tips, removing the unwanted plants to keep under control.