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Managing Japanese Knotweed

Japanese knotweed is a hardy, fast growing perennial with tall dense stems which is renewed annually through its deeply penetrating underground stems. It was originally introduced to the UK in the early 19th century for its aesthetic qualities, but as we do not have the natural plants that control the growth of Japanese knotweed the way Japan do, we have discovered enormous problems if it is left to develop around properties. Unfortunately Japanese knotweed grows and spreads rapidly, overwhelming other garden plants or other native plants.

Japanese knotweed has caused so many problems that the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 made it an offence to encourage the growth of Japanese Knotweed and where properties are discovered to have it growing within their land, they are often prohibited from gaining a mortgage due to the potential problems caused by its rapid growth. Therefore the removal of Japanese Knotweed is essential to prevent potential structural problems but also to prevent problems with a quick house sale.

There are many different methods that have been used for the removal of Japanese Knotweed which have been tried and tested by different people. It is possible to dig it out, but as the rhizomes or underground stems can penetrate incredibly deep into the ground, it can often regrow despite every effort to remove all traces of it. The disposal of Japanese Knotweed can also pose a problem as it is classed as ‘controlled waste’ under the Environmental Protection Act, which means that it can only be disposed of at licensed landfill sites. However if you allow it to dry out on site, it can be burnt but it cannot be put in with general household waste due to the risk of contamination and spreading elsewhere.

Other methods include a plant sucker, although as this is a biological method it is used in controlled areas and not widely available as yet. Chemical methods such as glyphosate is also used to control the spread of Japanese knotweed although isn’t always successful and may take several attempts to completely eradicate it from the area. But this can be done easier by allowing it to grow to a certain height then spraying it before reapplying later in the season.

Unfortunately there are also many related species which can cause problems for homeowners. These include Persicaria Lapathifolia, Persicaria Maculosa and Polygonum which can be particularly troublesome. If allowed to develop fully, these can be just as difficult as Japanese Knotweed to eradicate so it’s a good idea to check over your land regularly and once identified, attempt to control them at the seedling stage. If they are growing around herbaceous border plants, bedding plants or otherwise then it is wise to avoid any chemicals and try and remove them by hand or by hoeing.

It can seem very arduous but the fact remains that if left untreated, Japanese Knotweed or other related plants can cause enormous structural problems for your property over time due to the sheer strength of growth and speed at which it develops.

by Cormac Henderson

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