We are constantly reading and being informed of stories relating to chemicals and pesticides, every magazine and journal publishes news items regarding the usage of various pesticides and chemicals, many are now prohibited and more are likely to be removed from general usage in the months to come.
To a degree we all know that the replacements are never quite as good as those that have been outlawed. Some authorities have even ceased spraying completely and it is certain that more will follow. This has been the case in mainland Europe where for several years now some countries have completely shied away from spraying and have moved more towards mechanical means of weed removal.
The Dutch have been quite prolific in this area and have developed different ways of weed control with mechanical weed ripping brushes, often the preferred option, although some areas do still use burning methods. However, with our health and safety issues, it is possible that burning would create more problems than it would solve, certainly in urban areas.
The mechanical weed ripping machines use heavy duty wire rope brushes to scour out weeds and detritus from kerb sides, back edges etc and have the added benefit of also loosening and removing the built up soil, therefore removing the bed in which the weed seeds would grow thus reducing the number of weeds which would grow later in the season or next season.
Although the brushes look quite aggressive, they generally revolve fairly slowly, working best at around 250rpm and rely on torque rather than brute force and speed. A good operator would use the pedestrian controlled machine with the engine just above tickover and would be able to keep a reasonable pace of walking, only having to re-cover his work on really stubborn weeds or where he has to almost cut back the vegetation.
The angle of the brush is set by the operator so on normal or light weed growth it would only have a slight angle whereas if you were clearing an overgrown path edge you can angle the brush to a steep angle to cut back vegetation.
The operator can also determine how much pressure is put on the ground by how much pressure is put on the handle bars. The problem of punctures on the rear tyres is removed by the fitting of foam filled puncture-proof tyres, a must when working on overgrown path edges.
The wire rope brushes are very good for concrete, tarmac and similar such hard areas, however, when it comes to block paving and more sensitive ground a fine metal bristle brush can be fitted which removes the moss and detritus from between the blocks without affecting the sand grouting, it can also polish block paving somewhat, in some cases removing algae and leaving a nice finish.
The downside to mechanical weed ripping is the fact that weeds and detritus have to be cleaned up after the weed ripper has passed, either with conventional brushes or using a roadsweeper.
This can also be beneficial as, once the job has been completed, all weeds, detritus etc have been removed so the area looks clean and weed free rather than when the area has been sprayed there are still dying weeds and the detritus build up remains in place ready to produce a new crop in 6 weeks time.
The Dutch company, Nimos, have spent many years now developing weed ripping machines and sell the Nimos Mosquito pedestrian controlled machine throughout Europe.
Overton (UK) Ltd, based in Lincolnshire, have imported this machine into the UK for 7 years now and feel that it is becoming a more and more viable alternative to traditional weed control as legislation gets ever tighter. We are constantly talking to customers who need to look at alternative ways to control weed growth as more chemicals become prohibited and we have been informed that people find mechanical weed ripping is too time-consuming.
However, many customers are recognizing the fact that they are going to have to adapt their working practices to accommodate legislation. In a very short space of time authorities and ground staff are going to find that there is nothing left to successfully combat weed growth in their arsenal and really need to start looking now.
One more area where mechanical weed control wins over conventional weed spraying is in the great British weather as in the previous summers, whereby we have had significantly higher than average rainfall, it has not always been possible to keep up with spraying as dry days have been at a premium and on a dry day especially it has been more important to keep up with mowing rather than spraying, after all, during a warm, wet season grass grows quickly, so do weeds! Whilst it may not be the most comfortable job when it is raining, it is possible to use a weed ripping machine when you can't do much else.
Overton (UK) Ltd offer a no obligation demonstration service throughout the UK and can be contacted on 01522 690011 or through the website at www.overton-uk.co.uk