Wicklow County Council trials alternatives to weed killer use

Wicklow County Council is aiming to green the Garden County by trialling alternatives to chemical weed control, and whenever possible, managing vegetation for pollinators.

This work is in response to public concerns about the overuse of Glyphosate products in the environment and the need to support biodiversity in all of our communities as part of the Council’s commitments as a partner to the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan.

All over the county each Municipal District has identified sites in Council ownership that are suitable for reduced mowing, ie: ‘Cut- and-lift’ on either a six week or a once-a-year regime.

Holding off on the first cut until after mid-April allows dandelions and daisies to flower as vitally important early food sources for pollinators including bees, bumble bees and hover flies. A reduced mowing regime throughout the year allows other flowers such as clover, buttercups, speedwells and vetches to thrive, providing a seasonally constant supply of pollen and nectar and a welcome splash of colour to our roadside verges and open spaces.

Tidy Towns and residents’ associations are also managing many sites for pollinators. Managed for pollinators signs are often used to highlight the work being done. Householders can play their part by reducing mowing or leaving part of the garden uncut.

Wicklow County Council is also piloting new weed control techniques which avoid chemical use, mainly on hard services where the growth of wildflowers would be undesirable.

A new product called Foamstream has been purchased that delivers a spray of hot water and natural oils which can be used to kill off vegetation where it is not wanted. It relies on heat rather than chemicals to kill weeds. The natural oils help to bind the heat into the plant for longer increasing the impact of the hot water. 

The technique will be used across all five Municipal districts. A second technique that has been used in several towns is metal brushes which scrape roads clean removing any growing vegetation above ground. Weed eaters and strimmers are being used for clearing vegetation in smaller sites and more difficult to access areas.

Cllr Lourda Scott, Chairperson of the Climate and Biodiversity Special Policy Committee, welcomed the trials stating: “Providing space and opportunity for pollinating insects is vital for building resilience of our biodiversity to Climate Change. I welcome the investment in new nonchemical techniques for weed control and the focus on reduced mowing early in the season.”

It is hoped that the trialling of these alternative techniques will demonstrate that weed control is possible without the use of hazardous chemicals being released into our environment and this will help to protect our communities, the staff of Wicklow County Council and our wonderful biodiversity.

Wicklow County Council is committed to promoting a landscape where biodiversity can thrive and encourages householders and communities alike to make space for nature in our gardens, towns and villages. If your community is manging an open space for pollinators, you can record your good work on www.pollinator.ie. The Council also can provide ‘Managed for Wildlife’ signs suitable for outdoor use. Drop an e mail with your postal address to wicklowheritage@wicklowcoco.ie to place your request.

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