Start where the problem isn't. Find the edge of your infestation, the area where the foxglove is only just starting to spread. Concentrate on that area.
Start on the outside and little by little work your way inwards towards the heart of the infestation.
There are three good reasons to take this outside-in approach:
- It stops the spread. By working on the best parts of your property (the parts where there is not much foxglove yet) you are saving yourself a lot of work in future years. Safeguard the good first.
- Plants pop up wherever you disturb the ground by weeding or spraying. If you start where the weeds are worst and work outwards, you take the weeds with you into the healthy parts of the property. The problem gets worse. If you start with the best part and work towards the centre, you are taking the good plants with you into the weed patch. Yes, you will often get foxgloves popping up where you have weeded, but little by little you will make good progress.
- It is good for you and encourages you to stick with the task. You get to tick off some good big areas early on and start feeling that the task is possible. Also, you gain experience as you do the easier parts; you learn little tricks and hone your technique so by the time you get to the worst areas you are an expert.
accept that it takes time
You can't eliminate foxglove in one day, one month, or one year. Seeds can last a very long time in the soil - anything up to decades - but most of them germinate in the first few years. One way or another, you have to stop it seeding, and then not let it start again. If you can do those two things, you are guaranteed a win.
Steps to success
- Stop the plants adding fresh seed.
- Deal with the existing plants. Spray them out, hand-pull - whatever method you prefer the process is the same.
- Thousands of little foxgloves will pop up in the newly bare ground. More than before. Don't worry about it. Wait a little while, then take them out (spray or weed). (How long should you wait? We are still learning, but you won't go too far wrong if you do it twice a year.)
- The same thing will happen again, almost as bad. Don't give up, every new batch of seedlings is depleting the seed bank in the soil. Lush germination is a good thing! The sooner the seeds in the soil germinate, the sooner you can get rid of them.
- Around about the third or fourth time, you will notice that the regrowth is thinner. You have turned the corner.
- So long as you keep up the pressure and don't let it set new seed, every cycle from here on gets quite a lot easier. You are on the home straight. A bad patch that took you six tanks of chemical and a full day's work to spray two years ago can be done this year in a half-hour, using less than half a tank.
- The final stage is maintenence. You are pretty much foxglove-free but you still need to walk over the ground twice a year and deal with the odd one here or there.