Sward composition

If your grassland has a good proportion of white clover, then you are fortunate (but not if you have native ponies!). White clover is drought resistant, hardy, high in protein and palatable to stock. It also fixes nitrogen into a form that other plants can use to grow.


You can change the composition of the sward by overseeding. After harrowing, seed is spread on to existing grass, harrowed and rolled, then grazed. The grazing, particularly by sheep, helps the grass to establish by encouraging tillering and the hooves act like rollers, pushing the seed into contact with the soil.

Dealing with weeds

Digging weeds

Weeds such as docks, thistles, ragwort and nettles are bad news but can be dug out of small areas; on larger areas, or where there is heavy infestation, this probably isn’t practicable.

Spraying weeds

You can spray grassland to kill weeds. The weeds are generally broadleaved, while grasses have a different, narrow-leaved structure. Herbicides that kill only broadleaved plants are available but remember that useful plants such as clover are also broadleaved and will also be killed. If you have quite a small area, targeted spraying using a knapsack sprayer is probably a better idea than blanket spraying.

Weed wipers

A third option is to use a weed wiper. This is a piece of equipment that can be trailed behind a tractor or ATV and applies a suitable herbicide to the stems and underside of the leaves of the taller growing weeds by brushing over them.

Weed wiperA weed wiper

The herbicide is therefore targeted and is more effectively taken up by the weed plant through the leaf underside, than it is if sprayed on the top surface of the leaf. The equipment doesn’t come cheap though – expect to pay around £3,000 for one.

A recipe for an organic non-selective weedkiller

I found this in an old magazine. If you try it, remember it is non-selective i.e. it kills all plants. The good news is that it doesn’t persist on herbage or in the soil and residues are harmless.

  • 4 litres of distilled vinegar
  • 225g household salt
  • 15ml detergent OR 1 litres of white or cider vinegar
  • 120ml lemon juice concentrate OR juice of one lemon plus a teaspoon of salt.

Spray undiluted onto weedy areas.

Rosemary Champion

About Rosemary Champion

Rosemary lives on a 12 acre smallholding in Angus, in the east of Scotland, where she keeps Ryeland Sheep, Shetland cattle and assorted poultry. She was destined to be a smallholder from an early age.

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