I read somewhere that weeding is like Marmite - you either love it or hate it, and sadly either way if you don’t keep the weeds under control they will take over your garden – they will even set up home in your cherished pots on your balcony if you aren’t vigilant. I know herbicides will do the trick, but the damage to the environment they cause is enormous and has to be weighed up against getting down and dirty with the instant gratification of seeing a job well done!

Although weeding is a chore, I find it strangely therapeutic and relaxing. It’s a mindless job you can do while thinking about something else, you can zone out - a sort of a zen thing, if you like. Put on the gloves, grab a gardening fork, find a warm spot (or a shady one if it’s too hot!) and do battle.

You can get a lot of pleasure from chilling out, purging a growing space of unwanted weeds, and I am becoming a bit of an expert at recognising those that have deep roots (dandelions, they might need digging out) or shallow-rooted (clover, they spread their flimsy roots some distance).

They say if you know the name of a plant, it’s not a weed – I am not sure if this is strictly true, but nettles are another weed you need to get to grips with before they get big, the tiny ones won’t hurt, but the big ones will! Did you know they have hollow stinging hairs called trichomes on the leaves and stems, which act like hypodermic needles, injecting histamine and other chemicals that produce a sting? This is called contact urticaria, and will drive you mad with the itch. The plant has a long history of use as a source for traditional medicine, food and tea - so it’s always possible you could make your next cuppa with what you find lurking behind your geraniums!

Woe betide if you leave the weeding until real summer starts - the mid-summer heat in Portugal is brutal and the ground will harden like concrete, and you will need a jack-hammer to get them out, and they will survive while your carefully nurtured plant it is nestled up to wilt and die. You can always lull the weeds into a false sense of security by watering them, moistening the soil will make it easier to get the whole weed out, or you might end up just ripping off their tops and leaving roots intact.

It’s really strange, every year some new, different, weeds arrive from nowhere, maybe they are native to Portugal and are ones I haven’t seen before, some whose only job seems to be to cover as much ground as possible, but they are all invasive thieves and will ultimately compete for space from your plants, being greedy for moisture and nutrients, and will destroy and choke your plants if they can.

So you think that weeding is done purely for aesthetic reasons, intended to keep your garden and yard looking pretty? Well, you must decide what a weed is. If a tomato sprouts in the compost you spread around your roses for example, you will probably pull that tomato out, even though you grow tomatoes in your vegetable garden. Or one of your plants has dropped seeds and new ones are growing too close to the ‘parent’ plant, or that succulent has new growth poking through to crowd the pot on your terrace. Don’t be afraid to remove a “good” plant if it’s not where you want it. You want the plants that remain to attain their full growth and maturity, and weeds steal sunlight, moisture, and other resources from the plants you are intending to grow.

So get a grip, and get your garden back!