THE long border here at Helmsley runs along the west wall and is largely planted up with spring flowering perennials.

In the south west corner an area of some 30 metres has become infested with ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria). Other common names include bishop’s weed, goutweed and herb gerard.

It was probably introduced by the Romans as a food source or by monks as a medicinal plant. Fresh spring leaves can be used like spinach or as a pot herb, becoming too pungent later on before dying back and disappearing over winter. Medicinally, it is thought to assist the treatment of gout or arthritis when applied as a warn poultice.

The plant has an attractive white flower head, providing nectar which is readily collected by insects, particularly moths. The root system consists of rhizomes and fine roots and will quickly regrow from the smallest part left in the ground.

So, how will we tackle it? Persistence and vigilance will be the main approaches and an acceptance that it will take a number of years to remove.

First though, what weaknesses does the plant have? It over winters by retaining energy in small rhizomes which are soon exhausted, hence the early appearance of leaves in February to help replenish the plant. Early and consistent removal of leaves in the first part of the year helps limit growth. The plant also has a preference for growing in the shade so removal of shade will help. It does set seed but this is short lived.

The first consideration is to ensure we do not inadvertently move the plant to other areas of the garden, the gardener is always the most likely vector of introduction. The ground elder here probably arrived with another plant and has grown out from there. So no part of the plant will be put on our compost heap.

At home you could consign to the council wheelie bin as the volume of compost they recycle ensures sufficient heat is generated to kill the roots and rhizomes but home composting will not.You will just spread the ground elder around your garden.

So we intend to cut down and sacrifice all the plants in the border and burn on site. The ground will then be dug over and again all material allowed to dry and be burnt in situ. All footwear will be cleaned before entering other beds or borders.

In the spring, with the certainty of regrowth from the roots and rhizomes, we will spray with glyphosate, a systemic weed killer which kills all parts of the plant reducing further the scope of the rhizomes to regenerate.

In late spring we will replant with annuals to give colour to the border. Any further regrowth from seed will be easily removed when we lift the annuals. We clear the land again in November 2016, waiting until spring before spraying against any regrowth if needed. As mentioned earlier control of ground elder will take persistence, vigilance and time.

Enjoy your gardening.