Weeds and Pesticides

Use of pesticides in public realm

The term "pesticide" is confusing in that it covers both pesticides and herbicides (weedkillers). Our contractor uses herbicides approved by the Chemical Regulation Directorate, mainly for weed control in planted beds, since the cost of employing enough staff to do this work by hand would be prohibitive. In certain circumstances, manual forms of weed control are not as effective; many invasive weeds re-grow from underground stems and roots if they are not completely removed.

Landscape Services uses "contact" and "translocated" herbicides that affect only the plants on which they are applied. The translocated type moves through the weed and will often eradicate it completely in the first application. Contact herbicides as their name suggests will only affect that part of the plant that is touched by the substance. Both translocated and contact herbicides are designed to break up in to their constituent parts on contact with the soil. This significantly reduces the risk of any serious pollution incident occurring.

Translocated and contact herbicides of the type used by Landscape Services are available over the counter at garden centres and DIY stores for public use. However there is strict legislation in place governing the use of all pesticides in the public domain. Any operative using pesticide must be properly trained and certificated in the use of the substance and the relevant equipment.  Landscape Services specify in their contracts the correct certification of any direct labour or contracted staff engaged in public open space pesticide use.

The council does not undertake any of this work on land that is owned by The Parks Trust or the parish councils listed below:

These areas have appointed their own contractors or are undertaking the work themselves and any complaints, compliments or enquiries should be made directly to the respective Town or Parish Councils or the Parks Trust.  Land that is the responsibility of The Parks Trust can be found on the council mapping system “My MK”

The Council’s Street Cleansing department is responsible for weed killing on highway surfaces.

Report weeds in play areas, parks and open spaces

Use of cultural methods

In order to prevent weeds becoming a problem, our contractor uses chipped pruning waste as a mulch around desired planting.  This not only suppresses weeds but also acts to reduce the effects of drought during hot summers.  Other methods such as hoeing and hand weeding are used where this is not possible as well as around seasonal bedding and herbaceous planting where there is a risk herbicides may damage desired planting.

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Weed control on council roads and footpaths

Once a year the Council's Street Cleansing team spray weedkiller on the roads and footpaths across Milton Keynes. The spraying schedule is carried out between May and September. Around two weeks after the growing weeds have been sprayed they are removed as part of the street cleansing schedule.

Getting the time right to spray weedkiller is difficult as any rainfall can wash away the chemicals. Spraying too early in the year means that you only catch the first 'round' of weeds and not the later ones that spring up in the summer months.

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Weed control on private land

Is there any legislation requiring landowners to control weed on their land?

Yes, The Weeds Act 1959 requires that five specified weeds are controlled. In particular the Council aims to limit the growth and spread of Common Ragwort on its highways, parks and open spaces in accordance with The Weeds Act 1959.

I think I may have Japanese Knotweed, how can I control it?

Japanese Knotweed is a particularly invasive plant which can cause damage to property as well as rapidly spreading in the environment.  Information regarding the identification, safe control and disposal of this plant can be found here:

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Last Updated: 8 July 2021