Weeds – Dock

Dock leaf, or Rumex obtusifolius, commonly known as bitter dock, broad-leaved dock, bluntleaf dock, dock leaf or butter dock, is a perennial weed that grows on waste ground. It is common-place in gardens and roadside verges and grows well in vegetable gardens with any chance to establish. Here we discuss this weed and it’s management.

Dock leaf can grow quite tall with large leaves. The leaves have a distinctive red stem on the underside. They contain oxalic acid and have been used to sooth burns and nettle stings for generations, although there is no evidence to it’s efficacy.

Dock leaf is a tall plant with very large, wavy-edged leaves with red stems on their under-sides. Flower spikes appear from June to October. The plant forms a deep taproot which can be quite challenging to remove. Every bit of the root left behind will re-sprout. The plant also reproduces by seeds which are dispersed by the wind. The seeds can lie dormant for many years as they contain chemicals that inhibit microbial decay so don’t let the plant go to seed! One mature dock plant can produce 60,000 seeds per year!

Managing Dock
There isn’t an easy solution to dock! Covering, for example with porous ground cover, will kill off the top growth. However, the plant is quite stubborn and it will take a long while for the roots to break down. If you mulch the ground (no dig) with minimal disturbance it you can keep seeds covered which can prevent infestations taking control. Careful digging can remove the root, ideally as intact as possible. Removing young plants before they seed is the best option. If you are no dig then use a small trowel and try to remove as much of the root as possible. A glyphosphate based weedkiller would work if you are prepared to use this, but it may require repeated doses and would not affect any seed that have been dispersed. We have managed docks by digging out larger plants and mulching ground well where there is risk of seeds.