Preventing weed spread: advice for gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts

Weeds can cause serious environmental, economic and social problems. Weed infestations can damage farming and natural areas and cost millions of dollars to manage.

Home gardens can be a significant source of weed spread. Birds and wind can easily disperse weed seeds and other reproductive plant parts 20-30 km from your home. Poor disposal of weed cuttings can also spread weeds to areas outside your garden. Some of Queensland’s most widespread weed species began as garden plants.

Bushwalkers, campers, horse-riders, cyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts can also spread weeds accidentally. Weed seeds and other material can be carried on vehicles, boots, clothing, camping equipment, horses, and the like. Major weed infestations in important natural areas can begin in this way.

Under the Biosecurity Act 2014 everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to prevent or minimise the risks of spreading weeds such as invasive plants. To meet your GBO, home gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts can play an important role in preventing weed spread. Follow the strategies listed below to reduce the chance of spreading weeds from your garden or outdoor activity.

How gardeners can prevent weed spread

  • Learn about major weeds in your area, common garden escapees, and safe alternatives. Contact your local council, Bushcare group or Landcare group for more information.
  • Check that your garden doesn’t contain any of the plants included in the Queensland Government’s A-Z weed list.
  • Buy weed-free soil, mulches and fertilisers, including manure. Check Australian Government import restrictions before ordering plant material from overseas, including bulbs and seeds purchased over the internet or by mail order.
  • Don’t buy water weeds or keep them in your ponds or aquariums. Visiting birds can move weeds from your pond into local waterways, as can flooding after heavy rain.
  • Stop water and fertilisers running from your garden into bushland areas and waterways, as nutrient-enriched water and soil promote weed growth.
  • Don´t dump weeds and garden waste in bush or parkland. Dispose of them appropriately by transporting them safely to a waste disposal facility, or burning or burying them.
  • Weeds can also be disposed of in compost or mulch. However, be aware that weed seeds can survive composting/mulching. To kill weed seeds, the internal temperature of your compost or mulch must reach 55oC for 3 consecutive days before each turning of the heap. For more information on preparing compost and mulch safely, see Australian Standard 4454-2012 Composts, Soil Conditioners and Mulches.
  • Never dump aquarium plants, water or contents down drains or into waterways.

Outdoor enthusiasts

  • Learn to identify common weeds so that you know when you are in an infested area. Become familiar with major weeds in the areas that you visit.
  • Stay on designated roads and tracks as much as possible, and avoid driving or walking through weed-infested areas.
  • Before travelling off-road, check with the relevant local council or landholder for any travel restrictions due to weed infestations.
  • Clean your car, bike, trailer, equipment and boots when leaving weed-infested areas. Pay special attention to the undercarriage and tyres of vehicles.
  • Clean all clothing, shoes and camping gear before leaving a camping site.
  • Check boats, propellers and trailers and remove any plant material before entering or leaving waterways.
  • If horse riding, use only weed-free feed for your horse from 8 days before entering country areas and throughout your trip.
  • Remove weed seeds from animals by brushing them thoroughly and cleaning their hooves before and after travel.
  • Don’t pick flowers or plants that you can’t identify – they may be weeds.