I am going to write kind words on weeds. Now before you groan and roll your eyes, read on for just a moment. . .
Some gardening books talk about weeds as alien invaders, noxious and unsightly. The only good weed is a dead weed, they huff.
Remember though that weeds do not drive out plants or turf, they merely come in and fill the gap where there are bare patches.
In fact weeds can be an indication of poor soil, which means weeds are a symptom of our problems and not causes of our problems.
Sometimes if you change your soil, you’ll fix a bad weed problem.
Your soil . . .
– may be too alkaline,
– too acid,
– too compacted,
– too dry or too wet,
– or too poor
. . . to support a patch of veggies or decent lawn, thus bare patches result and in come the opportunistic relevant weeds.
Don’t spray weeds
Spraying weeds is putting the cart before the horse, because many other weeds can lay dormant for years until such time as, for example…
- The land is sown, planted or harvested, and deep, still viable weed seeds are now near to the surface,
or a fire has been over the ground
- Or lack of moisture has weakened our crop and when at last water comes, the weeds are stronger and overtake other plants.
In fact if you have a patch of land that you are at war with the weeds–good husbandry dictates that you grow a fallow crop of so called weeds; return the crop before flowering to the land in the way of mulch, compost or lightly hoed in, and you will restore a good balance of soil organisms and soil nutrients.
The benefit of weeds
- Most weeds have deep roots, thus they…
- On farms, so called garden weeds such as clover enrich the paddocks and provide sources of vitamins for livestock, resulting in healthier animals.
- Weeds such as lambsquarters and plantain grown amongst our veggies help bring nutrients and water to their roots. Other weeds such as purslane and chickweed provide a living mulch for taller crop plants.
- As a bonus many of these weeds are edible!
- Weeds can be companion plants. They help attract beneficial insects to our garden and reduce destructive ones, such as cutworms and leafhoppers on corn.
– break up the soil
– provide earthworm channels
– bring nutrients up from deep down.
More Good Weeds
Other recorded soil improvers and companion planting successes are:
- Goldenrod, nightshade, purslane and shepherd’s purse are soil improvers, either absorbing excess salts and binding them organically or simply adding fibrous material or aerating the soil.
- Ragweed, pigweed and clovers, hold soil against erosion.
- Weeds that attract earthworms and exude beneficial chemicals from their roots are stinging nettle, plantain, dandelion and thistles.
- What else? Bindweed helps corn; nettle and yarrow improve the volatile oils in herbs; jimson weed helps pumpkin; lambsquarter and sowthisle air cucumbers and melons; mustard is good under grapes; dandelion helps strawberries; mustard is good under tomatoes; pigweed (Amaranth is good with all the nightshades such as potato, pepper, eggplant and tomato; purslane is a good mulch for corn.
- The likes of sowthistle, yarrow, dead nettle and valerian are good general helpful weeds all around.
You can see it makes sense to know one’s enemies (in this case weeds), and gain from them if you can.
Where Weeds are not Wanted
Where you DON’T want weeds are mainly during spring sowing and planting, before the soil is covered by your veggies. Germinating weeds must be kept in check, so they don’t smother your plant babies or take out too much goodness from the soil.
A bit of hoeing and a bit of hand picking won’t go amiss sometimes. Grasses, which often follow weeds are a no no, they feed in the same rooting layers of many veggies, can’t be eaten, so they are unwelcome competitors.
Don’t get hysterical and spray willynilly. Only use the organic weed control methods in hard to get places, such as drives, paths, walls etc.
Enjoy your weeds; eat the edibles… most can be eaten raw, some must be cooked and some have only parts that are edible. It’s important to identify each plant before eating, otherwise that pretty plant might just be hemlock… and you may well be the subject of a murder mystery book!
Organic Weed Control
HOME page: No Dig Vegetable Garden