When I meet someone new and they find I’m a biodynamic gardener the first question I get is “Well how do you get rid of………? The average gardeners go into the garden not with the concept of LIFE but the concept of DEATH. They go out to get rid of things. In order to grow a crop everything else is removed. You only have to listen to the gardening programs to confirm this.
WEEDS - THE USEFUL PLANTS.
The importance of weeds to the gardener is that:
• They tend to be stronger growing plants with more extensive root runs enabling them to gather nutrients at deeper levels of the soil.
• Weeds can provide some protection for your desired plants from wind and rain.
• They can provide alternative food source for problem pests.
• They provide food and habitat for useful predators.
• They can protect land not being currently used from erosion.
WEEDS ASSIST SOIL BUILDING
Volunteer plant (weeds) main job is colonising any bare patch to protect it from the elements. (Wind, rain, sun) This can be used to advantage in the garden when a bed is not being used usually called ‘fallow’ the weeds can be used to rejuvenate the soil.
The weed roots grow down deeply into the soil, and are able to utilise nutrients that have been leached out of reach of the crop plants. When the bed is required the weeds can be either:
• turned as a green manure crop.
• added to the compost heap, composted then returned to the garden.
• Removed, allowed to wilt, and returned to the bed as mulch.
This means that those nutrients and minerals which have been stored in the roots, stems and leaves can he returned to the soil and become available to the plants.
In this way you can see and understand how weeds can be a valuable resource for your garden - providing a means of supplying nutrients, organic matter as well as adding variety to your garden ecosystem. Of course are some weeds which are too invasive to allow free range in your garden e.g. couch or kikuyu grasses.
I have found a large range of plants; mainly annuals that now colonise my garden these include a variety of grasses, clovers, vetch, and herbs such as parsley, borage, dandelion & chickweed. Soursobs, capeweed, milk thistles etc
Alternatively you can seed any fallow bed with legumes and cereals to creative a green manure crop Therefore out competing weeds.
You can also select ‘weeds’ to grow in your garden for its benefit. Select annual plants that can be turned into valuable mulch.
WHAT IS A GARDEN WEED?
· A weed is a plant which covers damaged spaces to protect it.
· A weed is a plant which increases biodiversity- strong wild genes.
· A weed is a pioneer plant that prepares poor soil for other plants to move in.
· A weed is a plant whose growing roots help build fertile healthy soils.
· A weed is a plant that produces mulch from the growing tops as well as roots which remain in the soil and rot down.
· A weed is a plant that provides ingredients for your compost.
· A weed is a plant you have not found a use for yet.
· A weed is a plant that provides nourishment and shelter for insects, birds and small animals.
· Some weeds can bring minerals from their deep roots and make them available to other plants.
· Some weeds can indicate deficiencies in the soil.
A PLANT MY BE A WEED TO ONE PERSON AND A MOST VALUABLE PLANT TO ANOTHER
CLOVER, DANDELION, NETTLES.
Mulching with weeds
To ensure our gardening activities are truly sustainable we should be aware of any opportunity where we can increase our diversity and provide our own fertility from within rather than importing bulky organic matter. Most gardeners find it easy to buy in hay, straw etc but they need an awareness of how and where it is grown. Maybe this material should be used on the farm it was grown. I’ve had enquiries as to where to get organic straw. No good organic farmer would part with such a resource.
So open your eyes to the possibilities in your own garden. The plants you see as weeds may make you some useful mulch.
Simply pull up weeds, and put the weeds back on the beds as mulch... Mainly annual plants fill in the spaces over winter/spring so they pull up easily. It’s a sustainable way to mulch. I actually developed an even better way several years ago that you may find useful. I used the raspberry rows; the bonus to the method is with competition the perennial weeds were pushed out. Just before the opening rains in autumn I sowed oat seeds on the surface (a bit like a green manure) over winter it grew strongly and in October I used it as above. I used it like this for a couple of seasons THEN the GEESE discovered the grain. Fencing them out was not really an option so now I just use the volunteer plants. I feel it’s important to develop ways of creating your own mulch for reasons like
· Weed seeds. (that’s where most of the weeds on our place came from)
· Possible chemical contaminates.
· Sustainability of the system producing the material. (organic farmers should not be parting with any organic material)
· Distance carted.
.In the gardens the paths as well as the beds provide material for mulch, over the years selective culling as resulted in a diverse range of annual plants that I to turn into mulch.
In the tunnel the paths are planted with annual clover. They grow; cover the soil, seed and collapse forming mulch that can be added to the next crop.
I like also using living mulches
In the orchard a there is a mix of plants that can be mowed. When you observe this material you notice the range of plants, their health and vigour as well as what creatures are living there and the amount of biomass that is being returned to the trees as mulch which normally would have to be procured and put around the trees in a separate operation. Each time the orchard is mowed all the goodness is returned and the orchard becomes self mulching.
You can also set aside an area to grow some mulching materials. Simply cut with a scythe use fresh or store for latter use.
The greater the diversity in the garden the more complex the ecosystem the less chance you will have problems with pests and diseases .E.g. in the vegetable garden if their are pests, say snails and the only thing in the garden are your crops then that’s what they will eat. If there were some weeds, flowers or herbs they may have more a choice.
A good way of increasing the habitat is to have wild areas in or around your garden. These could include food plants for small birds – mainly nectar producing, Undisturbed areas for other beneficial such as skinks, lizards, frogs, and a large range of insects e.g. long grass ,logs &: rocks. Add water for small birds. Once you increase the diversity then THE BEST CURE FOR PESTS OR DISEASES IS PATIENCE