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paul wheaton
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I was reading the thread "what is a weed" and it got me thinking about a completely different direction.

I want to express a whole lot of different stuff about "weeds" and I am hoping to get lots of feedback from lots of different permies so that I might sound less like a lone loon.

To start off, heaps of people say "there is no such thing as weeds" and then later you find out that while they live very close to that, there are a few exceptions.  So I want to say that most of the stuff that most people call "weeds" is stuff that I encourage.  But there are a few that I will fight. 

And now for some whining:  It bothers me when I go to an otherwise excellent permaculture event only to have the folks in charge say "now for some hands on permaculture" where the idea is that we go outside and pull weeds.  To me, this is generally not permaculture

I do know of an exception:  I was once at the bullock brothers farm and they did something like this, but the only weed we cared about was bindweed.  So we pulled lots of bindweed.  And on a recent visit, I didn't see any bindweed in that spot. 

Pulling all weeds from a garden seems very contrary to permaculture to me.  Most plants that elect to pop up in a garden do more good than harm.  Plus, if you pull them, then more wild plants will just fill the void later.  Further, when you pull a weed, there is a good chance that the roots of the plants that you like are pretty intertwined with the so-called weed.  Pulling would disturb the sensitive roots of the other plant. 

If you want less stuff to grow around what you plant, the obvious solution is to mulch.    My favorite smothering mulch is hay or straw.

So .... just felt the urge to say this .....
 
Gordon Hogenson
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I agree wholeheartedly.  I try to show love and respect for all plants and I avoid using the loaded term "weed" whenever possible.  I see prejudice against certain plants, or "weedism," as a pathology, a kind of xenophobia, related to the dysfunctional need to dominate nature that leads to the irrational desire to wipe out wild plants and plant lawns.

When I bring in compost, I like to see what new plants I might have imported, and I usually let them live and reproduce, and have a chance at becoming established, even at some inconvenience to my garden plants.

However despite having this mindset, I do spend some time gently disinviting certain plants from my land and removing plants from garden beds, and from areas where I'm planting.  On good days, I will thank the plants for what they have done as I pull them out.  I see this as a milder form of taking a goat from my herd to the butcher.  I honor and thank the goat every time I eat a meal from that goat.  I don't always do the same with plants I pull, but I'd like to show honor to all the fellow beings that I share this wonderful world with, including the very persistent ones that seem to cause people so much grief.
 
Leah Sattler
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I agree also. but I  am also a big "mulcher" . I think it is difficult to be friends with weeds (in gardens) without some method of suppression or control of the plants that make thier way in accidentally. there are few things that I find to be so obnoxious that I need to specifically weed out. I purposely encourage some "weeds" such as lambs quarters. I figure if I want to have a bunch of weed seeds trying to have a go in the garden I at least want them to have other uses or be the least problematic. ground cherries are now on my list for that reason to. I also tend to not mind any very low growing, ground hugging type weeds. they are not competing for sunlight and I figure they help protect any incidental bare spots so they are my friend. if they need to be removed they easily are stamped out with a layer of hay since they don't tend to want to reach up through. 

some things are on the line for me. I planted sunchokes in my garden one year....that was  mistake. I learned they don't need the cultivated area of the garden or any pampering and they are difficult to remove and suppress adn will quickly begin to take over. next time i plant them they will end up delegated to a spot where they can fend for themselves since they have absolutley no trouble doing that! in the regular vegi garden they are a weed, an acre away in the corner of the property they are a blessing.
 
Brenda Groth
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i am in hearty agreement here too, as when a "weed" plant is crowding my good plant that I want to protect, when I pull the weed, i tend to lay it ...root side up..over the mulch in my garden so as to add it's benefit to the garden itself.

there aren't too many things that i consider toxic weeds in my garden however..some of the wild grasses such as crab grass and quack grass are right up there on the list..they are ok in the fields..but not in my gardens..also bindweed genearlly is pulled out..i have some great books on wild foods from the fields..and if it is in there and can be eaten...generally it is allowed to stay..but maybe not to go to seed.

i have allowed reseeding good plants to grow between my plants to form ground covers in most of my gardens..a lot of those are things like oregano and thyme and sage and chives etc..they are things that i can use..i also eat lambs quarters and such..so those are genearlly allowed..and encouraged.

i myself have encouraged an area of jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes)..where i'd rather have them then the other stuff that was growing there..they are near my hazelnut grove.

 
                          
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It all depends on the "weed" and reason/position of said "weed", if a patch is left fallow to rest weeds not a problem until time to plant out again, most gardeners will know when a bed is needed so will prepare it some pull, i chip and mulch, most mulch in this day and age.
an agressive plant (all areas have them) may need more attention so as not to take over an area or cause undue hard labour to remove once established.
weeds amongst veg or flowers i dont consider problems unless they become detremental to the plants i want then again it's chip and mulch, on this vain i have on occassion chiped and mulched flowers and veg that i had planted because they became detremental to the over all garden plot.
every person will have plants that they will not tolerate for one reason or another this could be because of allergies, invasivness, or as simple as just not likeing that type of plant
Traditional gardeners pulled weeds with the belief that they were competing for available nutriants and that they attracted and gave refuge nasty bugs, this attitude has now mostly gone by the wayside, and most seem to feed the soil for healthy plants.

What is a "weed"
Bird
 
rose macaskie
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      On some forum i can't find any more, someone wrote a long bit an lawns that included lots of advice on weed killers and fertilizers and watering and i wanted to say that though it is an interesting counter point to Paul Wheaton article on lawns it is usefull to know what its the traditional treatment using all the traditional allies pesticides, herbicides water and all, wanted to say i prefer Pauls wheaetons article that encourages the grasses to grow long roots by not watering them much i did not know that was an option.
      I also really liked knowing how to have more dandy lions by having more chalk after finding myself a bit short of dandylions now i have started to make dandelion salad.
    As people will have lawns, such a bad option for drier bits of the world it is a great idea to think of strategies for lawns that use less water. agri rose macaskie.
 
rose macaskie
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It seemed to me, watching videos on permaculture, that permaculturists spend time if not actually pulling out the plants they don't want to choke others, ripping their leaves off and dropping them to the ground as mulch, that makes life difficult for them but assures there are lots of plants around to protect the soil and create a humid microclimate for your growing plants and  to fill up your compost bin.
  Also the thing is to keep the ground covered but pulling things out to make room for something that is just about to grow big enough to fill in the space you are going to leave bare or pulling out plants to plant another plant is totally allowed by permaculturists. agri rose macaskie
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
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I've been reading The Self-Sustaining Garden: A Gardener's Guide to Matrix Planting by Peter Thompson, and he talks about a broad scale of weediness/neediness, something like the following:


  • [li]Undesirable, and too dominant to let be even in small quantities[/li]
    [li]Worth removing periodically to benefit its competitors[/li]
    [li]Harmless, and worth keeping a few around, but space and resources can be taken to benefit other plants[/li]
    [li]Desirable, sustains itself, but is kept in check by circumstances[/li]
    [li]Requires effort to establish, but very little maintenance[/li]
    [li]Requires regular maintenance, but remains worthwhile[/li]
    [li]Special and entirely out of place, desirable enough to justify the constant chore of keeping it alive[/li]


  • Thompson advocates planning to make the most use of plants toward the middle of that spectrum.

    PS:

    As I've said elsewhere, it seems a little odd that he's so centered on ornamental plants, although I guess the need to harvest would bump a plant down from the center of the list.

    I think it would help us talk about weeds if we agreed on terms that speak to a species' place on this spectrum, something like we have for stone size (boulders, cobbles, gravel, sand, silt).
     
    rose macaskie
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    Permaculturists use ornamental plants, they say the more the merrier, they just advise a big variety of plants. I read some where that the  writter had seen a lot of lady birds on some plant he did not know what they were doing there it did not have aphids but he reckoned they had some use for it that you never know what use a plant can have. rose macaskie.
     
    Leah Sattler
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    I think the spectrum idea fits. sort of a fuzzy logic approach to the question that can be used in all situations. that logic can also be used when deciding on things within that spectrum. for instance the phrase "remains worthwhile" is rather subjective. so there can be no master list of weeds or perfect weed control options. I think its best to focus on learning all the different options and their pros and cons in different situations.
     
    Brenda Groth
    pollinator
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    just a word on "ornamental plants" as was mentioned above...sure a lot of people put a lot of emphasis on ornamental plants, as I do at my home...for many reasons.

    a lot of ornamental plants have various uses besides looking good..i have a lot of ornamental plants on my acerage, mostly cause i can divide them and plant bare areas with them.

    most ornamental perennials i have also are edible by humans or by animals or produced edible fruits that aren't generally eaten by people but can be, or provide wildlife food.

    i have thousands of daylillies on my property..i don't generally eat them..however, if need be i could. Many of the ornamentals that i do grow do have some edibility, but also they provide stability to the soil against erosion and they give cover to wildlife, they cool the area and put off oxygen into the air..soak up excessive rain and hold moisture during dry spells..

    they also provide food for polinators and birds and give bees sources of nectar for honey.

    the taller ornamental provide windbreaks for my property and shade in the summer heat.

    they also give me privacy and peace of mind, and couild provide a cash crop of divisions and flower bouquets.

    some of them would provide dried materials for arrangements or basketss..although they are grown mainly as ornamentals..there are other opportunities for them should i find the time to explore them
     
    Joel Hollingsworth
    pollinator
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    Leah Sattler wrote:
    the phrase "remains worthwhile" is rather subjective. so there can be no master list of weeds or perfect weed control options.


    Absolutely!  Furthermore, Thompson is entirely committed to a radically localized perspective on plants.  He puts some species into gardens that are, from a global perspective, "extremely invasive", as long as the particular location he gives them limits their growth. For instance, an extremely shady part of his garden might get a tiny plant that grows rampantly during the 10 brightest hours of dappled sunshine it gets each summer, and becomes tiny again as it eeks out an existence the rest of the year.

    Brenda Groth wrote:most ornamental perennials i have also are edible by humans or by animals or produced edible fruits that aren't generally eaten by people but can be, or provide wildlife food.


    Cool!  I have a lot of the same attitudes.  Thompson categorically shuts off this sort of thinking early in the book, in a way that leaves me sort of puzzled.  It might be a European thing, respecting the jurisdictional boundary between jardin and potager.
     
    Leah Sattler
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    you put that well brenda! ornamental doesn't mean worthless and sometimes the term gets twisted around to mean that. I personally think some plants have value and are almost purely aesthetic contributors. even some of those that are prissy and need some tlc. if something can bring joy at the sight of it simply because it is beautiful then it can be one of those "worthwhile" additions.

    I had a vining type house plant once, angel something......i put it outside during the spring and summer one year. I had never seen of heard of this sort of plant blooming, maybe its typical I dunno. it sent one single vine up the wire of the hanging basket and made the most beautiful and surprising flower. I don't care that it had no other use. just getting to see that one amazing bloom was worth it. unfortunatley I left it out too late one evening and it got hit with too much cold and croaked I have yet to find another to replace it. i suppose it is one of those things that i would have to order from a catalog.
     
    rose macaskie
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    Geoff Hamilton says that keeping the food part of the garden separate from the decorative part was a nineteenth century phenomenon. Snobbishness only strange plants were smart I suppose,and fruit trees are so decorative, i planted fruit trees because of the blossom and fruit, i had studdied a bit of organic stuff but not the  proving you can grow a lot that is economically beneficial to you so worth it and better your soil, stuff of permaculture, designed to persuade even the poor and need to have good soils not just your cranky, healthmad, hippy, guy. I like and feel at home with hippy guys, though i am not sure the reverse is true that they always feel at home with me and that makes it a no go situation but i am not the whole world.

        Geoff Hamilton who has lots of good arguments for organic gardening give this bit of merely historically curious information.
          He says that in medieval times they did plant everything in a higgledy piggledy fashion because they had a theory of "sympathetic magic" plant an onion near an apple and you will get apple flavoured onions, strange desire. Plant stinging nettles near some plant and that some plant will get self protecting mechanisms of its own type idea.  Their plants flourished, Geoff Hamilton says not because of the reasons they planted things with plants of a different species but because of the reason permaculturists do. They were right there is sympathetic magic, only they did not have the science to prove it.
      They also had bee hives and hens and sometimes a pig in the garden, could not have been much garden left with all those animals walking around in it and plants and herbs to make medicines with so they were thoroughly permaculture-ey.

      He also says that often people don't want their garden to look like a vegetable garden and while i am untidy and not very carefull about things looking right other people mind and for good reasons, humans are bad and easily discriminate and if you flout their conventions you put your self at risk, there is no point in being foolhardy or at least, you should make sure that its the only way to push through a good cause before you put yourself into a wasps nest.
          I like pretty things in gardens though i like boyish dress often, no one put me through "the lads stuff" on gardens, just on beer and clothes, at least not till now. Geoff Hamilton teaches you to have a really smart garden that is full of vegetables and smart little dwarf fruit trees, easier to pick that don't steal light from your other plants and are smart and pretty.  Light is a big issue in England were there is not too much of it. You can't grow much in a wood there.

          He also says beetroot leaves are so pretty you will have trouble not planting to many of them. Remember the leaves double up as spinach so beetroots are useful on two accounts. I think it was him who also gave blueberry bushes a thumbs up on the decorative scale. 
      I add a photo of my quince a really pretty and in Spain hardy tree. agri rose macaskie.
    quince.jpg
    [Thumbnail for quince.jpg]
     
    rose macaskie
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    A detail of the quince. rose
    membrillo-3.jpg
    [Thumbnail for membrillo-3.jpg]
     
    rose macaskie
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      My little himalayan type crab apple it is decorative and these trees grow fairly big maybe I can turn the appes into jelly type jam one day.
    himalaya-crab.jpg
    [Thumbnail for himalaya-crab.jpg]
     
    Leah Sattler
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    beautiful pictures rose!

    I love hearing that historically plants were often placed in permaculture type ways. we are just reviving normalcy.
     
    rose macaskie
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    Yeah i enjoyed reading it too. agri rose macaskie
     
    Tanya Sharon
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    Location: Southeast Michigan Zone 6
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    I have questions about 2 plants that are extremely difficult to control.

    The first is creeping Charlie or Glechoma hederacea. I mulch heavily with straw but it just grows up through it. If I put down paper or cardboard and then mulch with straw it takes a bit more time to invade but is quite capable of finding a pathway between the overlapping layers. So I'm wondering if this "weed" will eventually go somewhere else when my soil has had more time to improve (with compost, mulch, deep rooted veggies, and little disturbance)? Or is it something I should not worry about because it will just act as a living mulch? Pulling it just appears to encourage it.

    The second is phragmites. It has been invading the roadsides around Michigan for years. This year it just showed up on our lakeshore. My neighbors are convinced that because RoundUp is approved by the EPA for use in wetlands that it is safe. I don't believe it. Does anyone know of any way to manage or eliminate it other than poisons?

     
    minyamoo metzger
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    I would say there are two main types of horticulturist.
    The lazy fare and the ocd.

    I'm an OCD, I demand form and function.
    I'm also only on 1 acre.
    If I were on 10 I would have a zone 5 no doubt.
    Weeds are what your eyes, skin and nose, doesn't like.
    I love clover, black medic,I walk by and pick the seeds. I have a war on one weed at a time, if I rip it up, I toss some nitro seeds down.
    I only really have two I don't like. The poky one and the ugly mat one.
    That is why there are people, to kill that crap.
    Paul you are right though, with unlimited mulch, covering is SO the way to go.
     
    Matu Collins
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    Deep mulch is working well for me against every undesirable but bindweed. The bindweed is a real stinker, it loves it here.

    Still, my feelings on it and other weeds have changed a lot as I observe them and manage the long term design of my farm. Most don't bother me a whit. The bindweed used to make steam come out my ears, how much there was of it and how it would choke everything around it, and how it would come back faster the more I pulled it. Now I realize that if I can get it down to a manageable amount it does work well for plant ties...

    I still think that if I am not as vigilant as can be, any disturbed area will be a bindweed monocrop in short order. So I'm taking the long view, and putting my efforts into soil building and invasive abatement.

    All the troublesome invasives have weaknesses to exploit. Bindweed seems to lose more vigor if twirled up and tucked under something. My ideal something is currently a layer of mulch with a good sized rock on top.

    Observing each plant, where it grows, how it grows, etc, gives clues to the best method of discouraging it, if it turns out I want to. Often I don't want to. That deep mulch shades out my favorite tasty weeds!
     
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