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 .....
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.
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.
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.
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"
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.
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
[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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
He was giving me directions and I was powerless to resist. I cannot resist this tiny ad:Rocket mass heaters in greenhouses can be tricky - these plans make them easy: Wet Tolerant Rocket Mass Heater in a Greenhouse Plans