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dock - does this management strategy make sense?

 
S Carreg
Posts: 260
Location: De Cymru (West Wales, UK)
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We have a lot of dock growing on our property, a LOT. Largely, I think, because the previous owners did a huge amount of building and earth moving (and compaction, doh), nicely spreading around all kinds of rhizomes and roots. Now, I don't have a particular problem with dock (unlike japanese knotweed, other thread, grrr) and I dont feel the need to eradicate it, but I was thinking about it, how it has nice long tap root, works as a nutrient cycler, and all of that, and I was wondering how I could turn this to my advantage on my compacted, clayey, nutrient poor soil.
I was thinking about cutting it, just going around periodically and whacking all the leaves to the top of the tap root, then collecting the leaves and either putting them on the compost or fermenting them to make liquid fertilizers to gain all those deep-soil nutrients, with the added hope that if I chop the leaves off enough the roots will eventually die, thereby rotting in the soil and adding air and drainage channels as well as nutrients.

Is this a sensible idea or a stupid one?
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5551
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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I do something like that with our curly dock/yellow dock but I leave some to go to seed and we eat the young leaves late winter and early spring. In my experience the roots don't die by just cutting back the leaves but thats fine with me as the plants don't really take up much space scattered here and there. I spread seed all over and the deer share the young leaves with us. I usually cut older leaves and let them lay right there as mulch. Anyway, to answer your question, yes, I think that is a good plan.
 
S Carreg
Posts: 260
Location: De Cymru (West Wales, UK)
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Thanks Judith!

I haven't noticed anything much around here eating the dock. We don't have deer, the rabbits don't touch it, and the leaves seem to thrive unmolested. We do eat it sometimes but only in small quantities so a fraction of what we have would suit us fine. I don't want to leave the leaves on the ground as most of it is in pasture so I dont want to mulch the grass too much. Where would be a good place to use it, would anywhere in the garden benefit or I am better off composting it?

I tried chopping some up for the ducks when there was nothing else green but they didn't even look at it. We're getting chickens soon, do they eat it? That would be fabulous if they do!
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
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Location: zone 6b
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If you leave the leaves alone the roots will be able to grow deeper and draw up more minerals. The amount of leaves has a direct relationship to the amount of roots below. So NOT cutting them may be the best strategy, or at least leaving some to get as big as possible while cutting others to open up your soil some.

My old place had lots of burdock grow in the vegetable garden - I think because I used to turn the soil so it made all the humus feed organisms in a frenzy then they all died out and left it rather compacted. The fruit trees they grew under THRIVED. I imagine the burdock roots made channels that directed the tree roots deeper in the hard clay and brought up lots of minerals for them. In fact, if you have some fruit trees, you might want to spread the seeds under them.
 
S Carreg
Posts: 260
Location: De Cymru (West Wales, UK)
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That is interesting about the trees, definitely worth considering as yes, we have planted fruit, and lots of other trees.

You also make a good point about the energy the plant uses for leaves vs. roots. Most of the dock I've been looking at is already multi-years old - they are clumps with one or more old stems indicating they've reached setting seed stage at least in one previous year, so I had assumed therefore they already have big roots established underground.

But are you suggesting that I just let it grow, and the plants and trees will reap the benefits of drainage channels, etc, anyway? But if the dock is still alive and thriving how would that work?
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5551
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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If you have an abundance I would use it in the compost and as mulch. Where I have it growing is mostly near fruit trees and other food plants so it works for me just to let it drop...the leaves are great as mulch.
No deer...what joy! We don't have any livestock or poultry anymore so I don't know what else might eat it...I am guessing goats though.
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
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Location: zone 6b
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Somewhere, I think it was in "Weeds, Guardians of the Soil" (free online at www.journeytoforever.org) they say the (living) weeds somehow allow the roots of the plants that grow near them go deeper by following the weed roots down. I'm pretty sure it's in the section that talks about weeds as "Mother" plants.
 
Cortland Satsuma
Posts: 319
Location: (Zone 7-8/Elv. 350) Powhatan, VA (Sloped Forests & Meadow)
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In reference to other animals eating it. We have deer constantly on the property and they have left it alone. My goats were kept in an area with it and they ate everything else and would not touch it when it was all that was left. My chickens have ate the seeds, not the leaves. And for the record, Alpacas will not eat it either. We have been using part of it for mulch and compost. As geese and a donkey are on our animal purchase list, would love to know if anyone has had either eat it?
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5551
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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@ S. Carreg...now I am curious if we are talking about the same 'dock'. My mind went straight to curly dock, "Rumex crispus", because that is what I have but I see Renate mentioned burdock.

@Iamme...Our deer may have been eating dock because of our long drought over the summer last year. I watched them eat it and looked later and it was just the young leaves...so I dont know how normal that is.
 
S Carreg
Posts: 260
Location: De Cymru (West Wales, UK)
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we're in the UK, hence no deer.

It's not burdock. Not curly dock either, not entirely what variety but probably yellow dock, or near enough.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5551
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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S Carreg wrote:we're in the UK, hence no deer.

It's not burdock. Not curly dock either, not entirely what variety but probably yellow dock, or near enough.


I'm pretty sure yellow and curly dock are the same thing here...yellow refering to the root and curly to the leaf edge...both being Rumex crispus. My books also list a broadleaf dock, Rumex obtusifolius. The root of curly/yellow is medicinal.
 
S Carreg
Posts: 260
Location: De Cymru (West Wales, UK)
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Ah right, here in the UK I have seen people refer to yellow and curly as different things. I think what we have is broadleaf dock. It also has medicinal value, though not as much.
 
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