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Do weeds rob soil of nutrients?  RSS feed

 
gardener
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Wholy Cow, what an awe inspiring discussion this thread has become, glad I've been watching in on the side lines.
Lots of great ideas and answers.
Tim, great subject for this thread, thanks for starting it.
Everyone else, fantastic responses.

weeds are one of my favorite subjects, it is interesting to see what others views of these primary succession plants are and how they incorporate them, or exclude them.

Redhawk
 
pollinator
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Wholy Cow, what an awe inspiring discussion this thread has become, glad I've been watching in on the side lines.
Redhawk



I was wondering what was keeping you from the thread, BR. And also, when I exclaim, it's "partially cow" so as to not invoke the whole cow, cuz, you know, that'd be wasteful. Hahahaaaaa

 
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I personally leave all “weeds” that aren’t growing becoming excessive. I chop and drop everything. Sometimes I pull them. There is a loss of microbes, but it also does small scale aeration of the soil, give some take some..  

Welcome to Permies, Jas!  Glad to hear that this is working for you as well.  Where are you posting from and what sort of gardens do you have?
 
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i always pile pulled weeds around my plants as a mulch layer. saves moisture and feeds my plants as it breaks down.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Hi Steve Bossie.  I'm glad that this works for you:

i always pile pulled weeds around my plants  

This would work with some of my weeds, but with many they would simply re-root and take off again (all my grasses, hawkweed, ox eyed daisies, hedge nettle, to name a few); this time they would root directly against my chosen crop plants.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Method A, for readily rooting weed use, make a green weed tea maker, it is almost the same as a compost tea set up, gives back most of the nutrients asap and leaves compostable, non re rooting stems and roots.
Bag the weeds for easy removal, brew for one week (this drowns the roots). The safe side would then lay the brewed weeds on some sort of screen in the sun to dry completely before adding to compost or using as mulch.

Method B, sun dry root systems of readily rooting weeds for one week before using as; a, mulch, b, compost material, c, worm food.

Method C, feed to hogs, they love most any weed and will process them for you.

(just some ideas)

Redhawk
 
steve bossie
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:Hi Steve Bossie.  I'm glad that this works for you:

i always pile pulled weeds around my plants  

This would work with some of my weeds, but with many they would simply re-root and take off again (all my grasses, hawkweed, ox eyed daisies, hedge nettle, to name a few); this time they would root directly against my chosen crop plants.

i don't have that problem because i mulch every spring w/ 3in. of green wood chips around all my plants and trees. the few weeds that come thru get layed on top of the mulch. no N available plus the mulch desiccates them further= dead weeds! ;)
 
steve bossie
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Method A, for readily rooting weed use, make a green weed tea maker, it is almost the same as a compost tea set up, gives back most of the nutrients asap and leaves compostable, non re rooting stems and roots.
Bag the weeds for easy removal, brew for one week (this drowns the roots). The safe side would then lay the brewed weeds on some sort of screen in the sun to dry completely before adding to compost or using as mulch.

Method B, sun dry root systems of readily rooting weeds for one week before using as; a, mulch, b, compost material, c, worm food.

Method C, feed to hogs, they love most any weed and will process them for you.

(just some ideas)

Redhawk

my chicks ducks and geese love weeds! plus the dandelions, lambs quarters and other dynamic accumulating plants are chock full of nutrients. i have a section of lawn under my pines i intentionally let grow just to feed to my birds. the eggs yolks are a deep orange and taste fantastic! just planted a corner of the yard with more ''weeds''. borage and nettle for us and the birds. ;) funny you mention the tea. I've done it using just meadow grass and truthfully, the tea is as good as the comfrey tea i make. free fertilizer!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Tim Kivi wrote:Some permies say "there's no such thing as a weed". My gardening books all day that weeds rob the soil of nutrients meaning other plants can't access them.

What's the deal?

I've been putting on a mulch of pie seaweed on my garden bed. I top it with large dried whole maple leaves. Weeds and vegetables are all thriving. I have no problem with the weeds, unless my veggies could do better without the competition.

Now and then I simply pull a weed/grass out while picking my veggies, rip off the root from the leaves and drop it back on the ground as a mulch. Am I doing the right thing?



Now that I have a little time, I would like to address Tim's original question(s).

First let us look at the statement "there's no such thing as a weed" while true because all plants have their place in the workings of nature (which is to make soil rich enough to support life forms like microorganisms, worms, plants and all the other forms of life found on terra firma),
This precludes the term weed.  Humans call plants growing where they are not wanted "weeds" even a rose could be considered a weed if it is not in a place we want it to grow.  
All plants take nutrients from the soil, this is how they make their living and what allows them to grow, water is considered a nutrient.
So yes, "weeds" will take nutrients from the soil and since the plant fits the description of a weed when it grows where we want something else to grow, it could be considered a "robber" of nutrients.
Gardening books, for the most part, subscribe to the "modern agriculture" model, promoting localized monocrop growing (flower beds, etc. are usually designed to grow groupings of specific plants).
In gardening, most people forget that growing a single species of say Nasturtium in a garden bed, is indeed mono crop growing, even if it is so localized as to be a 2 foot square piece of a garden bed.

In nature what we call weeds are really primary or secondary succession plants, they have the job of putting roots into the ground, activating bacteria through their exudates which causes release of enzymes that dissolve minerals from rocks (dirt is ground up rocks).
So, when growing where we want them to grow, they are the good guys, if they are growing where we want something else, that isn't able to out compete the "weed" then they are a nuisance plant and are typically removed, taking with them the nutrients they have incorporated into their bodies.
If we just toss them to the garbage, we have lost those nutrients. If we do something else with them ending up back on or in the soil, then we have recovered those nutrients, thus saving the need to make an amendment to put back what we threw away.

Every one who has contributed to this thread already has brought this up in an excellent set of ways to put back the weed goodies. Bravo!

It is always the right thing when you use what you removed (plant material wise specifically) to make something you put back to the soil from which it was removed (recycling or closing the hoop of life), this works regardless of whether we keep some of it for our own food supply or use the whole plant as the new mulch, tea, or compost.  Nature wastes nothing, neither should we. One way or another we should always be trying to close the hoop when it comes to our soil, the more we succeed the better our soil becomes and the more life it will support for us.

Redhawk
 
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Great conversation. I look at weeds as carbon fixators and nutrient accumulators and chelators, as well as soil conditioners. I do not worry about it if a “weed” is not shading out my wanted plants, it’s better than bare soil and trades sugars and nutrients via soil life that become more available to all plants around it.  Ultimately, Whichever plant has the greater photosynthetic surface area will ultimately win any transpiration powered tug of war for water and nutrients that may occur in times of scarcity. Unless you have more than enough organic matter in your soil, I’d let your weeds put it in there for you and chop n drop/feed to animals unless you have a choice plant to put there instead.
 
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I have lots of docile ants who eat flowers. We also have horned lizards who survive on a diet of these ants.

Even if the weeds were not good for my soil, getting rid of them would cause much damage to the wildlife and my trees/plants.

I like the way they look too. 🙂
B34B6138-7007-4A49-A9BD-E8BDC99622B4.jpeg
[Thumbnail for B34B6138-7007-4A49-A9BD-E8BDC99622B4.jpeg]
 
steve bossie
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Ben Zumeta wrote:Great conversation. I look at weeds as carbon fixators and nutrient accumulators and chelators, as well as soil conditioners. I do not worry about it if a “weed” is not shading out my wanted plants, it’s better than bare soil and trades sugars and nutrients via soil life that become more available to all plants around it.  Ultimately, Whichever plant has the greater photosynthetic surface area will ultimately win any transpiration powered tug of war for water and nutrients that may occur in times of scarcity. Unless you have more than enough organic matter in your soil, I’d let your weeds put it in there for you and chop n drop/feed to animals unless you have a choice plant to put there instead.

i agree. bare soil is dead soil. when im not growing a crop, i either seed a cover crop or let the weeds do it for me. the reson they show up in the 1st place. mother earth doesnt like to be naked and exposed. ;)
 
Whatever you say buddy! And I believe this tiny ad too:
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