So what is your philosophy on the place of weeds in the garden and can a thriving weed population ever be beneficial to your garden's health? Does the subject of weeds in the garden need to be handled differently in the continuous or nearly continuous growing conditions of tropical or warm temperate gardens than they do in the shorter growing seasons of higher latitude cool temperate locales? Does the presence or absence of weeds have any affect on the garden's ecology and soil health?
I have a few ideas on this subject based on my experience with weeds in my garden, but will wait to see what the experts have to say before throwing in my own two cents on the subject.
i also actually spread some like dandelions and purslane.
i thoroughly enjoy lambsquarters, so there is a whole gob of them growing in my garden..but when they get past their prime "cutting spinach" stage then most of them will become mulch, also i have yarrow just now starting to flower around some of my fruit trees.
unfortunately poppies tend to seed themselves into my garden and they are nearly impossible to kill, so there are oriental poppies blooming right now, and their seed heads will be removed to more appropriate areas of my garden. There are some dandelions here and there and some other "so called weeds"..but a lot of them i just don't call weeds.
also I let the hoary alyssum grow outside of the garden proper, as it is a great trap crop bof some kind of beetle that has a read body with some dark black marks on either side..no not ladybugs.
other "weeds" grow in the lawn and meadow areas outside othe garden proper also, and my "flower" beds (which are basically mixed beds of trees, shrubs, flowers, ground cover and vines..have some weeds growing in them..including a whole lot of quack grass which doesn't particularly thrill me.
Weed (s) - what a silly little word we made up to rationalize our position against less desirable plants.
Antibubba wrote:If they are welcome, then they aren't weeds, are they?
I've seen lots of definitions.
weed=plant listed by X authority
Peter Thompson gave a very useful, if complicated, framework for understanding weeds. He set up a scale, from "weedy" to "needy": a weed requires attention to restrict its growth or propagation, while needy plants require attention to establish and/or maintain. Within that framework, each plant should be placed so that it lies as close as possible to the center of that spectrum. The gardener does minimum work by locating each plant where it can maintain itself, but is limited by its environment.
Passion fruit - definite weed, has to be kept under control. So is papaya. But I like them, so life is good. Guayaba is a tree that self seeds everywhere (Guava in English)
All weeds, all very useful.
I just moved into a spot where they had been weedwacking all the weeds, so the soil was basically just hard packed dirt.
I told the guy not to cut the weeds, and then we had the rainy season, and it's now pretty dense with a variety of plants, I'd guess there's 30 species at least.
So what good is that? Here's some benefits. (keep in mind I fully plan on planting the whole garden later, by laying preplanted slabs over the weeds, which will prevent weed seeds from being a pest later on)
To start with, it's bringing the soil back to life, it's a living mulch trapping moisture so insects can flourish, like earthworms who naturally till the soil for you.
This assists with the natural compost process within the soil. I even have moss growing between the weeds, and I live in a dry part of california, so this has really made a believer out of me.
The birds are attracted by the seeds and insects for food and plant material for nests (thistles seem bad but their flowers provide downy fluff for nests), and they in turn deposit bird guano and more seeds in said guano.
Various plants contribute in their own ways; Grasses aid in the aggregation aka tilth of the soil, clover provides nitrogen, and the higher the variety, the higher the likelihood you'll get a guild going, aka group of symbiotic plants that exchange services with each other, thus synergistically boosting the overall plant life.
And with my approach of placing preplanting slabs over the weeds, I avoid the problem of having to dig through the weed roots. Eventually the weeds and their roots will break down and provide food for the plants on top, and then I'll be able to dig deep holes for big plants that I started in pots.
So there's a perfect use for weeds. I think that once you begin planting you need to keep every inch of soil from getting weeds in it by planting dense ground cover in layers, like a 2" cover between a 4"cover between 6-8" cover.
The idea being no place for weeds to get sun. Of course some "weeds" are useful, like plantain, clover, dandelion. But once you plant them, they're not weeds, right?
if you look closely in several of the photos..you can see a lot of weeds, most of them are edible..(except of course the quackgrass)
The method I learned from my grandfather is to grow green manures (in the form of weeds) alongside of the crop so the presence of any bare soil in the garden is rare and short in duration. For widely spaced crops like tomato, bush squash, or okra, I cut back short all of the weeds in the bed and clear a 6" circle around each seeding or transplant site. As the crop plants grow I cut the weeds back occasionally if they look like they are outpacing the crop until the crop's canopy covers the entire bed and the weeds are shaded out and eking out an existance in the understory. I'll pull the occasional weed that makes it up through the crop canopy. Over the growing season this creates a lot of cut material to sheet compost in the paths between the beds and I'll typically will build 1 to 2 inches of compost in the paths each year to be added to the beds. For smaller plants like lettuce and carrots, I'll clear a small block of weeds, plant the seed, and keep out any weeds that look like they are competing too much with the crop plants. Any weeds growing in locations where they aren't directly competing with a crop are allowed to grow and bloom, bringing in pollenators. The presence of so many weed species growing in the garden among the crop plants makes it more difficult for crop plant pests to find their hosts. I will preferentially leave leguminous and edible weeds uncut when cutting or thinning out garden weeds if they aren't competing with a crop plant. There are lots of mimosa tree seedlings that have come up in my garden that I allow to grow 3' to 6' high before cutting back and I'll usually get a 2 or 3 cuttings a year from these nitrogen fixing tree weeds growing in my garden. If a pole bean happens to pop up nearby, I'll let that mimosa grow unmolested until fall as it acts as a support for the bean.
My continuing refinement of this technique has been to allow crop plants to bloom and scatter seed so that an increasing amount of the "weeds" coming up in the garden are useful crop plants like tomato, cucumber, winter squash, edible gourd, amaranth, swiss chard, and lettuce. These have been growing for enough generations that they are developing into locally adapted pest resistant land races.
i did pull a bunch of the lambsquarters for mulch, it was a little larger than i wanted it and it made a wonderful mulch around some of my plants.
so when you have nothing else for mulch, weeds are a good choice
I've never noticed any reduction in the number of weeds in a healthy garden
Well that depends on what you consider to be a weed. In stable, perennial systems weeds (meaning invasive annuals) become quite uncommon.
One garden is nicely tilled. My other gardens are pure weed fields and one area I picked is VERY wet. On the weed field test I have bales of weeds that I've planted on and hilled hills of weed humus and a mixture of wood chips and weed humus hills.
Right now the tilled garden has a major advantage of no or almost no slugs and snails, My weedy test are slug heaven there are an amazing amount of snails and hundreds of slugs.......
Myself I have never understood our need to over weed or our need to plant lawns every where.
I only weed if I need the space for my veggies & then as little as possible, we eat the weeds that we can & I sometimes plant weeds in pots because they get so lush & pretty with so little work. I even used some as a back drop for a video once & people kept asking what those pretty plants were.
I guess I just love green things! D
basjoos wrote: I think the weed-free approach to gardening has its roots in short season gardens in cool climates where you want to expose a lot of bare soil to the sun early in the spring to warm it up faster to extend the growing season and where soil temperatures are too cold for most of the year for significant oxidation of organic matter in the soil.
Steve Solomon's "Water Wise Gardening" is another example of rationally-chosen bare soil. He does so to grow annuals without precipitation or irrigation (during the growing season).
He finds that what he calls "dust mulch" (thorough, shallow use of a hoe whenever un-intentional plants sprout) maintains soil moisture much better than living mulch. Destruction of organic matter seems to help make some plant nutrients available in conjunction with moisture.
He stipulates that this means using a patch of land as pasture for several years between seasons of vegetable production. That, and the extremely wide spacing of plants he recommends, makes this whole method very land-intensive. If pest predators could be maintained well enough that traditional mulch makes sense, I think I'd prefer some slug damage to what he describes.
I have done variations on permanent mulch, and have lost many to most of my seedlings to slugs (mostly european red slugs, as well as some little grey ones and the occasional migrating leopard slug). I still keep experimenting with permanent mulch in several areas among herbs and cane fruit where i maintain a permanent herbaceous mulch, waiting for the magic snakes to arrive and take care of my slug problem. This spring the rufous sided towhees came and foraging in my mulch scratched up all my seedlings
Brenda, I purposely grow California Poppy to use the leaves, flowers and stems to make a tea that eases anxiety.Works great.
this one has a lot of information but you can always search the name of a specific weed and come up with al kinds of results and photos. HTH
Do you, or anyone else have more information about this? I'm trying to understand my 'weeds' and to listen to what they're telling me about the soil but I'm only just beginning to learn their language.
You can use the presence or absence of certain weeds to tell if you need to add nutrients to the soil.
For PNW Klinka and Krajina is a great book if you have lots of native species.
Wetland indicator status as described by USDA is useful for telling about moisture regime.
Often there is poor empirical foundation for these things or they vary from place to place, climate to climate.