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mulching with fresh pulled weeds and plants

 
ellie acorn
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i just returned home after being away for some months and am now rescuing the plants i planted from being covered in plants that i would rather not have there (some call these weeds). i was wondering what people think about directly mulching on top the soil with these plants i pulled. was wondering if there are any considerations i should assess. i pulled them and chopped them up a bit to help the bacteria start to decompose them a little quicker. only things i can think of that may be not ideal:
is possibility some have already produced seed so in some ways re seeding them back where i am pulling them from.
possible anaerobic decomposition happening on top of the soil which i think is mitigated by not laying to thick of a layer and turning them in a couple days.

those are the only two problems i can see. are there others that people think of or other practices people do.

i could have also taken and made a compost pile with all of them but also this seems counter intuitive since i have been putting a lot of energy into building this soil and taking away all this plant matter it has produced seems a step backward for the soil. also then the soil which has been protected from moisture lost and sun by these plants would suddenly be dried out in the hot sunny days. (the beds are pretty much in the sun all day).

interested to hear people's practices and thoughts around this.
thanks so much. this site is such an amazing resource!
 
Dillon Nichols
pollinator
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Location: Victoria BC
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Seems fine to me, this is my normal practice when weeding is necessary.

There are only 2 drawbacks in my opinion; you've already mentioned the issue of leaving the seed where it is, to make next year worse. Depending on the plant and the stage it is at, trying to move it away might be just as bad, and you then need a safe way to dispose of said seeds anyhow... I do try and remove the seed portion separately if it is a particularly noxious weed and the seedpod is amenable to this treatment.

The other concern is things which are so tough they can just re-root themselves. Morning glory and Himalayan blackberry are annoying like that around here. I throw them on top of some cardboard to roast a bit before relocating back to soil, to make sure I don't need to pull them twice.

I don't think that anaerobic decomposition is even remotely likely, at least not in any sort of problematic quantity, unless you are dealing with a truly enormous layer of weeds... in which case some judicious spreading around seems like it ought to suffice.

Many of the 'weeds' in the garden here are things I don't really much mind; even if they are nominally invasive, they are already widespread, so I don't feel guilty about failing to exterminate them, and they are not so aggressive or difficult to handle to warrant that effort. They serve to keep the soil covered, accumulate valuable nutrients and biomass, often act as insectiaries, and then provide mulch when they get in the way.
 
Dave Dahlsrud
Posts: 485
Location: North-Central Idaho, 4100 ft elev., 24 in precip
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These are some of the best mulches you can get! You are returning all of the nutrient to the soil and making it available to your desirable plants. All of my weeds get pulled and composted in place, usually in the garden path, but often in the beds. I don't see anything to worry about with this practice. If you accidentally spread some seed around, oh well you just have more mulch for next year. Eventually you will get a deep enough layer that it won't really matter anymore, after that you're just cruisin! Think ruth stout on this one lots o' mulch, compost in place, eventually you're looking at super rich soil and not a whole lot of work.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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We have had them re root and take back off again, so use a little care if your soil is moist. Really noxious thorny stuff gets removed. The garden paths need to be barefoot friendly.
 
Michael Bushman
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Location: Sacramento, CA
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If your soil is so depleted that you need the nutrients in a handful of weeds, you are going to need more than a handful of weeds to make it rich so to me, dropping seed laden weeds back onto your garden is buying trouble at wholesale! I pick my weeds before they go to seed, otherwise you will spend more time next year weeding than you did this year. If weeds have gone to seed, I tend to dispose of them rather than put them into my compost as I am too lazy to turn it often enough and or lack the nitrogen heavy greens to get it hot enough to kill the seeds.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 1978
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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We use our pulled "weeds" as mulch but we take the following steps to be sure they will not grow back from what we put down.
1) easily rooting items are sun dried (think of how you prep fresh cut hay for bailing).
2) seed pods are removed and burned or hot composted
3) new mulch is put down in layers 1-2 inches thick in a Lasagna technique, mulch, compost, mulch is the usual layering we use.

Using these methods of preparing our "weeds" for use as mulch has resulted in far fewer re-pulling of the undesired plants.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 1984
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Most of my weeds get composted very near to where they were pulled. Sun drying weeds has been my go-to technique for years. I really like the 'making hay' analogy mentioned by Bryant RedHawk.

One technique I use to prevent re-rooting when weeds are particularly big and we are having wet weather, is to lay the weeds in the same direction, so that the roots of the freshly pulled plants lay on top of the last stems that were pulled. If I've let weeding go way too long, and a huge clump of dirt comes up with the roots, I often knock it against the ground to dislodge the dirt. Or, I toss clumps into the paths so they can be broken up by the tiller (boo-hiss).

I try to avoid growing weed seeds, but newly germinating weeds are easy enough to handle... It's easier for me to weed next year than it is to collect weed seeds today. It's the perennial rhizomes that cause the most trouble for me. I put a lot of effort into keeping those knocked down.

The only easily re-rooting weed that I have in my garden is purslane. Any that I find gets gathered together and dumped on a roadway so that traffic pulverizes it.

 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 1978
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Joseph, have you ever eaten purslane? I used to eat it a lot when I worked for California Fish and Game, it is a wild edible and it is very nice in a salad, good crunch and clean flavor.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 1984
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Bryant: I eat a lot of weeds, but purslane isn't among them. I find the oxalic acid flavor quite distasteful.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 1978
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
151
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Ahh, I do understand that. Was just wondering, we don't have any on Buzzard's Roost. I have found that it's flavor differs depending on soil type too. I have found that the high mountains give it far less of the oxalic acid than what I've found other places. I think it can be nice or inedible, depending on where it is growing.
 
John Saltveit
gardener
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I have imported several weeds into my garden because I like to eat them so much. Purslane, wide leaf plantain and dead nettle are among them. Purslane is an outstanding source of omega 3 fatty acids and by far the easiest source to grow. I also like the taste. I would rather have my friends guarding the garden than my enemies. By controlling the weeds that do grow, I don't have to spend nearly as much time planting vegetables(OR WEEDING!) . As my friend Vito Corleone used to say, "Watch your friends closely, and your enemies, closer."
John S
PDX OR
 
Steve Farmer
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Location: South Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)
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Ellie Acorn, I think what you have done is fine. You could also consider instead off pulling them, just cutting them off at or just above ground level, so the above ground part of plant is mulch and the below ground part is left in the soil to give back the nutrients it has taken. Many weeds will remain alive and regrow from the roots but I think that's fine as well as long as you don't mind cutting them off at ground level again now and then, it's just a living mulch that is kept in check so it doesn't outcompete the deliberate crop.
 
duane hennon
gardener
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Location: western pennsylvania zone 5/a
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taking an idea from the big boys
http://www.umanitoba.ca/outreach/naturalagriculture/articles/organic_no-till.html

I've initiated "Stomp and Drop"
instead of bending over and pulling weeds
I just get out my boots and stomp
the weeds get flattened away from your favorites
step on the weeds near ground level to crimp the stem
this allows your plants to get sun,
the crimped weeds slowly die
without encouraging the root to re-sprout
discourages new weeds by not disturbing the soil
and saves your back

some pulling will still be needed where you can't get your boot
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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Do you know what the weeds are? I treat different weeds differently
 
ellie acorn
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great. thanks so much for all the replys and interesting conversations. sounds like this is a common practice and recommendation by some and some who would hesitate. thanks steve farmer, i thought i would have also cut them at ground level and left the roots to decompose organic matter back into the soil but i also had some pepper plants and squash and tomato plants in the mix that i wanted to save so i didn't do this.

i was actually very happy to see the plants growing because this soil has been a long process to build and for a moment i believed that nothing would grow in it but i now see that something likes it and believe its growth will allow for the development of other plants i choose to put there.

about know what plants were growing. there was purslane which i in fact really enjoy and love to eat it while i am working in the sunny garden. it is so luscious and full of moisture and helps hydrate me. today i took some of the thicker stems and am lacto-fermenting them in salt brine. see how they do. purslane pickles!
then there was another plant. which i have yet to identify because i my camera is broken so can't post it anywhere to ask. in a way it looks like chickweed but is lighter green and the flowers are these little purple yellow snap dragon like flower. very small. ground cover height. kind of vine -like. this was in majority. would like to find the name of this one to find out more about the soil profile.
some plantain which i left because i enjoy and long roots are good to have in bed for mineral accumulation.
black mustard i took out though because there were too many
this one that is kinda similar to dandelion but also different. toothed leaves (with a bit of a point at their teeth) taller stalk and yellow dandelion like flowers.

duane hennon wouldn't stomp and drop compact the soil more than you would like
 
duane hennon
gardener
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Location: western pennsylvania zone 5/a
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hi elle,

tread lightly on the soil but not the unwanteds
"stomp" sounds better than "bend the weed over and apply enough pressure with your foot to crimp the stem"

the goal is to give your "wanteds" the advantage by opening up the space around them
flattening out the unwanteds sets back their growth,if not killing them outright
many unwanteds spread by root pieces, when pulling out the plant, pieces of root remain, only to become more unwanteds
many unwanteds have seeds in the soil, exposing the soil, by uprooting the unwanteds, allows these seeds to germinate

this strategy works in fields also
if you see berries or purslane, a young seedling or any other desirable plant
and want it to grow and expand
stomp down the stuff immediately around them
 
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