In listening to a recent podcast of Paul's I kept hearing him refer to all "weeds" serving a purpose. I can understand that in theory, however, I am struggling to rationalize a purpose for the massive amount of foxtails on our property that have grown beyond just nuisance to somewhat dangerous for some of our animals. In that past five years, every year, we have had to either pull a foxtail out of one of our animal's orifices, or paid to have them removed. We are beginning to use our two front pastures for our chickens and ducks, and because of this will try to plant things that will feed the birds and out-compete the foxtail, I just don't have a lot of confidence that the foxtail is going away.
Buckwheat might be worth a try. It is very fast growing. It is often used as a chop and drop green manure; 3 weeks from seed to mow in some cases! It is also a welcome treat for poultry. Makes some pretty good pancakes as well.
I suppose not all weeds are good in all situations, how could they be. The thing about weeds is that they are what will grow in any given situation without help. If the situation is very bad it is better to have something growing in the place of nothing. LIke the plants that grow in hard pan in a desert might be the only plant that will grow there. Then again that may not be so. THe same weeds don't always grow in a space. The weeds that grow on a piece of land will change as that lands soil changes. Heidi Guildemeister talks about this in her book on how to grow things in a dry garden, principally be planting things that will grow there without watering and then by having one or two places for things that need watering. Heidi Guildemeister says that at first things that bare very poor soils like thistles grow and that the plants in poor soils are thin, shoot very high in spring and produce seed early. Gradually new plants appear and the first ones that grew there disappear and the plants stop growing so high and fast in spring. The soil retains more water and so the plants dont have to race so to produce seed. Weeds are what are adapted to the health of the soil at any given moment this makes them usefull but a weed that attacks your livestock obviously has more draw backs than benefits, unless the dangerous weed is growing in extreme desert and really the only thing that can grow there. Weeds also good because they are not a monocrop and so help the soil in variouse ways, maybe in ways a crop could not do. Is not one discovery of Masanobu Fukoaka, that grains rice grow much better if you mix the grains of variouse varieties of rice together in one field. It is interesting seeing what weeds appear on your land and when they disappear again, at least it is if you are interested in the natural recovery of land. In the end one bit of my garden stays green all summer. That is through at least two mounths of drought, which is very gratifying. agri rose macaskie.
K.B. - I'll let you know how it does. She in fact spread a mix of a bunch of different seed, I'm not sure what all is in there. I will have to ask her.
Rose Macaskie - Very interesting about your garden, that is what I want to work towards. I know in this process of getting to where things are more permanent and perpetuating its own care is going to require me letting go of many of the conventions that are lodged in my head and letting you all and the land teach me other conventions. wow that was a confusing statement.
i just hoidayed in a village that was quiet wild and over grown compared to the majority of english villages and loved it. i never liked my grandmothers lawn as much though it was great for playing games on and though i was happy at her house, i liked the crazy somerset village with appletrees at the back of the house, prunned trees have a gret attraction for me, and such a luxoriouse growth of holly and stinging nettles and grass and things like cranes bill in the walls an unclipped and rampant version of nature that is prettier. I just learnt to find everything overgrown so attractive. I also heard my mothers enthusiasm for a lack of clipped hedges and lawns as wel as seeing how pretty it was. so for me it was easy to look for the same effect. rose macaksie. in famring and gardening maybe the weeds are not so much for pure enjoyemnt of the savage exuberance of nature when we are not clipping it all the time, think of how attractive the roots of trees are co¡vering the remains of temples in India i suppose they would not be there in England, we would cut them so we could see the ruiins better, they are for helping with ruined soils tha tcrops plants wont grow in. If you are vegetable gardening or farming it is more that weeds will serve as a cover crop in winter or you could return to natural pastures which are full of weeds and they do serve if your soil is very spoilt to return the balance they are hardy and can bare the bad soils that need plants to return them to health. Tot use weeds like this is slower than masses of mulchgeoff lawton put a foot and a half of mulch on the desert he greened, that is a lot i think its about the depth of all your hand and arm to your elbow, but then not everyone finds getting a lot of mulch in easy, i know i dont. and then weeds serve to keep the soil covered and to dig down deep and as nitrogen fixing plants i suppose there is always a i hve to take up some weeds to or choppe them to giv erooom for what i am growing . the nitrogen fixing trees that the permaculurist palnst are meant to serve as a supply of mulch with their leaf fall and i suppose you can clip them and use the trimmings as mulch. the indian of the three sisters fame used to grow in mounds of earth dotted round i feild i suppose full of weeds is one way of using weeds with things you ucltivate. you can chop and drop the weeds that grow with your crop so they produce mulch and your cuttign them gives the crops a bit of acdvantage, work in the garden is exercise fo rht egardener gardening is the biggest sport in america. . They should be good if the soil is so spoilt it wont grow crops unless you are going to put on a lot of fertiliser, when weeds are the only thing that will grow and restablish soils a bit, the case in my garden. Weeds are used in the water gardens that people have round the great lakes and in chicago alleys,they use the water gardens to clean up run off so water from roads and parking spaces with maybe a bit of petrol in it and pahtogens from dustbin waste does not go into the drains and from their the great lakes untreateed they run it to the water garden where the roots of the plants and the microorganisms round the roots clean impurities out of the water. a water garden works like a sand filter with the addition of plants to digest pahtogens as well as microbes in the soil. Coccanouer whose books there is a ¡link to in the dandylion theread says that iweeds sort out imbalances in the soil. He was talking of aorchard that had been heavily frertilised where the trees where falling ill. I dont know what the weeds did to h lep the trees maybe too much nitrogen had accumulated in layers that the rain wahsed the nitrogen down in ¡to and burnt the tree roots, maybe the deeper roots of the weeds took up the nitrogen and brought it to the surface. i heard a long time ago some where of a woman who was n¡enthusiastic about the earth capacity to restore itself she fenced of areas in polluted areas to whatch how m¡nature took over and how it reestablished the ehalth of the soil stories like that make you want to whatch nature at work. rose macaskie. Darrel Dougherty says if you fertilise a lot things dont grow deep roots they dont need to search for nutrients and you only get a very thin layer of top soil.