• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

To weed or not to weed, what would be Sepp's answer?  RSS feed

 
Sarah Chapman
Posts: 14
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi all. My name is Sarah and I'm a compulsive weeder.
I always thought the best way to garden was to pull almost everything that wasn't purposely planted, by the roots if possible, use them as mulch, and repeat - often. I always left clover, purslane (one of my fav foods!) and some others but pulled spurge, mallow, ALL grasses, etc. I was just starting to get the inkling that what I'm doing is counterproductive as I watched my purslane and tomatoes being scorched when I found all you great permies and Paul Wheaton. I wondered why Paul is so in love with this sepp holzer guy but after reading just a fraction of what he practices, I can see why! He's my newest hero now. As soon as I heard the concept that everything in the garden (and nature) is useful, I felt so silly for pulling up everything in the garden. Of course it is, why has it taken me so long to figure this out??

Since we are all busy people I know some of you can relate to my current situation. I've had several big events in the last month and have made no time for weeding and they've gotten very, very tall. What would you all suggest for my next step towards creating harmony in my garden? I don't want to continue pulling up everything but I can't even see my strawberries thru the grass. I would like to take enough steps thru the rest of this year to "scatter garden" much of my seeds next spring and I'm continuing to read, but any suggestions and advice to point me in the right direction are very welcome! I am also looking for resources to adapt Holzer Permaculture to mostly flat eastern Kansas land?

Thank you everyone!!!
PS: I did have to pull all of the grasses out of my flower beds but I am on the road to recovery... haha.
 
Willy Kerlang
Posts: 106
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I was asking myself this very question the other day.  I did a search on this forum to see what other people had had to say about it in the past.  Basically, the concensus seemed to be:

1.  Weeds are whatever you define them to be, but they seem to consist of plants that are both undesirable and invasive (because everyone seems aware that plants like dandelions, for example, are actually quite useful);
2.  The kinds of weeds you get will change as your soil changes;
3.  Weeds can be prevented by planting suppressive cover crops like clover, or by mulching.

There is no doubt that removing weeds diverts more nutrients to your vegetables or flowers.  I've sort of compromised with myself by removing the biggest and most invasive plants and leaving the smaller ones alone.  Next year I need to do a better job of mulching and planting clover.

I would ask you to observe what is going on and make notes.  For example, did your strawberries actually suffer because of the grass, or did they do okay?  You've already noticed what happened with the purslane and tomatoes.  the answer seems to be clear: plants your plants in families and leave them alone.  I can't imagine Sepp weeding that vast Krameterhof!
 
Sarah Chapman
Posts: 14
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Willy_K, thank you so much, that is great advice! Haha, I can't imagine Sepp weeding the Krameterhof either!
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
10
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
most of your weeds are quite helpful but then there are some that will just kill off everything in your garden if you don't keep them in check..like quackgrass, bindweed, and some others in different climates.

I can't  keep up with the quackgrass here, I clean it all out of one area and it takes over another.

it will kill anything it gets near..it is nasty and it must be removed..and it is hard !

heavy mulch really helps a lot, it not only pulls easier but doesn't establish as well
 
Eric Thompson
Posts: 371
Location: Bothell, WA - USA
11
duck food preservation solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think you need to weed some areas, but whenever possible I try to start things off to not require weeding:
- From freshly tilled, I can easily plant seed for radish, peas, cilantro and have them keep up (and I find cilantro in particular grows taller and fuller with competition!)  Things like broccoli, corn, and beans probably need a little help from seed or would be ok as transplants.  Slow starters like parsley, carrots, and celery from seed need a lot of help -- they either need weeding, or just planting from the start in a weed-free raised bed.  We don't always have the luxury of a nice raised bed, so a few months of weeding is our compromise..

There are some things that seem to do better in a grass-kill area (smother or solarized) than even a tilled bed: tomatoes, beans, squash, potatoes -- have other people had similar experience?

Overall, just do minimal weeding to keep up with your design -- getting the grass (or in my case, the horsetail...) out of raised beds is a must -- that keeps the design working to plant the tougher items that rely on low weed conditions..
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
i only pull weeds that have no use to me. the ones i leave eventually smother out the ones that i dont like. so all i have are beneficial "weeds"
 
Kirk Hutchison
Posts: 418
Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Annual "weeds" are your helpful friends. Weedy grasses, however, should be removed. The annual weeds improve the soil and help out your other plants, but the grasses will take over completely. Check out this website: http://journeytoforever.org/farm_library/weeds/WeedsToC.html
 
                    
Posts: 27
Location: Central Croatia
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I pull anything that grows bigger than my plants but leave all the 'weeds' that are low growing (living mulch?).

For carrots, I mix a jar of carrot, lettuce, radish, beetroot seeds and scatter them in the bed.  The radish and lettuce grow quickly and smother most of the weeds.  Then you pick these and allow the small carrots and beets to grow up.
 
William Roan
Posts: 40
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Like Paleo Gardener July18th 2011, I too just finished reading Joseph A. Cocannover excellent book “Weeds Guardians of the Soil”.  Published in 1950 the author’s lifelong observations should be a resource for everyone in the Permaculture movement. A lot of the questions I’ve seen posted on permies will be answered in this book. The following are some of the highlights that maybe of interest to many of us.

Whether your land is worn out or the dirt is plumb gone, and it can’t even grow weeds; you can bring back natures sponge like structure to the earth. To most farmers, nature’s best strategy for renewing the land would be considered heresy.
Weeds have the potential of doing it all. The best time to plant weeds is just before or during a rain storm in early spring or in winter when there is snow on the ground. Scatter the seed over the snow and forget about them. The seed should be scattered over the surface of well packed or hardground and not on land that is freshly plowed.
Sunflowers and lamb’s quarter plant easily, while some of the best weeds are unpredictable when seeded on really poor soil and may require many planting attempts. The following list is the author’s favorite weeds.

Pigweed; amaranthus retroflexus , is a general all-round weed. There are several species including the tumbleweed and the ornamental coxcomb. They are all annuals and native to America. It is deep rooted and an excellent soil improver if correctly managed. Besides being a first class mother weed and an excellent green manure.

Lamb’s quarter; chenopodium album, another good mother weed if controlled. It is an annual that is native to Europe. Lamb’s quarter is usually found where ever pigweed is growing and is often a companion of giant ragweed. This weed is a good diver and brings up much food materials to the surface soil. Makes an excellent green manure and when mixed with legumes produces a cattle silage second to none.

Giant ragweed; ambrosia trifida and the common ragweed; ambrosia artemissifolia are both annuals, native to North America. Common ragweed is found almost everywhere. The giant ragweed or horseweeds of the Midwest prefers edges of cultivated fields, open forest areas or sunny coves where they grow unmolested. But this weed will take in hard compact land. It often reaches 7-8 feet in height where the soil is fertile. The common ragweed will produce a crop on the poorest of land. Neither is used by humans as food. Cattle seem to eat the bitter green ragweed as a vitamin. But when dried as silage, cattle seem to prefer it over hay. One of the most important uses of giant ragweed is a winter bird feed, birds relish the seeds.

Annual nightshade; solanum nigrum deserves a high rating. Usually recognized by its white flower and black berrylike fruit. This is a clean weed and works well for most row crops as a mother plant. It has a penetrating root system that forages well in the lower soils and its spreading habit of growth makes it a good soil protector from erosion.

Milkweed; asclepias syriaca is a vigorous growing perennial  with a root system that wanders far from the base of the mother plant, doing a good job of opening up hard packed soil. Will take hold on extremely poor soil if assisted. There is no evidence of the milkweed being harmful when growing amongst row crops.

Sow thistle; sonchus aleraceus is a native of Europe and made its way over very shortly after the Pilgrim’s landing. It’s not a thistle at all, but a wild lettuce. It is a common weed found in gardens and fields. It companions well with most row crops, since the roots feed deep after the plant is well established. The sow thistle will often grow a fine crop of green manure in the fall.

Pusley; portulaca oleracea is an annual native of Europe. It makes a wonderful ground cover, but is hard to establish in extremely poor soil. It needs fairly good soil to start with. Once established in a field, the roots dive deep to gather rich food materials in the subsoil and brings it to the surface to share with other plants. This weed opens up the ground for corn roots or any other crop that it is growing with. Once the weed opens the soil, the neighboring corn’s roots are able to grow deeper than usual.

Spurges; euphorbia supine is a native North American annual that likes to grow in hard soil. The root system can grow down a foot or more to break up hard pan clay soil. Spurge often forms a mat in a traveled path, which makes it a good erosion control.

Ground cherry; physalis subglabrata there are several species of ground cherry, some are annuals and some are perennials. The annuals grow well as a mother crop. Both are superior soil improvers, derived from its deep feeding roots. Both are clean weeds in either field or garden and will take hold in the poorest of soil. They produce a fruit in a sort of capsule that is used for making pie.

 
William Roan
Posts: 40
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Here is the rest of my posting:

Goldenrod; solidago depending on the variety, good for gravelly or heavy soils, but most prefers sandy soil. Good at fiberzing any soil, especially along the brinks of gullies and land that has been peeled. [Today this could mean where top soil has been removed and sold at future suburban home sites.]

Cocklebur; xanthium commune a persistent native annual. If planted thinly will make a respectable pioneer plant if used on land that is so dead that nothing else will grow on it. Cocklebur is not a bad companion plant, it will go well with corn.

Sunflower; helianthus an annual plant [that at the time of this publication was considered by farmers as a weed]. The roots dive deeply to pull up minerals and fiberize the soil. Stalks breakdown quickly and add organics to the soil. A heavily planted field of sunflower will produce almost double the amount of green manure as compared to any other plant. Sunflowers make a wonderful mother plant for corn, whose deep diving root will grow in with the shallow corn roots to help stabilize the corn.
[This makes sense when one considers the physics of the two plants. Pound for pound a pipe is stronger than a solid, because a pipe has to have two surfaces deflected before it will bend, compared to one surface on a solid. A sunflower has a pipe like stalk, corn has a solid stalk. In high winds corn will blow over first, but a companion sunflower will catch a corn stalk in its arm like leaf petiole and ride out the storm together.]

Smart weed; polygonum hydropiper annual plant that will fiberize poorly draining or boggy farm land, thus providing for natural drainage. Smart weed can be used in brine when making pickles. Smartweed is not difficult to eradicate once the drainage problem has been solved.
Wild morning glory; ipomoea annual weed that shouldn’t be planted in regularly cropped fields. But will work well with corn in fibreless soil if controlled.

Other weeds worth mentioning for soil building is wild lettuce; lactuca Canadensis, sweet clover, button and burr clover shepherd’s purse; capella dursapastoris, dandelion, lupines, wild vetch and peas are all soil improvers.

 
Willy Kerlang
Posts: 106
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
BiologyBill, your posts are worthy of a website unto themselves.  I was wondering, are the allelopathic properties of sunflowers something that survives the composting process?  I guess not, but why not?  What makes them allelopathic in the first place?
 
Thelma McGowan
Posts: 170
Location: western Washington, Snohomish county--zone 8b
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have recently had a similar epifany. I just keep my veggie row clear so they get sun. My walk ways are about 10"-15" deep in weeds. ........under the lush mat of weeds I have moisture that never dries out...I might water my garden 4 or 5 times a summer.

As I discover the wide range of edible WEEDS in my garden. I realize my harvest can begin a month sooner now in the spring. I struggle every year to keep leaf miners off the beets and chard.......while all the while the Amaranth..(or Red Root or pig weed) ...tastes just like those  greens........and nothing ever bothers the Amaranth!

the other day I had a small panic attack! I realized that I had eaten almost all of the lambs quarters......it is so yummy, what if I run out? I have to let it go to seed so I can Have some next year.....Last year I was ripping it out and feeding it to the chickens along with the amaranth and shepards purse and mustard
Needless to say my garden has always been host to weeds.....My Neighors garden is 100% weed free....but it ia also a bit anemic looking. sure no weeds, but the veggies seem stunted and yellow, the dirt is dry and lumpy, a lot of the plants look like Charlie Browns xmas tree.

Riki wrote:
I pull anything that grows bigger than my plants but leave all the 'weeds' that are low growing (living mulch?).

For carrots, I mix a jar of carrot, lettuce, radish, beetroot seeds and scatter them in the bed.  The radish and lettuce grow quickly and smother most of the weeds.  Then you pick these and allow the small carrots and beets to grow up.

awesome tip....I will do this for sure!

 
Jeff Mathias
Posts: 125
Location: Westport, CA Zone 8-9; Off grid on 20 acres of redwood forest and floodplain with a seasonal creek.
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Riki wrote:
I pull anything that grows bigger than my plants but leave all the 'weeds' that are low growing (living mulch?).


If you can don't pull unless absolutely necessary due to the species. It is better to just chop and drop. Pulling up by the roots can damage the roots of other nearby desirables as well as any established mycelium, also leaving the roots to rot helps open up the soil. Deep rooted plants (many "weeds" also bring up nutrients that shallow rooted plants can use later on if left to return their nutrients.

As for what Sepp would do I think it would depend on the situation and the future plans for the area, in general I think he would allow the animals to deal with the problem. Regular weeding only appears to go on in his outside of the house "home garden".

Jeff
 
dj niels
Posts: 182
Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
8
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Super discussion on weeds, and thanks for the great link to Guardians of the soil. I didn't get all the way through it yet, but it is very informative.

I have been encouraging my weeds for years, even transplant them into my garden sometimes. I eat them, feed them to the chickens, do chop n drop, and use them for mulch. My garden soil keeps getting better every year.
 
Cohan Fulford
Posts: 79
Location: West Central Alberta, Canada
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The thing that always amazes me most in these discussions of weeds and cover crops is folks encouraging or even planting clover! White clover is very common here, presumably as an escape from agriculture- this is a farming area, and I assume clovers have been heavily sown as forage. I'm quite sure that if left to its own devices in the vegetable garden, there wouldn't be much growing except clover, it seems way to vigorous to grow with anything other than maybe shrubs and trees, forming densely matted growth that excludes much of anything else.. I'll certainly never get rid of it here and no point tryng (there are large swathes of it in our mowed areas, mixed with grasses, native plants and other invasives like dandelions and Cerastium arvense etc.). So, it will never be gone, but I try to discourage it (and even more so the tall red clover), in areas of native vegetation, and try to keep them out of areas where I am specifically growing something- seems like way too much competition to me! Do other people really find you can grow crops through clover?
 
Rachell Koenig
Posts: 71
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I would smother out the grass in whatever way you like.. a season or more BEFORE you'll be actually planting in that area. When I do this, the "weeds" that come up are things that make good ground covers, like Dead Nettle, and chick weed. Then you can pull what grasses come up after them (if any). But I wouldn't drop them anywhere except the compost pile.
About the white clover.. it seems like a great cover crop to me. I've never seen it smother anything out that I need, but yes it does grow everywhere
 
Rachell Koenig
Posts: 71
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I might need to mention a few ways to smother grass out. Laying down anything.. lots of mulch, or plastic, or even old carpet. Then picking it up a season later. Then plant in it. I dont know if its better to plant right then, or let the cover crops pop up first. Either way... DO NOT till or hoe this area! You'll bring up new grasses from under, to the top where they'll sprout. Do not, do not, do not do this.
One more thing to think about is how very beneficial it is to leave roots when you can, to rot in the soil. Smothering does this
 
Clara Florence
Posts: 47
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I scatter planted a lot of seed into some tilled beds with interesting results....

Brassica's will out perform most of my weeds in both germination and speed of growth. They make a good scatter seed. Dont forget the floral brassicas sweet alice and honesty too. It takes two days for a brassica to throw up cotyledons here so they are faster than almost anything else. They are an inch high inside of a week.
When I thinned out my brassica patch (it was carpet) I was surprised to find a lot of advanced sweet alice plants in there. Good bee plant and attractive ground cover inbetween the cabbages and tatsoi.

Tomatoes (a weed on our plot) outperform nearly everything but they are easy to pull at any age. I pull the ones I dont want and feed them to the chickens, leave the ones I do. We get them by the thousands all self sown. It seems just one fruit not picked in time is an invitation to a tomato farm the next year.

I leave the clover weed and other benign species growing until just before seed setting stage when I pull them as chook food and also to allow the slow germinating seeds there a chance to pop up. Up till them they are a cover crop that keeps the earth moist. A lot of slow seeds don't need much light to germinate but need good moisture and constant temps. Weeds preent the soil drying out and the sun baking everything.

The one patch we let the chickens maraud over for a few days before sowing has very little weed in it as the chickens appear to have picked all the seeds out of that bed. The only thing we got was some kind of tree sprouting and a few grasses. All the other weeds endemic to our plot were nowhere to be seen. Chickens are highly effective for weed control.
 
Cohan Fulford
Posts: 79
Location: West Central Alberta, Canada
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
On this site (lots of good info- pdfs to download, follow all the links on the left)
http://permaculturetools.wikispaces.com/Earthworks+%26+Water
Open the pdf entitled Hugelkulture Raised Beds, scroll down a couple of pages (great stuff above that too) and there is some info from/about sepp holzer (I think it's an excerpt from one of his books) covering a lot of detail about building and managing hugelbeets. Here is part of what he says about weeds:

I deal with any unwanted plants as
I wander around the farm. I simply pull
them up and leave them there with their
roots facing up. If the weather is very
dry and it is around midday, then this is
even more effective, because the plants
dry out and do not take root again.
Mulching, in other words spreading
straw, hay, leaves or similar organic
matter, is a good way to keep these
unwanted plants in check; it also keeps
the soil covered and retains moisture.
 
dj niels
Posts: 182
Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Cohan, thanks for that link. I did read the raised bed PDF, but I am still confused how to get that steep of an angle on the hugelbeets. I worked on my raised bed this morning, adding leaves. straw, and topsoil, but most of the material falls down around the base, leaving only a thin layer (if any) that sticks on the sides. And when I water it, most of the soil that sticks at first runs off. Mine is only about 3 feet high, I'm trying to follow Paul's suggestion about building it gradually so I don't freak out the neighbors too much.
 
Cohan Fulford
Posts: 79
Location: West Central Alberta, Canada
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here's another link I came across while searching, I was thinking I should post this on the hugel thread, since the slope is something that comes up often.
This page is in Romanian, but google translate gave a rough idea of what is going on- most of the pics are pretty self- explanatory, but there are some notes also about what is seeded where, for example:
http://ecology.md/md/section.php?section=ecoset&id=4291

One comment says "Hill slope angle is 60-70 degrees. To do this, while deposit soil on the ridge, stepping up the middle hill to seal the bottom and the top will not collapse." I think this means you are tramping down the base to the middle heights to make the base strong. Also, it is mulched immediately after the soil is piled, to support the surface, and it seems there are vine/bramble cuttings layed on right after the mulch, as well as other branches laid vertically to help support. Then, at one point we see SH hammering pieces of wood into the mound, and then long pieces are supported on those- this seems to be to form an outer support about halfway down-it says"Submit long sticks, branches, logs thin, they will keep mulch and enhance slope."
Then it is all seeded right away! There is no timeline given, might have been all in one day? The project was in the Ukraine (more comments at the top of page) even though the text is in Romanian.
 
dj niels
Posts: 182
Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks Cohan. I don't know how to find a translation, but the picture is interesting. But I remember Sep talking about how the soil is loose so rain washes the seed in--how can it be loose if you trample on it? I thought the idea of making beds is that you never walk on the beds to keep the soil loose.

And I don't know what to use for mulch that wouldn't blow off in the next wind. Straw and leaves just blow away every time there is a breeze, and I don't have any long hay until mid summer, if I don't cut my bunch grass in the meadow until then.
 
Cohan Fulford
Posts: 79
Location: West Central Alberta, Canada
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi, DJ, I guess translation will depend on the browser you use- I use the free google chrome, and right at the top of any page not in english (or probably whatever language you have it set to) is a bar you can click on to translate the page. Usually not perfect translations, but enough with this kind of page to give you an idea. You can also open a google search page and click the drop down menu 'more' to the right at the top of the page, translate is one of the options, and then you can paste in sentences or paragraphs (?) to translate.

I haven't tried this yet myself, though I have done lots of mulching with leaves and grass, but my property is quite (not 100%) sheltered from wind. In the pics it seems they covered the soil in straw, then laid long branches with green leaves on top- these branches seem to go from bottom to top and should really help hold the straw in place. Then the 'spikes' driven in and cross pieces laid, to further hold the slope in place. I think if needed, you could even throw more branches on top while you wait for plants to sprout.. Are you able to wet your mulch? seems like that would make it less vulnerable to the wind...
I also think (I looked at so many pages the other day, they blur..lol) I read someone suggesting rooting currants or other vining/sprawling woodies at the beginning to help anchor the thing and provide shelter for seedlings. Wherever I got that idea, I am going to try this with a variety of our native currants and gooseberries, all of which have fairly open growth, so they will be easy to have other plants around, and several commonly grow on brushpiles etc here, so the habitat will be great for them...

The suggestion (assuming the translation and my interpretation of it are accurate) seems to be to tramp on the bottom of the hill only, to provide a solid base. I think (?) I also read somewhere to tramp down the inner layers- logs and other organic material, so it doesn't all collapse right away...
 
dj niels
Posts: 182
Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for the reply. I will definitely keep trying things. I did throw some leaves and old straw on my mound, then added some wood chips from a pile of branches my son ran through the chipper last fall--and it seems to be holding, so far. Tonight the wind is really roaring so this will be a test of sorts. I don't have any branches with leaves yet, but do have some old sticks--maybe I can try adding some of them.

This project is very slow, as all my work is with hand tools and wheelbarrow, etc, in between other spring garden projects like planting trees and garden beds of annuals, etc. but it is progressing. Now if I can just find time to finish and get it planted!
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The year PA lost a lot of tomatoes to the blight I had a good crop - and my tomatoes were not weeded that year due to an injury. I had lamb's quarters, perilla, and canadian thistle, mostly around the tomatoes. It seemed to protect them, tho whether it was directly from the disease or by maintaining soil moisture so the plants didn't succumb is a mystery.

I weed my strawberries until they're done bearing fruit then let the surrounding plants grow to nearly cover them some years. Early spring I weed and mulch them again (fall would be better, maybe but at least my way they get some winter protection). My strawberries have very little disease problems and bear huge amounts of large fruit. They did terribly in the garden but wonderfully in the flower border at the front of the house.

Dandelions are slightly allelopathic to garden plants - they don't thrive if they're close enough to touch. Just my experience. I like them in the lawn and pasture but keep them out of my vegetables and herbs.
 
Julia Winter
steward
Posts: 1938
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
166
bee bike chicken food preservation hugelkultur urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have a sort of thistle (not too terrible to grab and pull) that must be spreading by underground stems. It grows to about 3 feet tall, and will have small purple flowers if you let it flower. When you pull it, it comes out easily, with just a simple straight root, but it comes back really fast.

It is creating a big monocrop of itself in my original raised veggie beds--through three 4' x 12' beds and the paths in-between and outcompeting a big patch of apple mint. Very aggressive.

What to do?
 
gani et se
Posts: 215
Location: Douglas County OR
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Julia,
I wonder if your thistle could be burdock. If so, the root is edible. Traditional Japanese (I think) vegetable.
Gani
 
Julia Winter
steward
Posts: 1938
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
166
bee bike chicken food preservation hugelkultur urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Oh no, I've got burdock as well. Burdock has giant leaves growing in a rosette, then later on sends up a stem that flowers and makes the burrs. After looking online, I think what I'm dealing with here is Canada thistle. (Interesting fact: it's from Europe, where it is called Creeping Thistle. It's not particularly Canadian.) Cirsium arvense. Grows a meter tall--check. Giant clonal colonies--check. Spiny leaves, not so much the stems--check.

So, what's the permaculture solution for Canada thistle? I have filled the bed of a standard pickup truck with this plant, and I'm about 2/3 done pulling them. They will be back. . .
 
S Haze
Posts: 229
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
11
duck forest garden trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Julia,

I've had success in controlling canada thistle by mowing or scything it at the proper stage of it's development, which I've been told is right after pollination. I'm not quite sure what that means so I just try to cut it down shortly after it's in full bloom. Supposedly the plants will bleed to death if the timing is right and probably depending on the conditions too. All I know for sure is that when I moved to my farm about 6 years ago there were a couple places that turned into solid thistles. I don't know if the former owner had been mowing these areas regularly or not but when we arrived lots of the mowing stopped and wow, were there thistles.
However, after doing the mowing trick they were mostly gone! Now and then we still have a small patch pop up here or there and it's probably a good thing because we've done a lot of excavation and compaction with a house construction project and some earthworks. My impression is that they favor anaerobic soil conditions. You might draw some scorn from neighbors if you let them stand until they're ready to die but I believe it's a great method. Hope this helps
 
Julia Winter
steward
Posts: 1938
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
166
bee bike chicken food preservation hugelkultur urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for the information! I am trying to get this property ready to sell, which is why I've been pulling it. Did you really just have to cut it once, or did you cut repeatedly, each time waiting until the flowers opened?
 
S Haze
Posts: 229
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
11
duck forest garden trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If my memory serves me it was just once, maybe twice but I didn't carefully wait for more flowers to open and it was the entire patch that I mowed over the first time. Maybe it was the timing or weather conditions but it really got them. I've tried this method in other places where I don't think it worked that well although I don't always follow up or remember exactly where the thistle patches are or have been.
 
dj niels
Posts: 182
Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't know what kind of thistles we had around us in southern Utah a dozen years back, but I cut it when it was green and used it to make compost. I don't know that I eliminated any that way, but it did keep it from going to seed and spreading the problem.
 
Peter Ingot
Posts: 129
7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Cohan Fulford wrote:The thing that always amazes me most in these discussions of weeds and cover crops is folks encouraging or even planting clover! White clover is very common here, presumably as an escape from agriculture- this is a farming area, and I assume clovers have been heavily sown as forage. I'm quite sure that if left to its own devices in the vegetable garden, there wouldn't be much growing except clover, it seems way to vigorous to grow with anything other than maybe shrubs and trees, forming densely matted growth that excludes much of anything else.. I'll certainly never get rid of it here and no point tryng (there are large swathes of it in our mowed areas, mixed with grasses, native plants and other invasives like dandelions and Cerastium arvense etc.). So, it will never be gone, but I try to discourage it (and even more so the tall red clover), in areas of native vegetation, and try to keep them out of areas where I am specifically growing something- seems like way too much competition to me! Do other people really find you can grow crops through clover?


Commercial attempts to drill cereals into established white clover failed because the clover smothered everything. Some success was achieved by weakening the clover first with herbicide.

I have white clover in my gardens. I only usually pull it if it is tangled up with more serious perennial weeds. Once I saw kale suffering from competition with a very dense understory of white clover, which surprised me as kale is a nitrophile.

If I find a lot of clover taking over, I take it as a sign that the soil is either depleted in nitrogen, or possibly that it has a lot of fresh carbon rich matter - straw, sawdust etc. immobilising nitrogen Could be a high ratio of phosphorus to nitrogen. Maybe a lot of phosphate fertiliser used in the past? Weeding and then applying a lot of nitrogen rich manure would be one solution. Another might be leaving some areas growing clover and some kind of grass for a few years years, cutting it only enough to keep it tidy. Clover likes close cutting and can be eliminated by high cutting (although if the problem is in the soil it might be back) Most likely, the grass will eventually outcompete the clover when the clover has raised the soil nitrogen sufficiently.

I find it hard to see clover as a problem overall
 
Peter Ingot
Posts: 129
7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Renate Howard wrote:

Dandelions are slightly allelopathic to garden plants - they don't thrive if they're close enough to touch. Just my experience. I like them in the lawn and pasture but keep them out of my vegetables and herbs.


Interesting. I've been wondering if other weeds are allelopathic. I got datura for the first time with a load of manure from my neighbour, and it really seemed to stunt the tomato seedlings.
 
Peter Ingot
Posts: 129
7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Rachell Koenig wrote:
One more thing to think about is how very beneficial it is to leave roots when you can, to rot in the soil. Smothering does this


But poorly decomposed surface residues can encourage chickweed. Not the worst weed, but a nuisance in seedbeds. I found it went away when I stopped applying fresh plant material to the surface. It is possible to "mulch" with a thin layer of well rotted manure, spread evenly over the surface, and this helps with annual weeds.

Nothing seems to stop bindweed except digging it out. It manages to weave its way around and between layers of cardboard mulch.

Meadowsweet isn't commonly a weed, but it proved surprisingly hard to remove with cardboard sheet mulch.
 
Peter Ingot
Posts: 129
7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thelma McGowan wrote:

the other day I had a small panic attack! I realized that I had eaten almost all of the lambs quarters......it is so yummy, what if I run out? I have to let it go to seed so I can Have some next year.....Last year I was ripping it out and feeding it to the chickens along with the amaranth and shepards purse and mustard


I wouldn't worry. There are thousands of seeds of lambs quarters in every trowelful of soil. I wondered the same thing, but it always comes back for me.
 
Julia Winter
steward
Posts: 1938
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
166
bee bike chicken food preservation hugelkultur urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm with you on bindweed: it seems to enjoy snaking along under cardboard mulch. It seems to get a lot bigger/thicker in the Pacific Northwest versus the upper Midwest. I pull it and give it to the city composting program, I figure they have bigger hotter compost piles than I do.

However, I haven't found any lambs quarters on our new property! A big disappointment, because I love them, they were my favorite spring green in Wisconsin. I gave up planting spinach because the lambs quarters were so reliable and yummy. I know Paul loves nettle, and I have some (because I bought some "less sting" nettle roots from Oikos Tree Crops) but I like lambs quarters more. I even bought lambsquarters seed from Oikos, and nothing came up when I tried planting this past spring.

? Does anybody know about getting lambs quarters to grow in Portland? Should I try planting now, or wait until it's a little warmer (which would be July, I suppose)?
 
If you are using a rototiller, you are doing it wrong. Even on this tiny ad:
This is an example of the new permies.com Thread Boost feature
https://permies.com/wiki/61482/Thread-Boost-feature
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!