Friday, 19 June 2015

Weeds – cultivating a different perspective

I've been thinking about weeds a great deal recently as I’ve been wielding my garden fork in the Cotswolds or running my fingers deep into my Warwickshire-garden raised beds to wrestle an errant root. I have a tendency towards deep despair whenever I return to my herb beds and see them covered in creeping buttercup once again and notice how high the hogweed and docks have grown in just a few weeks. Then there is the guilt when I remove plants growing amongst other plants which I know are useful but I don't have the time or inclination to do anything with at that point in time.

If left alone, ground will return to forest. We've seen trees self- seeding and growing in our fields when they were rented out and set aside for several years. My beds are always screaming “I’m a field, not a pampered garden” if I leave them alone for a month or more.

Becoming an emotional wreck over weeding is not terribly helpful, so I feel it's more productive to learn how to identify your "so-called weeds" as you come across them and ask yourself the following questions.

Can they go on the compost or should they be recycled in a green bin system? E.g. dock seeds and bindweed roots and bits of trees if you don't have a shredder.

Are they poisonous? E.g. buttercups are poisonous i.e can't be eaten by humans or made into anything medicinal but compost well

Can you use them for something? E.g. willowherb is good for prostate, dandelions have numerous uses, docks can be used as tonics and for other things if they have a golden root, chickweed can be eaten raw and is high in Vitamin C, nettles can be eaten when young etc. etc.

Can you make anything from them? E.g. dandelion syrup, dandelion flower salve, chickweed oil for itching)

Can you replant seedlings elsewhere or grow them for sale/barter/gifting? In my garden borage, marjoram, evening primrose, tree spinach, milk thistle, lemon balm, and other herbs self- seed everywhere and I’m constantly wondering if I should be relocating rather than composting

Obviously I only know my own weeds;  some I loathe (hogweed) and some I love and feel guilty removing.  I don't know the relationship you have with your local weeds. You can just hoe them from the plants you are trying to grow and never think about them but I find it helpful to ask one last question

What can your weeds teach you about your garden and yourself?


KathyB. said...

Boy you hit the nail on the head ! When I am away from my herb garden for only a few days I see the forest just the other side of the garden fence begins to move in and take over. I know should we move away or somehow become unable to tend this garden the forest would completely take over and within a few short years no one would ever know there was a well loved and tended herb garden here.

Aimee said...

The weeds that grow on your land can teach you a fair amount about what kind of soil you have and the history of your bit of the earth. I am in no way an expert but I know that formerly compacted land (around here, Pacific Northwest Washington) will sprout with, first, dandelions, chamomile and plantain, then weeds with longer taproots like dock and hemlock... finally clover along with the grass. A pasture expert told me that having more than 30% clover means your land is healing from something. Weeds can also tell you about the alkaline or acid nature of your soil, and svn the concentrations of various minerals. It's a fascinating topic.

selina said...

i purposely leave my weeds to grow as most of them the chooks can eat, i mostly have dandelions & purslane (pigweed?) wild marrow , some chick weed & a few others that i don't know the name of. i also leave them there to protect any plant seedlings that come up & then clear them away once it's standing strong.
the weather was weird this year, with the warmer climate staying around halfway through june so everything that grows in winter has been very slow to start. but the weeds have been loving it.
great post
thanx for sharing