Confession time here – I have lots of weeds and I mean big industrial size weeds. I have a very large garden and I simply don’t have the staff (who am I kidding – I am the staff!) to manage it effectively. Be careful what you wish for, I wanted a large garden and I got one but the larger the area you have the more room there is for weeds to grow. Team that with the fact that I refuse to use herbicides and the outcome is that I have weeds. Another confession …. I don’t really mind having weeds as I can make use of all of them. Luckily I don’t mind a messy garden either so lots of weeds aren’t going to destroy my soul.
Change the way you look at weeds and managing them changes too. After all, weeds are simply plants growing where you don’t want them to grow. No plant is useless and even weeds have multiple uses for gardeners. View your weeds as a resource and you have something for nothing that you can make use of. We don’t have access to a green waste bin so green matter grown on our land needs to be managed on our land which has led me to find ways to use them.
Sometimes just looking at a weed differently can change the value that plant has to you. Dandelions are weeds to many gardeners but they are also a useful plant. They flower when many other plants are not flowering providing food for bees and other beneficial insects. They are edible and nutritious for humans and animals. The flowers are pretty especially en masse.
Amongst the weeds that I don’t particularly like is Pattersons Curse – touching it irritates the skin and it is known to be an allergen for those with Hay Fever. I pull Pattersons Curse out before it seeds wherever possible.
Cape Weed smothers out all other plants but it is not too difficult to pull out and it also composts well.
Thistles and Bathurst Burr make my don’t like list, they hurt so they go.
Nettles are a plant on many peoples weed list however I like them although they also hurt. Nettles are a sign that your soil is full of nutrients. I had no nettles in my garden until the soil was rich and nutritious. Nettles are edible and high in iron and other nutrients that benefit us. Picking and preparing them may present more difficulty than picking Spinach but once they are cooked the sting disappears. Nettles stay a vivid green when they are cooked. Nettle and Fetta go very well together in fact, any recipe that calls for Spinach is great with Nettles instead. My daughter thinks that it is wrong to have to wear gloves to pick dinner but I think it is worth it. You can always pick them with tongs if you have misplaced your garden gloves.
Nettles also make a fabulous garden fertiliser. Simply pick a bunch of nettles and soak them in water for a number of weeks (warning the mixture will pong!) before diluting it 1 to 8 in water and pouring on the garden. This can be used as a Foliar Feed as well as pouring it straight onto soil.
It would be pretty difficult to compost effectively if you don’t have the green component. If you have chooks you are probably using many if not all your table scraps in your chook food. In this case, weeds become an essential compost ingredient. When I have an excess of weeds I have been known to put them around the base of bushes (not right up against the trunk) which works particularly well if the bush then hides the weeds. The weeds compost away under the bush feeding the soil while also acting as mulch and preventing the growth of more weeds.
When I want to extend a garden bed I often pile weeds from the bed on the end in the direction I want to extend and again the weeds are adding goodness to the existing soil and acting as mulch until I am ready to fully extend the bed.
I have a number of raised beds (just short of 1 metre high) that I call my old age beds as I will not have to bend over to plant or harvest them. There was no way I could afford to buy in enough soil to fill each of the beds so as they were made I would throw in weeds and keep topping them up as they compacted. It was slow but very effective saving me a great deal of money and giving me a very rich and nutritious soil.
After one too many loss of my chooks to foxes, I no longer allow the girls to free-range. They now receive a wheelbarrow full of weeds at least once per week which they enjoy hugely and after they have worked it all over it goes back out on my garden.