THE VALUE OF WEEDS
Read Your Weeds
Weeds are often the most persistent and resilient plants in our gardens. For those two reasons alone they surely deserve some respect. So before we start pulling or poisoning them, it’s worth thinking about what they can teach us.
Natural Farmers study the weeds growing on their farms as they can be a symptom of issues with their soil and/or farming practices. Issues including compacted or disturbed soil, PH, nutrients, and moisture levels will all favour certain species of weeds. For example, poorly drained soils may encourage Chickweed and Clover whereas drier soils may favour Yarrow and Thistles. Stinging Nettles prefer acidic soils and Chickweed prefers alkaline. The good or bad news, depending on your perspective, is that Dandelions seem to thrive in most soils.
The Primary Industry Departments of most Australian state and territory governments have webpages with advice on identifying common local weeds and in particular declared noxious weeds. Once you know what weeds you have you can then research what they may indicate about your soil and take steps to address the underlying problem.
THE VALUE OF WEEDS
Making Use of Weeds
Often a simple change of mindset can transform a problem into a solution. Weeds are resilient plants with many useful nutrients and sometimes even herbal properties. Why not begin to view them as a crop? Edible Weeds can be consumed and some like Purslane and Dandelion are quite delicious in salads. Alternatively they can be fed to any backyard chickens or herbivorous family pets.
Weeds can also be transformed into valuable fertilisers. This photograph shows three options to process weeds into useful gardening inputs. The Weed Tea on the left is an excellent liquid fertiliser. In the middle, fresh weed leaves have been liquefied to provide an added boost to both Western and Asian style Microbial Teas. On the right, edible weeds have been fermented into Luscious Leaf Fertiliser. Recipes for all three weed based solutions can be found on the Fertiliser and Nutrients and Micro-Organism pages of this website.
Weeds can also be composted, but hot composting is recommended in order to kill any viable seeds.
Finally, don’t forget that the weeds in your garden can provide valuable food and habitat for beneficial species. Keeping an area of your garden unkempt can be a wise decision.