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Making Use of Weeds the Lazy Way

Sep 21, 2010

Making use of what you have... and everyone has weeds!

If you go for a walk through the bush or a forest or any natural area at all, the ground is littered with dead grass, leaves, sticks and even branches and fallen trees and all the plants live there quite happily, making their own compost and soil and mulch, without any human help. What the plants took from the soil to grow, is returned to the soil when they die and it rots away, ready for other plants to use. The mulch that forms over the soil is a nice light cover for germinating seeds or emerging bulbs and protects them from the sharp eyes of animals, birds and insects and stops them drying out in the heat.

This is what I do in my garden.... copy nature and what happens is that the soil becomes rich and full of humus and worms and all good things. In large garden beds the weeds often get away from me but I never worry because I see them as the compost and mulch of the future. When I am ready, I simply pull them up and lay them on the surface, between the shrubs and trees etc.

I do not add anything to this soil, ever. Many thousands of generations of worms live and die here, transforming debris into soil and billions of micro-organisms do what they do too. Most of what can be seen on the surface is long grass and weeds, pulled out of the soil and laid on top. Soon it loses its green colour and resembles forest litter, a much better appearance than bare soil, I think, and mimics nature too.

If the prunings are rather too thick and ugly, they go through the mulcher first but usually, because I am a very lazy gardener, I just chop it up with my spade, where it lands or walk over it a bit to break it up and flatten it out. Usually I don't walk on the garden but this area is big and can't be reached from the edges and once I have covered the ground like this, it softens the foot-fall and reduces the impact on the soil.

Making use of weeds in the vegetable garden

Basically I am a lazy gardener.... or I could say I am an efficient gardener.... I believe in doing as little unnecessary work as possible. That way I have more time to do the things that I want to do in the garden and the kitchen. If I was very artistic and clever I could draw up a lovely sketch of my garden to illustrate what I want to say but sadly I am neither..... so you will have to just have my words instead.

My main vegetable garden is a series of concentric, half-circle beds, each separated by a narrow sawdust path. Each bed is therefore a long curve, about 1 metre wide. I don't have rigid edges but rather I try to maintain fairly steep slopes between the beds and the paths. Sometimes the beds are higher than the paths and sometimes they are lower and here is why....

At the end of summer, the paths are lower than the beds.... you will see why if you read on.

In autumn, I start removing the summer crops as they finish and some of this goes to the chooks and the coarse stuff goes to a pile to be mulched up, but some is thrown onto the paths.... things that the chooks don't like..... Then, as the weather cools down and we get some rain, the weeds begin to grow rapidly and I pull them out and throw them on the paths too.

Eventually it is time to pull out the cucumber vines, bean creepers, capsicums tomatoes etc and although these are often too coarse for the paths, they were surrounded by straw and now all that straw goes onto the paths too because I like to open the soil in the beds to the elements, over winter.

By winter the paths are pretty well piled up to the top of the garden bed height but I keep treading them down as I walk and because the straw is on top, it looks pretty tidy. During winter there is a fair bit of rain and also sun and lots of worms and insects are busy decomposing all the paths. As I weed during winter I sometimes just tuck the weeds under the straw on the paths, because the chooks have plenty of grass in their run by now.

By mid-spring or so I am wanting some compost to dig into the top of the beds to plant the summer vegetables and guess what?? I don't need to bring it in with a wheelbarrow because it is there, on the paths..... beautiful, rich and conveniently placed under a little straw. So I scrape away the remains of the straw and dig out the paths, putting the compost onto the beds. At this stage I remake the sloping edges of the beds to keep them nice too.

So, by early to mid-summer the paths are low again as all the compost has been used up. Then, I get more bales of straw and lay them onto the beds..... and next autumn they will be removed to the paths and so the process goes on.

Also, any bark from gum trees and heaps of coarse, dry things are put through the mulcher any time of the year and this is also put on the paths to make them nice to walk on and this all rots down too and is shovelled up onto the beds eventually.

Sometimes.... just sometimes, it pays to be lazy.....


Hi Kate, that sounds like a perfect system you have there. I like the idea of using your paths to compost everything. We have to sometimes just move a few things aside so that we can live alongside the wonderful processes that are happening all along in front of our very eyes.
When the grass gets knee to waist high, I have my 16 yr. son cut it, then we mulch the blueberries & raspberries with it. Some of it goes into the veggies also.
Using the path for mulching would also save space for those who have small gardens. Excellent Idea. It good to be lazy your way.
Stinging Nettle a perennial native to Europe and the United States has been used traditionally as a diuretic, astringent, blood builder and in treating anemia in the world because of its high iron content. It has been used in the form of dried leaves or juice extracted from the leaves.In addition the powdered leaves fresh leaf juice have been applied to cuts to stop bleeding, drank as a tea to reduce menstrual bleeding and in treating nosebleeds and hemorroids.Recently studies have found that the leaf tea aids in coagulation and formation of hemoglobin in red blood cells. Stinging nettle diuretic activities has shown increased excretion of chlorides and urea in animals. The high potassium content and flavonoids may be what contributes to its diuretic action. In Europe it is used to help in the treatment of kidney infections.New research studies have found that this herb helps in relief of urinary difficulties associated with early stages of benign prostate hyperplasia(BPH). It does not effect or decrease the enlargement of the prostate but increases the urinary output and decreases the urge at night.Cautions: Fresh nettle leaves sting as we all probably know and the sting lasts up to about an hour after coming in contact with the skin. What makes the nettle sting are the compounds in the nettle such as histamine, 5-hydroxytryptamine, acetylcholine and small amounts of formic acid and leukotrienes. All of this together gives that awful sting we feel when touched. There are no side effects known to the medical field if touched.The dried leaf is used as a tea, capsule, or tablet. There are tinctures available as well. This herb is found on the market recently combined with saw palmetto. A daily recommended dosage of 1-2 tablespoons of the dried herb is used for supporting in the treatment of inflamation of the urinary tract. Preparation of the root dosage is about 1 tablespoon in tea 2-3 times daily.Always consult a physician before using any kind of herb as a treatment.
It transports me back to discovering Gerard's Herbal! As for cosmetic uses of nettles, I discovered in a really old English horse care book that nettles were fed to fine horses along with their hay to make their coats glossy. I like the idea of systemic cosmetics! And from a more contemporary source, garlic is fed to trotting horses to help them avoid developing stress blood clots in their legs.
Excellent Kate, A kindred spirit, although I have compost piles for leaves and large plants removed from the vegetable garden. All my grass clippings, weeds and leaf litter etc. are deposited in the paths and around the vegetables. A couple years ago I started pruning back my Mulberry trees after they finish fruiting, but before depositing the branches into a brush pile I use my mower to strip off and shredd all the leaves, they go into the garden . We have three chickens (my ladies) in a chicken run 5 x 20 feet. Every 4-5 weeks I replace the straw mulch in the run and the old fertilized, shredded straw goes into the garden paths. When I started gardening a portuguese immigrant friend taught me to do this and he used to say, "it's blood to the soil."
Everett That saying will stay with me for the rest of my life.

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