In crop gardens, we sometimes get into a spatial race with weeds, and the solution is to replace the weeds with “designed weeds” to take up the space. This can be done with green manure mulches to fertilize the gardens and supply quality mulch. This is an example of how understanding the inner workings of weeds allows us to harmonize with natural systems to both repair the earth and create production for ourselves.
It’s important to understand that the term “weed” is applied to any plant that isn’t wanted in a particular area. While we now call dandelions weeds, they once were sought-after greens. Banana trees are so prone to take root in the tropics that someone might consider them a weed, removing them from the yard, though they are the best-selling fruit in the world. The point is that just because we call a plant a weed doesn’t mean it lacks value. “Weeds” can be useful, or they can be prevented. Often, it’s us, as cultivators, who make and foster these choices or pick our small battles.
Mulch – The best way to have a weed-free garden is to prevent them in the first place, and organic mulch is probably the best way to go about that. Thickly (about 5-10 cm) mulch gardens with straw or leaves to effectively suppress weeds, and those weeds that do make it through are much more easily pulled. Not only will mulching help with weeds, but it’ll reduce the need to water, support soil life, and prevent erosion. Ultimately, the mulch will break down and continually replenish and improve the soil.
Lunch – Some weeds occur in such abundance that they seem unstoppably present, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a horrible thing. Many weeds are edible and quite nutritious. If we can change our mindset and use them as food, not only will we be pleased with the bonus harvest, but we’ll also be controlling the weeds each time we harvest them. That’s food with no effort, time, or money spent on cultivation.
Fill Niches – When weeds do occur, it’s a reaction to the situation in the garden. Compacted soil breeds taproots, eroding soil hairnet roots. It could be a missing mineral, an overabundance of moisture, or various other things. We can use the weeds that grow to assess what the situation is. Then, we can replace those weeds with desirable plants that thrive in the same conditions. In this case, we are filling the niche with what we want rather than leaving it to chance. Moreover, if we fill the garden with plants, leaving no room for weeds, then weeds won’t be such an issue.
Don’t Till – Conventionally, modern-day farmers till the soil. They do this to loosen it up after having spent last season compacting it with machinery and footsteps. They do it to kill the weeds. The problem is that turning the soil also exposes new seeds and makes them ripe for growth. Disturbed soil encourages weed growth because nature is trying to reestablish itself. Instead, we should avoid stepping in our beds, mulch them, and stop tilling. Then, those weed seeds will never see the light of day!
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