Practical Permaculture – The Art of Weeds – Reprise

Weeds require nutrients to grow just like any plant, some of them require a massive amount of nutrients to grow as large as they do. When you remove a weed you are removing a capsule containing all of the nutrients that weed has absorbed from the soil. If you remove that biomass from your garden than you are throwing those nutrients out, eventually you will have to restore those nutrients somehow. The problem becomes chronic if the habit persists, requiring constant fertilizer applications to sustain healthy growth. Permaculturists either create, restore or sustain the natural systems at hand, while removal is sometimes necessary, it should be a last resort.

Once a weed has gone to seed there is very little you can do to kill those seeds, this is one of the times where it may be best to carefully remove them from your site. Weeds that have not gone to seed or gotten to big should be left near the garden, I like to leave them in the grass and run them over with a mulching lawnmower till they disappear. Larger weeds can take years to break down if left intact, either shred them or break them up as small as possible and compost them. One of my favorite techniques is to simply bury the weeds in your garden, I like a cleaner garden and don’t like to see piles. I once had to remove an old dead pear tree from a front yard, I dug out the root ball and dropped the tree, then burned the entire thing in the hole it came from. I was lucky to be able to burn on site in this community, most urbanites don’t have that ability.

If you don’t mind the look of the weed mulch in your garden then I would absolutely use them, it wouldn’t hurt anything. If you have a large area of concrete then I would use it to dry them out in the sun first, it only takes a day to dry them out enough to kill the roots. While on the subject if you save grass clippings, they should be dried first before applying them to your garden. Your blueberries thrive in highly acidic soil with a pH between 4 and 5, woodchips would actually be the prefered mulch in order to lower the pH.

Compost barrels bug the hell out of me, rarely do they work as intended I find them irritating and ineffective. Environmental aspects determine the rate at which an organic biomass breaks down into compost, temperature, moisture and air all play a major role. Compost barrels tend to be sealed environments, air holes are incorporated but never in the quantity required. Moisture is required for compost as well, with rain being one of the main factors in the decomposition of a pile, the lid on the compost barrel impedes this. Compost can reach internal temperatures of 160 degrees on its own, the black color of the barrel increases the internal temperature of the compost. Temperatures exceeding 185 degrees can slow the decomposition of your compost and damage bacteria and insects, compost barrels should be placed in full shade.

With that said I prefer piles when it comes to compost, three of them to be more specific. I like to build three bays out of concrete blocks, each bay should have three walls and a removable front. You start by filling the first bay for 6 months to a year, then do the same to the next bin. One compost pile is never enough, you constantly put new stuff in it and in turn it never gets a chance to fully break down. If you have three then you can fill a new one while you wait for the old ones to fully break down into a useable product.

Compost is one of the great yields we as gardeners could be harvesting, but it does require a little space and devotion of time to get it right. I am not saying urban gardeners are left out of the compost world, but consideration should be taken as most compost piles can smell pretty foul during the hot days of summer. Compost that has been fully decomposed will not have a foul smell, it will smell organic and pleasant. An ammonia smell is almost always a sign your compost pile is not ready, flip it, water it, and check on it in a week. Compost piles should be turned at a minimum of once a month, but once a week is preferred.

peace – chriscondello

Three bay compost bin built for the Hamnett Place Community Garden in Wilkinsburg, PA. This one is made out of recycled pallets and was finished with hardware cloth, assembly was simple and the entire project was completed in just one day. I believe they recently harvested the first load of compost from the bins this year

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “Practical Permaculture – The Art of Weeds – Reprise

  1. petrujviljoen says:

    Is that a moth or a fairy in the photo?

    Like

  2. aislingblackburn says:

    Hi Chris,
    any advice about perennial weeds such as bindweed and ground elder. Tried to make beds that were invaded by them. Aisling

    Like

    • C.Condello says:

      Yes but you won’t like either answer… Bindweed requires persistent pulling or digging to start, remove as much of the plant as possible. The vines will most likely start growing again… It is at this point that the plant is relatively weak and can be killed, vinegar has been effective… But I find keeping on top of the new sprouts long enough to essentially eliminate the plants ability to acquire sunlight… The plant will eventually die… As a side note, the seeds of bindweed can stay viable and sprout for twenty years, persistence is key…

      Aegopodium, ground elder or my favorite horny goat weed… is also a tricky one, but much easier than bind weed. Using a pitchfork, fork the hell out of the top 6″ of the entire area infested. After you do this the plants will each pull easily, you will not eliminate all of the plant in the first go… Wait a few days and return to the site… You may have to do this another time or two… But they will go away…

      peace – chriscondello

      Like

      • C.Condello says:

        Keeping = cutting… Sorry

        Like

      • Ah if only I had the energy to keep at it. You are right of course but the idea of doing the permaculture no dig beds was so as I DIDN’T HAVE TO DIG. So throw that one out. To the second idea, also good but as it happens the ground elder is growing among shrubs, bamboo, apple tree roots and everything else. So I have decided to eat it. Thanks anyway πŸ™‚

        Like

  3. water sparingLY, not waste lots πŸ˜‰

    Like

  4. hi chris, you are so knowledgeable!
    my allotment would probably have driven you crazy with untidiness, so this tip is not for everyone πŸ˜‰ however, if you are trying to turn around a huge derelict space, it’s great for making it more manageable. best done in early spring πŸ˜‰
    find white builder’s supply bags, the big 1 metre cube type – they are often left out as rubbish – and cut one open so it is a square with four extended sides. stand another builder’s bag in the middle of the square. put layers of wet cardboard, soil, chopped weeds with no roots, helpful herb weeds like nettles, comfrey leaves and fresh veg waste or grass clippings (ask your friends to all save a bag for you the same week) each a couple of inches deep. if you have hedge clippings and horse manure or old leaves put these at the bottom to warm the pile. fill the bag by repeating the layers until you are near the top. now make a mound of good soil or growbag compost if you are in a hurry, and plant a squash/pumpkin seedling, with a sawn off 2litre soda/pop bottle with the nozzle down to the roots of the seedling, and stick a cane with a fabric tag on the end (this makes it really easy to water sparing – 2litres in the late evening will see the squash grow prize winning size!
    by laying cardboard or carpet as paths between the bags – i used to have half a dozen or more, you create the beginning of next year’s raised bed, you kill the weeds below the bags, you start the paths, you get a crop with very little effort and you have a cubic metre of compost for next year’s bed – the old, matured soil, plus all the pumpkin greenery come first frost.
    it may look messy, but it’s neater than head height weeds, it’s productive and because the fresh greenery and peelings etc went under soil there is NO SMELL.
    by taking people’s hedge and lawn clippings i made lots of friends on the housing estate next to the allotment gardens site, so lots of goodwill too πŸ˜‰

    Like

  5. AnElephantCant think of anything clever to say
    This happens time after time
    But he wants you to know
    That he likes you and so
    He says hello with this silly rhyme

    And you may like this:
    http://anelephantcant.me/2013/02/11/the-tree-musketeers/

    (tried to do this on your About page but no ‘Post’ button?)

    Like

Comments are closed.