Rather than fixating on eliminating weeds from your garden altogether, why not look at the ways that a controlled use of weeds can benefit your garden!

The following list is put together with information from the following books: "Weeds: Guardians of Our Soil" and "Soul of the Soil"

1. Bring minerals, especially those that have been depleted, up from the subsoil to the topsoil and make them available to crops.

2. When used in crop rotation they break up hardpans and allow subsequent crop roots to feed deeply.

3. Fiberise and condition the soil to provide a good environment for the minute but important animal and plant life that make any soil productive (i.e. bacteria, fungus, nematode, protazoa, earthworms).

4. They can be good indicators of soil condition, both as to variety of weed present and to condition of the individual plant. Certain weeds appear when certain deficiencies occur:

-Convolvulus (bindweed) indicates a hardpan, or a crusty surface
-Chickweed- indicates tilled or cultivated soil with high fertility, but if stunted and small it indicates low fertility
-Dandelion indicates heavy clay soil that’s been tilled or cultivated, acid or low lime soil especially
-Dock, indicates waterlogged or poorly drained soil, acid or low lime
-Lambs Quarters- High humus, fertile unless stunted or pale
-Mustards- hardpan
-Nettle- tilled or cultivated, often acidic or low lime
-California thistle- indicates heavy clay soil
-Shepherds purse- saline soil
-Mallow- cultivated soil
-Groundsel-cultivated soil
-Fat Hen- cultivated
-yarrow- low potassium indicator

5. Retain moisture. Deep divers create pathways in the soil for capillary action. As ground cover they reduce evaporation. Keep ground moist and enable the less hardy, surface feeding crops to withstand drought better than the crop could alone.

6. As companion crops – planted alongside your crops – they enable other plants to get their roots to otherwise inaccessible food.

7. As direct compost. Weeds store up minerals and nutrients that would be washed, blown or leached away from bare ground and keep them readily available. Also encourage balance of micro-organisms which are main storage facility for soil nutrients.

8. Weeds make good eating, for humans and for livestock. Many of the common weeds are good for eating (and when medicinal uses are considered, MOST weeds are valuable for consumption).

9. Weeds can be used as a living mulch. Protect soil from erosion, wind and heavy rain.

10. Defer pests from your crops as fodder and habitat for predators.

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Comment by Sheri on November 28, 2010 at 7:15pm
I understand what you mean about the food creator being scary but I can see where it could do major good in the medical field dealing with patients in a hospital and nursing home situation with very sensitive diets, especially diabetics. Also, people who have gone through surgery with very special diets dealing with recovery needs to certain organs.
I can also see taking something like this into underdeveloped countries, countries suffering from famine or countries suffering from catastrophic events and using a device like this to meet nutritional needs quickly to save human life. I love to have my hands in the dirt and I personally prefer to get my substance from nature but nature does not always play nice. I do not always agree with science, but the human brains involved in science never stop amazing me.
Comment by Dirt Doctor Jacob&Hana on November 27, 2010 at 1:29pm
Thanks Sheri. Wow, the "food creator" seems a little scary and so far removed from nature, the ultimate food designer. However, the indoor farm system is interesting, especially for folks who have no access to land.

Somehow never saw your comment below before with the medicinal uses of weeds, thanks for that!
Comment by Sheri on November 27, 2010 at 7:05am
Philips Design recently completed a design probe looking at the future of food. The project investigated how we might eat and source our food 15-20 years from now. The research led the designers to create three projects which solidified their ideas. Watch the video, it's very interesting!

Comment by Dirt Doctor Jacob&Hana on November 25, 2010 at 2:49pm
Thanks Meredith, try http://weeds.massey.ac.nz
Comment by Sheri on September 16, 2010 at 12:51am
Here's a bit of info I found to pass on.

OUR WEEDS, TREES AND THEIR USES, commonly reported *notes Chinese Five Element Theory of Medicine

Burdock: Infused tea of roots and seeds. *Bitter, sweet, cool specific to lungs, liver. Alterative, diuretic, diaphoretic, blood purifier, leaves and seeds strong surface purifier and used to treat skin disorders. Volatile oil is diaphoretic.

Chickweed: Infused tea of leaves, sweet, cool energy anti-inflammatory, demulcent, emollient, alterative, vulnerary. Internally treats blood toxicity, nutritive, good as salad. Used externally in salves for skin inflammations.

Plaintain: Infused tea of leaves, or oil for salve. *Bitter, cool, gall bladder (with liver). Has mucilage, tannins, flavonoids, diuretic, alterative, anti inflammatory, astringent. External as poultice or salve for stings, bites.

Nettles: Infused tea of leaves, or added dry to soap. *Bitter, cool, lungs. Has chlorophyll, vitamins C,A, silicon, diuretic, astringent, tonic, nutritive Internal: A lung and kidney deep immune system tonic. External: stimulates hair growth, restores skin, good for hot skin conditions, itchy, drying.

Violet: Infused tea of leaves and flowers.*Cool, sweet, lungs, liver , demulcent, alterative, antiseptic, vulnerary. Internal: good for upper respiratory, coughs, hard lumps, moistens skin cells. External: softens lumps and tumors, cools and soothes dry skin.

Yarrow: *Flowers added to soaps. *Cooling, astringent. Diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory.

Yellow Dock: *Decocted tea of roots. *Bitter, cool for liver, alterative, blood tonic, laxative, specific for chronic skin diseases. Similar properties as ho shou wu (foti). Cooling soothing.

Sassafras: *EO from root, bark also tea. *Spicy, warm, lungs, alterative, diasphoretic, anti-rheumatic, alterative. �Specific for skin diseases, acne, skin eruptions.

Horsetail: *Infused tea of leaves. *Bitter, neutral, kidney, astringent, diuretic, vulnerary. High in silica for hair. Must come from clean soil, as it may accumulate heavy metals and pollutants.

Elder: Infused tea from flowers or in oil. *Bitter, cool, lungs, liver, diaphoretic, alterative, stimulant, mucilagant. External in salves for burns, rashes. Clears the skin.

Cranesbill (wild geranium): Root infuse in water. *Bitter, neutral, liver, astringent, vulnerary. External use promotes healing of burns and cuts, stops bleeding.

Herbal Actions Specific to the Skin (As commonly reported)

Adaptogen: Works as a tonic, has a normalizing effect, brings extremes back to normal. Examples are goat milk for the skin, all bitters for the liver, oats for nervous system.

Alterative: Deep immune system tonic, a blood purifier, eliminates waste products, helps skin eruptions. Taken internally as tea: burdock, nettles, red clover, Echinacea. Surface immune system: includes comfrey, elder, plantain, aloe vera, marshmallow, nettles, burdock, Echinacea, red clover.

Antibiotics: Help fight infections. Surface immune system Includes most essential oils.

Astringent: Tones dull or oily skin. Witch hazel, rosemary, horsetail, lemon, blueberry, tomato.

Demulcent: Soothes and moistens from the inside and outside.
Internal: violet, chickweed, comfrey, licorice, burdock, aloe Vera.
External: Violet, chickweed, comfrey, marshmallow, slippery elm, Irish moss, aloe Vera.

Diaphoretic: Induces sweating, remove toxins from skin, warming, stimulating. Internal and external: cayenne, cinnamon, ginger, elder flowers, yarrow, hyssop, peppermint.

Emoillient: Softening, soothing and protective. Includes oils such as almond, wheat germ, sesame, olive, flax. Herbs include marshmallow, comfrey root, slippery elm, chickweed.

Nervine: Calms tension and nourishes the nervous system. Good for both deep and surface immune systems. Oats, wild lettuce, St. John�s wort, clary sage, lavender, chamomile.

Rubefacient: increases blood flow at skin surface, draws inflammation and congestion from deeper areas. Good for arthritis, joint problems, sprains. External: mustard seed oil, cayenne, black pepper, pine oil, thyme oil, eucalyptus, cinnamon.

Sedatives: Strongly quiets nervous system, includes anti-spasmodics and nervines. Commonly used internally as teas or tincture. Valerian, hops, chamomile, passion flower, catnip, skullcap. External: chamomile.

Stimulants: Increases the energy of the body, drives circulation, breaks up lymphatic obstruction, warms the body. Anise, cayenne, cinnamon, Echinacea, sarsaparilla, dandelion, ginger, yarrow, rosemary, juniper, sage.

Tonics: Improves the deep immune system. Commonly taken internally as a tea to heal skin from inside out: nettles, burdock, red clover, dandelion.

Vulneraries: Encourages healing of wounds by promoting cell growth and repair. Internal and external: aloe, comfrey, calendula, rosemary, marshmallow.
Comment by Bruce Fraser on September 7, 2010 at 10:06pm
Hi Jacob. Thanks for replying so quickly on this interesting topic. In my reading about permaculture I learnt about sheet mulching and have used that on parts of my garden and have observed a very healthy load of worms and other organisms thriving under the newspaper when I take a sneak look. Is this another alternative to ripping out weeds and disrupting that root zone?
Comment by Dirt Doctor Jacob&Hana on September 7, 2010 at 5:19pm
Hi Bruce, the microorganisms that are essential to plant health and nutrient cycling exist mainly in the rhizosphere (the root zone) of both crops and weeds. In spaces between your crops, weeds provide habitat for the essential soil food web so the habit of ripping weeds out by their roots is depriving your soil. As you can see, the list of 10 has a scientific basis in biology, chemistry and physics! The soil's structure, nutrient make up and organism content all benefit from the presence of most "weeds."
Comment by Bruce Fraser on September 6, 2010 at 9:48pm
Thanks - now you're really challenging my ingrained beliefs!! Images of neat rows of weed-free vegetables adorn countless gardening books and, while I'm not that fussed about neatness, I want to be able to see the veges that I'm growing. What is the scientific basis for the list of 10?
Comment by Dirt Doctor Jacob&Hana on September 6, 2010 at 9:03pm
Ooooh thanks Sheri, good to know! Would love to know more about which weeds are good to eat and which are good for you. And Bruce, yep, that's a myth. If anything, weeds risk shading out certain crop but there are ways to deal with that so that it works the other way around.
Comment by Sheri on September 6, 2010 at 6:22am

Purslane has six times more vitamin E than spinach, seven times more beta-carotene than carrots, and is rich is vitamin C, glutathione, riboflavin, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, omega-3 fatty acids, and tryptophan. Yet, most people if they know purslane at all—know it only as a bothersome weed. It has a mild, sweet-sour flavor and a chewy texture. Its reddish stem, nearly as thick as a computer cable, creeps along the ground, rarely getting taller than a pint of milk. The stalkless leaves are paddle shaped, about as long as a small paper clip.


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