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 Bruce Fraser on September 1, 2010 at 9:58pm
Enjoyed reading the list of 10. I always thought that the weeds would be competing for nutrients with the vegetables that I was growing but is this saying otherwise?
Comment by Hester on August 31, 2010 at 4:45pm
So pleased to read some positive uses for convolvulus. I have noticed it doesn't grow as fast on the well- cultivated ground.
Comment by Isabell Strange on August 31, 2010 at 3:08pm
Sheep love convolvulus too and will paw at the ground to get at the roots, good for an empty section but they would be indiscriminate weeders in the garden. I put my weeded out convolvulus in with my buckets of couch tea.
Comment by Dirt Doctor Jacob&Hana on August 31, 2010 at 12:15pm
Just for the record, we've had very good results putting wandering willie, convulvulus and oxalis in our thermal Dirt Doctor compost heaps! Best to fully dry these in the sun before putting them in the centre of the heap where it's the hottest. (Or you can burn first and put the ash in the compost). I know a lot of people tend to gasp in disbelief about the idea of putting these in compost but if it gets to a high enough heat - 65-70 degrees - then it'll kill the seeds. Convulvulus is also a great source for trace elements and nitrogen in your compost.
Comment by Kali on August 31, 2010 at 11:03am
Megan i was reading on ooooby somewhere that you can put things like dock, dandelion, nettles roots and all in the brew, just weight them down so they rot and strain before you use it, also might start putting troublesome things like wandering jew and oxalis in there which are such a pest and can't be composted. might as well get some benefit from them.
I had a recipe for homemade slug bait which contained couch, I'll see if I can find it
Comment by Sealander on August 30, 2010 at 12:59pm
Still not convinced that I should love my convolvulus ;)
Spend my weekends cursing the stuff more likely.
I think couch grass was introduced here in Canterbury as a drought resistant pasture grass, and it would probably do quite well for that purpose. Apparently sheep love the underground bits too.
Comment by Megan on August 30, 2010 at 8:59am
thanks Jacob & Hana for a positive perspective on "weeds". Tim, your comment prompted me to google couch and this article is rather interesting http://www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_couch_grass.htm couch does have a purpose after all! Kali, which weeds go into your fertiliser brew and how long do you leave them before using the liquid?
Comment by Hester on August 29, 2010 at 9:08am
Great article. Good to be relaxed about 'weeds'. Funny how modern farmers and gardeners have wanted to eliminate them when they are so beneficial. i think there are a lot of myths about weeds being bad for a garden. Thanks for sharing this.
Comment by Dirt Doctor Jacob&Hana on August 24, 2010 at 4:13pm
nice work Kali, and smoothies, yum!
good question Tim. There is a book, "World Weeds: Natural Histories and Distributions" by Hole et al, it's hard to find. Couch is listed in it as the second most valuable weed in the world (after sedge). Interestingly enough this is because it exists in basically every tropical and subtropical country in the world (so the logic is, it must exist for a reason!). In parts of Africa it's presence is being maximised as an alternate host for plant diseases (as a sacrifice crop), as a cover crop to control soil erosion from wind and water, for soil stabilisation and aeration, and for livestock feed! (if you can't beat em join em). As you probably know, couch loves being moved, in fact thrives on being moved, and easily survives shallow hoeing, but it also doesn't do well in the shade. If you want to control it be sure to till deep (double ploughing) and plant crops (like legumes) that'll shade it out.
Comment by Tim Ryan on August 18, 2010 at 5:11pm
Cooch is the one that always stumps me. why does cooch love ripping through soil, what purpose does it serve? i have been trying to figure it out...other weeds make sense, cooch just invades everywhere.


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