Weeds Glorious Weeds

I love weeding. I’m sure there are plenty of people that consider it a chore, but not me.

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Firstly, I don’t really mind the weeds in the garden. As a child, I remember admiring the pretty, unwanted plants and telling my Aunt “When I grow up I want a garden full of weeds!”.  She replied, “Well, no one will want to visit your garden then.”  How odd – but it was the 60’s I guess, when azaleas and cannas and dug over beds ruled.  I know the names of most of the ‘weeds’ – chickweed and fat hen and gallant soldier – which I guess makes them seem more friends than foe.  Secondly, I know how useful these weeds are.

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Many are perfectly edible and full of nutrients. Imifino in Zulu. I am a big fan of wild food, so am thinking about supper as I pull up tangy Sheep Sorrel or imagining steamed potatoes served with sharp, feathery Pepper Weed for lunch, is fun.  Weeding is harvesting, but I will save that story for another day.

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Today, I made weed tea.  Weeds grow fast and are pioneers in rehabilitating disturbed ground. Their purpose is to protect and build soil. Many have tap roots which reach into the earth for minerals.  These are called dynamic acumulators – what a wonderful word!  They mine minerals from the subsoil which the plant then uses to grow.  Different plants have different concentrations of mineral elements – for instance borage is rich in potassium while thistles have lots of iron.  Dandelion has lots of calcium. Comfrey and plantains are full of all sorts of minerals.  So it stands to reason that weeds are precious and should not be discarded.  I like to make weed tea, a natural fertilizer to promote growth.

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Stuff an orange sack (or a plastic bag with holes punched in it) full of a variety of weeds and herbs – comfrey, vetches, chickweed, clover, watercress – whatever comes to hand.  Place the tied up bag in a drum of water with a rock on top to keep it submerged. After about 2 weeks, the leaves will have disintegrated and the liquid will be pretty smelly.  Dilute roughly one part of tea to 10 parts of water and give your veggies a nutrient rich boost.  I usually put the leftover stalks into one of my compost pits.

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If you are clever, you can actually make weed teas according to the needs of your plants.  For the growth stage they need a lot of Nitrogen for instance, so choose legumes or seaweed (or make manure tea).  When plants begin to set fruit, more potassium, calcium and phosphorus is required so make a mixture of dandelion, parsley, meadowsweet and vetches.  I sometimes forget which bucket is which though, so suggest you make a mark on the lid.

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If you are not using your weeds for anything in particular, at least leave them lying on the ground where you pulled them up. providing habitats for micro organisms and covering the soil. If you are planning to build a compost heap soon, keep them to include in the green layers of your pile.

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