Friday, April 27, 2007

Weeds are our friends :)

One of the most powerful moments in my life was being force to remove a balanced weed ecology for an employer who wanted to pave paint and sterilise the area. Even before I had done any study into weeds and their reparitive role I knew innately that weeds were a special and were vital in fixing areas poisoned and degraded by civilisation.

Here is an awesome article "the functioning of weeds in wholesome gardening"

A brief extract

Weeds are plants.

When that had dawned on me, instead of throwing the weeds across the fence for the chooks to eat them after I had pulled them up, I started to look on these ‘weeds’ as FRIENDS who were there to help me restore the soil. I realised I could use the sheafs of pulled up (grass)fibre, when I layed them next to each other, to form one continuous mass of straw, making a matting and so a cover for the soil against the harsh sunshine, or the soil-smashing impact of the rain, now well-known as mulching. To prevent the weeds from sprouting again, all I had to do was to shake off the soil from the roots and expose them to the sun to make sure that they would dry out.
It slowly started to become clear to me that, the more weeds I had, the more matting I would be able to make and so, that the better and the bigger these weeds would grow (and the healthier), the better the land would be off in the long run…………. .

My mental effort to restrain my resentment had paid off. From that time, as I said before, my understanding of plants and soil-biology became one continuous Eureka experience. I had also realized that weeds were also known as ‘colonisers’; plants, like their human counterparts, that prepare the way for others to follow later.

In the case of weeds, the first colonisers are usually grasses, ‘just’ holding the soil together and when left to grow, forming (big) sheafs of fibre. The essential point was not to eradicate them, but to, if possible, as much as possible, encourage their copious and prolific fibre-growing capacity and, at the appropriate time, apply this fibre as protective matting. Once the matting is placed and regular (early-morning) watering is done, microbial soil-activity can really take off and deeper rooting and broader leaved flowering plants (and ‘weeds’) usually follow.
On observation, the matting indeed allowed for a greater diversity of microbial life.

...... Firstly, the matting of weeds made water retention possible at the soil-surface, the surface previously and torturously exposed to the sun; the benefit of mulching. Most readily observable were the developping grey-white fungi in the grass-matting; subsequently small bugs that started to chew up the matting and leave their droppings. What I particularly remember observing, after a few months and seasons of weeding and applying the pulled-up weeds as ground cover, was the sequence of events at the next generations of grasses.
One might initially ‘think’ (panic), that, when the grasses are allowed to grow (and seed), they will take over the whole garden. Not so; not necessarily so.

When the sheafs of grasses, before or after prolific seeding, are continuously pulled up and NOT carted away but immediately used as matting, the matting will eventually so enrich the soil and enhance the diversity of organisms at soil-level to such an extent, that the grass seeds in time become eaten up by the many soil-bugs, -grubs, -insects and whatever else by now is thriving in the shade of the sheafs.

Continued here

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