Weeds

The allotment is having to take care of itself for a while, as I’m concentrating on finishing my dissertation. It’s going down nature’s preferred route for taking care of unused soil, and covering itself in weeds. Come September I’m going to have my work cut out getting them under control….

Some people enjoy weeding in a zen-like fashion, and it’s true that when you’ve filled a bucket or two of weeds then at the very least you can see that you’ve achieved something. But there are plenty of people who find weeding dull, and knowing that the weeds will just come back makes it feel like an endless and pointless chore.

It’s a more worthwhile experience when you’re weeding out plants that you can eat. (I’ve already talked about brambles and nettles.) But if your weeds are inedible, past their best or a bit too dirty to chow down on, then how about making them into plant feed, using it on your veg patch and eating them more indirectly?

I’ve blogged before about using comfrey for fertilizer, which gives you a potassium-rich liquid feed for fruiting vegetables. You can also use nettles to make a nitrogen-rich feed for leafy veg. Those two are well-known options, but in actual fact you can use any plant material to make a liquid feed, although the nutrients in it will vary depending on what you put in.

When we put plant material on the compost, we’re recycling its nutrients. But composting perennial weeds, or seeding weeds, is a risky business as you may just spread your weed problems around the garden with the compost next year. The key is to make sure they’re dead before you use them, and a great way to do that is to drown them in a bucket of water. After a couple of weeks the weeds will be dead (you’ll be able to tell, because they’ll be stinky…) and can be safely put on the compost to finish rotting down, and you’ll have a nutritious liquid feed to nurture your living plants. (And now that I’ve written that, I’m having flashbacks to The Matrix.)

If you’re on an allotment and you have a lot of weeds and a spare water butt, then you can do this on a grand scale; in a garden you’re going to need a lidded bucket to avoid offending the neighbours with the pong. I love the Organic Plant Food Maker from Burgon & Ball, which is a stylish stainless steel bucket with an infuser that makes it easy to fish out the drowned weeds at the end and put them on the compost. The lid clips on, so you can’t accidentally kick the bucket over and flood the patio with foul-smelling goop, which is a big bonus.

How do you deal with your nasty weeds? Drown them, seal them in plastic bags, or send them off for municipal composting?

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