For years I treated my garden like a treasure chest. I would bury the seeds in the spring and then return several weeks later in a state of great excitement eager to check my bounty. By this time it was a good thing I had a treasure map ? aka garden plan ? or I wouldn?t have had a clue where to even begin my search for the potatoes and peas in the knee deep nettles and stink weed. As for the little wisps of baby carrots, well, the poor dears never stood a chance.
I would look at the pristine patches of more experienced gardeners with envy and irritation. How did they manage it? Why didn?t their gardens come with weeds? What was wrong with my soil? It wasn?t fair! I would watch them hoeing away at their weed free dirt like robotic idiots. Why were they always hoeing when they never had any weeds? Poor bored simple souls.
Waiting until there are enough weeds to make it worth your while is not a good idea. Weeds compete with vegetables for valuable moisture, nutrients and sunlight and are quick to make seed if given half a chance. One thistle can easily produce ten thousand seeds. Each tiny green weed that you hoe today saves hundreds of thousands of potential weed seeds that will rise up to be hoed tomorrow. That said, weeds can be informative and beneficial. Geologists use weeds as indicators of soil conditions and so can gardeners.
Dandelions tell you that the surface soil has become acidic and may need a dusting of lime. Dandelions also loosen soil helping vegetable roots go deeper and repel armyworms. Picked in early spring they make an excellent nutrient rich salad green and the roots are a healthy replacement for coffee.
Dock, Horsetail, Foxtail and Goldenrodv are all indicators that the soil is prone to wet conditions at some time of the year. During rainy periods this is self evident but if you?re landscaping an unfamiliar area during a dry spell these weeds and native flowers serve as markers that moisture loving plants will thrive in these spots.
Chicory or Bindweed means you have compacted soil. Sweet clover thrives in compacted conditions and conversely breaks up the soil as it grows making an ideal cover crop for these trouble spots. Quack Grass thrives in the same soil conditions as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. However you will soon learn to hate quack grass almost as much as your kids hate broccoli. Stinging Nettle and Sorrel thrive in acidic soils. Garden plants that share this love for acidic conditions include hydrangeas, blueberries, endive, rhubarb, potatoes and shallots. Stinkweed and Nodding Thistle grows best in alkaline soil. So does asparagus, broccoli, beets, muskmelons, lettuce, onions and spinach Daisies, Wild Carrot, Wild Parsnip, Common Mullein all grow in poor soil. Beets, carrots, parsnips, peas, beans, legumes, radishes, sage and thyme will all tolerate poor soil as well. However, to improve yields try adding compost or well rotted manure. Chickweed and Lamb?s Quarter indicates rich fertile soil and also makes lovely salad greens. Redroot Pigweed indicates an abundance of nitrogen and Red Clover indicates an excess of potassium. Corn, melons, squash, tomatoes and peppers are all heavy feeds and will thrive wherever these weeds are found.
Weeds can help you read your landscape just like a treasure map, provide you with salad greens and even help improve your soil. However, left unchecked they will choke the living daylights out of your baby carrots. Garden hoe!