Marina Bistrin is an avid gardener. Here she discusses what to do with your weeds – you can eat them, or use them to improve your soil, so they don’t get taken away in your green bin. It’s better to hold onto this nutrition for your own use to eat or to feed your plants or animals.
Many common weeds are edible and great for your health as edibles, medicines/tonics and companion plants
Dandelion-related species such as cat’s ear (Hypochaeris radicata) and milk thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) are both edible and common in Melbourne. Milk thistle is made by some Greek and Italian people into a cooked salad dressed with lemon juice and olive oil and garlic if wished, served cold. New Zealanders call it puha and it’s a traditional food.
Others edible weeds include common mallow (Malva species, used in Jordanian omelettes), chickweed, wild amaranth, purslane (in fattoush salad), nettles, chicory, fat hen and shepherd’s purse (in Chinese dumplings). And for tonic teas: cleavers, nettles and Plantago lanceolata.
Most common weeds are also easy to compost
I encourage you to hold onto the bounty of your land rather than let it go in your green bin to a composting facility. You will get more nutrition in your compost for your garden and for yourself if you grow your own food.
Feeding to your animals
If you don’t wish to eat your weeds or compost them, you can give them to chickens or other animals.
Ways of stopping your weeds from re-growing in your compost
Easy methods of dealing with weeds and prunings include:
- Pull your weeds out before they set seed.
- Ripping the roots off the weed and composting the roots and tops.
- Drowning the roots (if rhizomatous) or bulbs.
- Chopping into small bits.
- Drowning a whole plant or parts of plants in a covered bucket for a month or two.
- Steaming in a plastic bag in the sun.
- Drying out in the sun.
- Squashing /mashing with a rock (fun for kids to do).
- Reducing them to mush in a blender – feed your worms with this smoothie.
- Making a superhot large (1 cubic metre or more) compost to kill them.
What makes certain weeds more resilient than others?
- Some grasses, like kikuyu and couch grass, have starchy rhizomatous roots that spread underground over large areas. They can survive for long periods of time without water and small pieces left in the ground will re-grow.
- Some, such as Tradescantia, will grow from short portions of stems and can take root if chopped and dropped.
- Some, like ivy or mirror plant, can conserve moisture in tough leathery leaves and have tough stems resistant to damage.
- Many spread by seed.
- Some have deep tap-roots that have starch storage in them and small pieces of root can re-grow.
- Some, like Oxalis, have numerous small bulbs.
I hope that these ideas inspire you to use your weeds and that you come to see them as a blessing and a bounty.