Marina Bistrin is an avid gardener and member of Local Food Connect. Here she discusses what to do with your weeds after they have been put into your green bin.
Many common weeds are edible and great for your health
Dandelion-related species such as Cat’s Ear (Hypochaeris radicata ) and Milk Thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) are edible and are both 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.
Others edible weeds include mallow (used in Jordanian omelettes), chickweed, wild amaranth, purslane (in fattoush salad), nettles, chicory, fat hen and shepherd’s purse (in Chinese dumplings). And for tea: 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 to council waste, where it is mixed with wood chips and makes a weak compost – you will get more nutrition in your compost for your plants (and for yourself if you grow fruit and veg), if you process the waste yourself, plus you won’t get introduced grass seeds, which can often happen. It helps to add clay soil or clay-containing compost to your compost pile – the nutrients in the pile are held onto better. Biochar is also good for this.
Feeding to your animals
If you don’t wish to eat your weeds or compost them, you can give them to chickens. See www.fresheggsdaily.com/2012/02/winter-weeds-101.html.
Some plants are good for animal bedding as they deter pests – strong smelling plants such as wormwood, rue, yarrow and tansy.
Other ways of dealing with your weeds
Some easy methods of dealing with weeds and prunings are:
- Ripping the roots off and composting tops.
- Chopping into small bits.
- 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 compost to kill them.
What makes certain weeds more resilient than others?
- Some grasses, like kikuyu and couch grass, have starchy rhizomes – roots that creep sideways and turn up to form a new plant, spreading over large areas. They can survive for long periods of time without water.
- Some, like ivy, can conserve moisture in tough leathery leaves and have tough stems resistant to damage.
- Some 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 bulbs.
- Some, such as Tradescantia, will grow from short portions of stems and can take root if chopped and dropped.