The Tidy Gardener

The word weed is thought to have derived from the an old Gaelic term "weode". Which translated means 'Healer of the Soil'.

When we first started seed collecting 22 years ago, when I first met Brother Nature (aka Gordon) I was that tidy garden girl. You know the one, I looked at plants dying back and was compelled to chop it all back. I wanted to rake up all the dead debris as I had been trained by society that a garden free of so called unsightly debris was necessary. However, over time I noticed some very distinct differences in a really tidy garden as opposed to a more English style one. The tidy garden, while it looked pretty, upkeep and bad bugs seemed unmanageable at times.

In the less tidy parts, I noticed more birds and bees frequented it and the best part was the plants were healthier over all. Not to mention, less up keep and watering was needed. It still took me well over a year to just let Mother Nature do her thing without interrupting her with my tidy habits. Now however, I even let some non invasive weeds grow in some places to allow bugs a home, and the weeds to draw up nutrients that are otherwise unreachable by shallow root plants. I sometimes let the weeds flower in times of less bloom to encourage our pollinators to stick around and set up shop close to our gardens. If there is food, they will remain.

It doesn't take much to clip off a weed flower before it seeds, or even pull it right out when seed starts to form. Personally, I cut off the weed flowers heads off just before they seed and then use the stems and stalks as mulch around the plant, unless it is a plant like bindweed etc. Those go to a special pile for proper disposal elsewhere, as does the weed flower heads you just clipped. You can put those in a special compost pile, but know that you need extreme heat to kill invasive roots and seeds. I suggest burning them or taking the for proper disposal to your local composting facility where they should have a proper compost pile that is turned regularly and provides enough heat to kill the roots and seeds.

Using the weeding practice above you will discover that the weed stocks and stems turn brown and you will eventually pull and process enough to cover the bare ground, which actually turns into a beautiful mulch for the plants and all the while, saving on watering because the soil is shaded. This also provides a home for both good and bad bugs. (Providing that balance is key to a healthy  garden ecosystem and not nearly as difficult as one thinks.)

I think you'll discover like I did back then, and once you see results, you will find yourself happily searching out weeds to make the mulch. The very best part of this technique is when a few weeds do manage to grow up through your mulch, you will certainly notice how easily they pop out because the soil underneath is damp and much looser due to the dampness, microbial action and the insects that reside there. In the forest Mother Nature does not have a clean up crew for fallen debris. She has used her natural mulch technique for 
millennia and her successes has proven her techniques are worthy of putting into practice in our own gardens.