Gardening in the Weeds

Weeds choke out the roots of your cultivated plants. Right? But is there a place for weeds in your garden? I guess it depends on what you call weeds.

I’ve planted things in my garden that have taken over. Lemon Balm? I have enough for everyone in town. Chickens like the fresh leaves, and it makes a good tea. It makes the house smell good, too. Strawberries escaped from a raised bed a few years ago and took over a twenty-foot stretch. In years with a wet spring, there are enough strawberries to freeze a few. In dry years, like this one, the turtles get more of them than I do.

I planted hyssop for the bees, one plant. I now have a hyssop bed. But I also have bees and butterflies, and this is what has prompted me to find a way to live with the easy spreaders. This year, the spreader is swamp milkweed from seeds I planted last fall.

The solution is lots of straw in winter over areas where I want to plant vegetables. In spring I create boundaries in which to build up good soil on top of the straw. This year, I cut the bottoms out of plastic swimming pools and made potato beds. The plants are big and healthy. Next year, I’ll move the pools to another location and plant something else, maybe okra or beans, in the dirt left behind.

Repurposed mineral tubs, a gift from a rancher friend, contain blackberries and goji berries. In places, I’ve pushed back the straw and planted rows of beans, marigolds, and whatever else strikes my fancy.

My garden may not look like the ones in the magazines, and some years I get less than I’m hoping for. But I have a patio full of Grow Boxes, in case the year is dry, and to make sure I have fresh tomatoes and peppers all season. They work well for okra, too, because okra needs a constant source of water to produce.

Patches of weeds through and around the garden seem to make the bees and the birds and the butterflies happy.

No weed killer! I do a few minutes of weeding every day so my chickens have fresh greens in their secure runs! There’s lots of life here. It isn’t always pretty, but my garden brings me joy. I hope yours brings you joy, as well.