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Volunteers versus weeds?

 
Posts: 29
Location: Kentucky - Zone6
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Hello

I am using my chickens as my composters and feed them all kinds of veggie/fruit leftovers. The compost is used in my garden beds, but since I am unfamiliar with how some vegetables look in their early stages, if I weed too early, I may take out some volunteer plants. How do people here generally deal with this? At what point do you weed your beds? My predicament is the earlier you do it, the easier it is to remove weeds but you may eliminate some awesome plants.

Thanks

Maarten
 
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Well there is all sorts of approaches to unwanted plants. If the area is small enough pulling them after they are large enough to identify shouldn't be much work. Covering that area a.s.a.p. with wanted plants and/or seeds will make that a one time thing (or close to). If the area is large then several things can help reduce work. Over-seeding an area right away can reduce the introduction and space left for pesky pioneering plants. Also, attitudes towards these plants can change so the work is diminished or cancelled. Many of these pioneering plants actually are beneficial to other plants and soil life. I usually only keep certain plants in mind when "weeding". Often the plants in the garden will out compete them in the end so I let it go. Unwanted grass is usually one of those things I keep out for the most part. Anything that might be super poisonous and accidentally eaten is another. Most broad leaf plants I leave. If space becomes an issue it is easy to chop and plant something in it's place. I probably missed a few approaches but for the most part I think the important thing is to think about if the "weeding" is needed and then reduce the need or eliminate the need to do it again.
 
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In time, you will be able to identify a huge number of weeds and edible plants when they are just millimeters tall. Often before the true leaves even emerge.
I'd say this is the most notable change in perception after a decade of gardening.
Also, it's among the top mistakes I see with new gardeners. People point to a pile of weeds they've removed and I go through ID'ing all the edibles they just uprooted.
Permaculture gardens sometimes look like a mess of tangled weeds and many of us have stories about people 'helping' us weed and just pulling all the veg out or mowing over the whole lot.
Observation is everything.

Weeds won't interfere with other plants or get too lodged in the soil when they are young.
As many weeds are mineral-rich, I like to grow them up a few inches, before turning them into a green mulch on the spot.
Some weeds can be left completely and do not compete to any great degree.
Chickens destroy seed in their crop, but tomato seed seems to survive in numbers.
Tomato seedlings look a bit like 'farmers friend' (Bidens pilosa) for the first couple of days.
Tomatillo seedlings look a bit like Black Nightshade for the first week.

Usually topping soil/compost with mulch is a good idea, but delaying it can net you a regular batch of volunteers.
I pull the mulch back in winter so the soil's seedbank full of lettuce can sprout.
Tomatos and chillis come up around the border of the garden year-round, so need no encouragement.
 
pollinator
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I'm at a new property, with lots of volunteers and weeds coming up intermixed - it's crazy!

instead of approaching with the mindset of pulling everything that's not food, approach it this way - I only pull things I KNOW are weeds.  

The only thing I KNOW is a weed(beside the mustard, sowthistle, and milkweed I want to keep) is Oxalis. I pull ONLY Oxalis until I can identify another(usually when they set flowers or seed).  

you can also post pictures here of your weed suspicions, and maybe some of us can identify them?
 
s wesley
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Dustin Rhodes wrote:
The only thing I KNOW is a weed(beside the mustard, sowthistle, and milkweed I want to keep) is Oxalis. I pull ONLY Oxalis until I can identify another(usually when they set flowers or seed).  
you can also post pictures here of your weed suspicions, and maybe some of us can identify them?



Oh man, there is a plant where I live that we call oxalis that is sooooo tasty! It has a sort of citrus-like flavor to it. Maybe it's an identification error on our part?

You can also go the other direction and mulch it right after and only introduce the plants you want. Although, I think a lot of us would agree the experience of watching volunteers grow and the mystery of what it could be (of course with time you will be able to identify them) is really rewarding and a good learning experience.
 
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Maarten Smet wrote:Hello

I am using my chickens as my composters and feed them all kinds of veggie/fruit leftovers. The compost is used in my garden beds, but since I am unfamiliar with how some vegetables look in their early stages, if I weed too early, I may take out some volunteer plants. How do people here generally deal with this? At what point do you weed your beds? My predicament is the earlier you do it, the easier it is to remove weeds but you may eliminate some awesome plants.

Thanks

Maarten



There are no weeds, there are plants that grow where we don't want them.
The cure for this predicament is to wait till you know which you want to call a volunteer and which you want to call a weed, then just slice the ones that are weeds at ground level and compost them or feed them to the chooks or simply lay the cut top on the ground where you cut it to act as a mulch layer.

Redhawk
 
Dustin Rhodes
pollinator
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S Wesley wrote: Oh man, there is a plant where I live that we call oxalis that is sooooo tasty! It has a sort of citrus-like flavor to it. Maybe it's an identification error on our part?



No it's the same plant, I like the taste too! Unfortunately it has several counts against it, so I will only grow a little in the future(that is, if my Oxalic Acid distillation testing doesn't work - https://permies.com/t/101650/Oxalic-Acid-wood-bleaching).

- It grows EVERYWHERE on my property, stealing precious water and shading out my current and future more important plants.
- both my father and father in law have Gout, and oxalic acid is bad for gout(even toxic at extremely high concentrations).
- My wife doesn't like the taste

so, it's not worth it for me; that doesn't mean its bad though.
 
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My first eatable out of the garden are weeds. Learning which ones are eatable cuts down on my weeding. I don’t plant many spring greens, just because I have such a plentiful supply of weeds. Lambs quarter, plantain, dandelion, mallow, on second thought I’ve mulched so heavily I might not get my normal crop.
 
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Pull the plants you don't want as soon as you can recognize them. That will keep the weeds sparser until you can recognize them all.
Make sure you observe how the plants look at all stages so you know what they look like the next season
 
gardener
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Think of weeds as cover crop. Seeds that sprout in late fall and winter feed and protect the soil organisms. As time goes by harvest the ones you want to eat and the ones the chickens want to eat and the rest cut at ground level when you want to open the space or they may produce seed you do not want. Some like chick weed and dead nettle will go to seed very early but the seed will not germinate when the soil is warm and die with first heat so don't need to be weeded at all except to make space for something else. For example I have a wicking bed in my unheated greenhouse with bock choi that volunteered last fall that i harvest the outer leaves from. At the same time I trim back the chickweed avoiding cutting the carrot tops that are protruding. It is the time to cut the leek seed off the seed ball and scatter it through the chick weed so it can be the succession to the carrots. The bucket with grain soaking for the chickens is in the greenhouse so any thing I don't but in the food bowl goes in there with the food scraps and goes out with me to gather the eggs then I come back to the house with my greens and eggs.
 
master pollinator
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Like many others here I don't know 'weeds', only 'plants that grow where I don't want them to grow'.
Identifying plants is something I learned in my youth, my mother knows a lot about wild plants and taught me too. Probably that's why I love plants in general and never call them 'weeds'.
So I only pull small plants out of the garden if they grow in a spot where I want other plants to grow, or when they grow between the pavement. My garden is not too large and I have plenty of time to do that by hand.
 
gardener
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Hans Quistorff wrote:Think of weeds as cover crop. Seeds that sprout in late fall and winter feed and protect the soil organisms. ...  Some like chick weed and dead nettle will go to seed very early but the seed will not germinate when the soil is warm and die with first heat so don't need to be weeded at all except to make space for something else.



So true Hans!

I've noticed that these winter "weeds" for the most part are not super vigorous growers either, so I'm seeding my cool weather plants for the early spring right now that will hopefully be taking off as the winter "weeds" are dying back. I then plan to plant my summer crops amongst the spring plants as they are slowing down, so as to have a continual living cover crop that minimizes weeding, and the volunteers can come up naturally at the right time for each species.
 
pollinator
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We also have an over abundance of oxalis  in the Bay Area. I find it to be of limited use, and can always find it, if wanted.

But there are some weeds that I always pull, like water hemlock. It's not something that I want in my yard.
 
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My philosophy is that if they show up and I don't mind, then they are guests.  If they show up and they bother me, they are visitors.  Visitors are subject to removal at any time.
 
Hans Quistorff
gardener
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Another category: wees as chicken feed. With the chicken tractor rotating through the garden during the winter the cool weather seeds that are sprouting get eaten. I feed soaked whole grains so some of them get scratched in and become volunteer crop if I am not planting that area. Millet and sunflowers are ripening right now.
 
pollinator
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I... kind of want to disagree with the consensus here to let things grow until IDed.  I was like, "oh, this is a cool plant I've never seen before" my first year in the garden here and I am still paying for the weed invasion years later.  

Two things:
1) In the PNW, where I come from, the weather doesn't get super cold, so things don't really die over the winter, so spring plants come on much more slowly.  In Hamburg, everything is dead (and ground is bare!) until mid-March and then everything explodes.  If you wait a week to ID a plant, it will be waist-high and plotting world domination, along with every other plant in the garden.
2) I have to travel to my garden, so I see it once a week, and then am doomed as per 1.

If your space is small enough that you can handle it even if it's out of control, or you see it often enough to catch it, then sure, let new and amusing plants appear.  Otherwise... learn to ID fast, or weed everything and accept that you miss a few cool things.  Or, I suppose, mulch lots...
 
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