One of our fellow bloggers, Jesse at OneHeartFirePermaculture, posted a video that kind of jiggled the fibers of my aged brain cells:
It struck home for me, because every spring when the soil warms up, a lot of my garden starts to sprout chickweed. The only effective way that I’ve found to get rid of this low-growing, matted weed is to REALLY smother it in mulch. But it still pokes its head out eventually, and starts a new party somewhere else. Pulling it is folly. There’s too much, and I think pulling the plants just leaves thousands more eager fine root starts in the soil.
And here’s Jesse saying keep the chickweed there. Make it part of your garden. Trim it when need be, let it collect moisture through condensation, and plant in it. I realize that that’s what permaculture is all about; letting the soil rebuild in its natural way. But this is a difficult conundrum for an ol…a well-worn gardener who has his way of doing things.
Live and learn, eh? There are so many logical and exciting concepts behind permaculture. Also some hurdles that I don’t know if I can get past.
Like this: I understand that the root system of the chickweed (or whatever other naturally-growing plant you leave in the garden soil) helps loosen the earth and makes it more active. But I have a hard time believing that it wouldn’t also rob nutrition from the plants I’m actually trying to grow. That lost nutrition won’t be available again until after the chopped/dropped tops of the chickweed have decomposed. But then I guess that would be the same for any green mulch.
Now chickweed is attractive for a weed. It’s like a green carpet when it’s taking over my garden. And Jesse explained to me that it’s actually a good salad ingredient and medicinally useful. But I have a mental block when it comes to relinquishing my soil to things that I didn’t plant there on purpose.
Over the winter I plan to roll this whole concept over in my noggin. I’m not sure what conclusions I’ll come to, but I will give it serious thought. Most likely I’ll experiment with a partial bed and see whether the same crop grows better with living weed mulch or my normal leaf/grass clipping mulch.
In the meantime, I highly recommend watching Jesse’s whole video and taking in what he has to say.