Friday, June 16, 2017

Weeding wars, clones and biodiversity

Weeding is most peoples most hated thing about gardening.
But in general you get the plants to do the job for you. You just help those you want to win.
Spreading ground covers. Shading things out.

You still may have to help with plant population density management. Using a sickle or secateurs or even pick axe, but you can get to where it is quite rare.

What is a weed?

A lot of people have the idea that specific plants are weeds therefore they must be eliminated.
But a weed means a plant you don't want. That will vary with the context.
A plant may spread well and be a great early plant in a garden to survive and out compete other plants. Later it may need to be reduced or removed to give room for other perhaps more fragile, functional plants. If it escapes the garden it may spread uncontrollably.

Some weeds may be toxic to human or animals. Over competitive with other plants. Or just plain ugly.

The desire is for the gardens to be self sustaining. Self seeding plants is an important aspect. So this is the preferred way to spread naturally like weeds. A beneficial plant that fills space and needs to trimmed back.

And conversely for plant want to remove, break the seed cycle. Cut weeds before they flower if you can. eg hemlock

Cuttings and Genetic diversity

Some of the best plants are perennials and cuttings are the main way for humans to help these plant propagate. They are clones. So they reduce genetic diversity. Or another way, they stabilise the diversity towards some known useful traits.
Sometimes you need to 'weed' a good plants specific genetic drift.

A biologist told me that genetically the goal is 6 parent plants and a population of over 100 plants for any one plant type to be sustaining.
Not likely to be viable in most gardens but in acres a possibility to be aimed for.

Fill the roles

Don't allow open soil. It will grow something, a weed or something you chose.
Plant densely, more than that, you need ground covers
Mulch to cover unused spots.
Shade out areas with other plants
As you have a wider net of plants the 'weed' that naturally fills a niche may well be beneficial. eg basil, kale, and mustard greens are my main weeds.


Flowers have a lot of value and help immensely make a diverse, healthy garden.
You need a lot of biomass in a garden. You need insect control, shade, frost shelters. Flowers do a lot of those roles. They're very functional. or can be.
They are one of the main attractors of beneficial insects and other wildlife who can assist you.
animals, frogs, lizards, birds. These tend to improve the health of the garden, eating bugs and slugs and keeping them in control.

You want your garden populated with a wide network of life that can fill roles, plug gaps and make a resilient ecosystem.