The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Deplorable Plants Have Their Adorable Qualities

Cute, but no, leave the soil alone as much as possible.

Even recently, I saw weeds as deplorable interlopers, taking water and sunshine from the choice, chosen plants.

Gabe Brown changed my attitude by saying, "Keep living roots in the soil as long as possible. They add energy."

Before I saw weeds as good potential for turning into compost when the life-giving sunlight was cut off. But now I am humbled by the reminder that every plant invites all of Creation to give and take, to bargain for nutrition (debris for bacteria and earthworms) and to receive digested nutrition from fungus. One plant is growing miles of root hairs and energizing billions of microbes. As Brown said, plant roots provide most of the organic matter in the soil. The goal of regenerative farmers is to put as much carbon into the soil as possible, so the buzz-words are:

  1. Carbon Cowboys
  2. Soil Food Web
  3. Organic
  4. Regenerative
  5. Cover Crops
  6. Composting
  7. Earthworms
  8. Teaming with Microbes
  9. Teaming with Fungi.


No one has borrowed Creation Gardening from me, but I am not going to trademark a name so obviously nicked from the Scriptures. Google or YouTube the terms above and plenty of good illustrations will follow.

How the Deplorables Became Adorable
When I see a plant growing where it should not be, it is the abomination of desolation. Here are some that converted my primordial anger into benevolent feelings.

Dandelions
They are herbs brought over. Birds use their seed fluff. In terms of soil health, they puncture the lower levels and bring up calcium. No more useless collecting of egg shells in the false hope that they will add calcium to the soil. I cut them for greens (extra nutritious salad) but let them grow otherwise. They do not spread outrageously, and if they did, their sunny yellow flowers are cheerful, not threatening.

Poke
The Poke plant can be 20 feet tall and opens up its fast-growing branches to reach out in every direction. Pokeweed is prepared as salad in the South, but that means boiling it first - because of toxins. And the berries are also toxic to us. But where is the sin in sincerely, as the Music Man asked.

Poke has devilishly deep roots and is perennial. That is a high energy plant doing the work that fancy, expensive plants won't do. Pokeberries are loved by 60+ species of birds and animals, so it is a living, breathing, soil-improving, free bird-feeder. Secondly, its tiny flowers attract beneficial insects, so it is actually protecting the roses.

Wild Strawberries
I always liked them as little red rubies growing in the grass and thriving under the trees, but they invaded the rose garden too. Then I repented of the evil I said against them. They may surround a rose, but they are living mulch that energizes the topsoil and attracts poopy birds at the same time. If the birds graze and fertilize at the same time, the soil is gaining.

 Sow Thistle is sowicked.

Sow Thistle
I saw this plant growing in the front yard, and let it grow. The young plant looked like a dandelion but not quite. As it grew larger, I saw the tiny bristles, which meant - thistles! Burn, destroy, hack, pull!

This weed was almost shoulder high when I dug it out, along with a few others. The wildest impulses could not get me to let big thistles grow in the yard. Nevertheless, the weed is definitely a soil energizer.

The seeds might have blown in from Almost Eden, where some soil berms are allowed to grow wild, an interesting lab in botany. Sassy and I look it over several times a week, for different reasons.

One way to use a half-grown thistle is to dig/pull it out and compost it. I throw the treasure behind the bushes, where sunlight is blocked, or into the compost pile, which is in the shade. A weed clump is packed with soil creatures, good soil, and plant material ready to decompose.

Dutch White Clover spreads by seed and by the roots.


I Liked These Before the Lawn-lovers Did
Clovers -
They build nitrogen in the soil, feed the bees, and lend a bubblegum fragrance to the air. I have Dutch White Clover in the lawn and gardens, but I also broadcast Crimson Clover in the Wild Garden. Crimson Clover can grow very large, even waist high.

 More than a rock song by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts,
Crimson Clover is valued as a cover crop.


Little Lawn Weeds -
They seldom last long. The purplish mint weed covered vast areas of lawn in the area and invaded our little patch of grass in the back. A few weeks later, it disappeared.

Others bloom with tiny yellow, blue, or white flowers. They fade quickly but they feed the beneficial insects, which are tiny and need tiny flowers.

Using broad-leaf weed killer will wipe these out early and leave bare patches in the soil. If the lawn is near trees, the bare patches often remain open, making the top soil too hot and vulnerable to wind and water erosion.
 Creeping Charlie. Many weeds annoy us
by cheerfully spreading, no matter what we do.
Most man-made treatments hurt the soil and ultimately
benefit the soil.