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Read your weeds | Gardening 101 | Gardening Australia

Read your weeds | Gardening 101 | Gardening Australia

As your plants just kick off, it often means your garden starts filling up with weeds, too. But weeds aren’t all bad news – they can tell you a lot about your soil. Tino interprets a few weeds for us:

Capeweed and Stinging Nettles are signs of nutrient-rich, cultivated soil. If the growth is stunted or leaves are yellow, it would show the soil is lacking in nitrogen.

Thistles, chickweed and purslane also indicate fertility.

Clover and other weeds that fix their own nitrogen can be a sign the soil is lacking in nitrogen.

Poor soils that lack structure will support weeds such as dandelion, flatweed, oniongrass,

Dock and plantain indicate the soil is likely to be acidic and heavy.

Sedges and nut grass are usually found in waterlogged heavy soils.

Bracken is often found in soils that are nutrient depleted, but also when it’s been disturbed or over-grazed. However the bracken, like many other weeds, is colonizing the site and will protect it against the sun and weather erosion.

Perennial weeds such as bracken live for more than one year, so are better indicators of soil condition than annual weeds, which may be a one-off fluke brought in by birds or the wind.

A mixed community of weeds with many species is a better indicator of soil health than just one species.

Tino slashes and mows weeds before they flower then chip them out by hand, but he also tries to squeeze them out by planting densely.

Joi makes a gnocchi from the nettles, and the rest are composted.

Tino also makes a DIY fertilizer by filling a netting bag with weeds, weighing it down in a bucket of water for at least two days, and stirring regularly. Use the DIY liquid fertiliser on the garden or compost heap. It’s a great way of killing off weeds with seed heads. The greener and fresher the better.

Featured plants:
Capeweed (Arctotheca calendula)
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Flatweed (Hypochaeris radicata)
Oniongrass (Allium triquetrum)
Dock (Rumex sp.)
Plantain (Plantago sp.)
Nut grass (Cyperus sp.)
Bracken Fern (Pteridium esculentum)
Mallow (Malva parviflora)
Chickweed (Stellaria media)


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