Winter Weeding

New gardeners Jeff and David set to work restoring a patch in our zone 1 heritage soup garden. At the same time we shared a lively conversation around permaculture ethics while we work.

In the first garden bed we focus on identifying and removing three unwanted plants.
Greater Celandine 大白屈菜

We remove greater celandine (Chelidonium majus), creeping buttercup, and the smaller of the forget-me-nots with slightly different methods. With the first we loosen the soil around the roots with a garden fork before teasing the plant from the earth at the base. As we gently remove the plant, its many roots show themselves. ‘As above so below’, these come from the centre in a rosette like formation, clumped at the centre, looking like a bunch of skinny flaccid carrots. These plants often have tendrils which can extend quite far, so to stop their spread we are very careful when pulling roots up, and follow them loosing soil as we go to catch every last part. Roots left in the ground can grow into new plants.

Rununculus repens (Creeping Buttercup)

Creeping buttercup (Rununculus repens) as the name suggests has a vigorous creeping habit. To prevent complete domination, follow the root trails with the attention of Sherlock Holmes and don’t give up til you have them all.

I’m in two minds about making them all into weed tea fertilizer because the roots are so hardy and happily survive submerged for a long time, but the above ground leaves will breakdown. so we agree to make the tea and drain away liquid, after which to then dry and black bag the remaining root. With plants like this its safest not to try and compost them unless you’re using the Berkley method of hot compost where the compost is turned and the average temp is between 55 – 63 degrees Celcius. I’ve done this very diligently with Agapanthas root and still had sections of live root from a big clump left at the end. So careful out there!

Forget-me-nots (not sure of the latin name for these ones, if you know please share in a comment at the end) are much easier, they pull very easily and breakdown quickly in compost.

Our conversation takes us around the globe and the work is completed easily this way.

Afterwards we don’t want to leave bare soil, which exposes soil organisms destroyed by sunlight, and more importantly our leaves disturbed soil structure open to erosion by rain and wind, both of which we’ve had an abundance of recently. We pick nearby comfrey leaves and dress the area with this fertilizing mulch. Until next week, when we plant afresh for winter in this spot.


2 thoughts on “Winter Weeding

  1. Hi Kat

    I have lifted many thousands of Agapanthus rhizomes during bush care volunteer work over the last year or so. The experienced supervisor for most of that work prefers leaving all their stripped roots and leaves as a soil cover – whilst only bagging the rhizomes. Where entire plants were left piled in ridges (to reduce soil erosion, the tonnage of rhizomes being bagged, and to see what might happen) there has been significant new growth. But those areas that had been left with scattered leaves and cut-off roots seemed to have been largely tamed, with new seedling growth no worse than adjacent areas. Perhaps your new plant growth came from resilient rhizome remnants rather than roots; or from seeds (old or new) that can get almost anywhere. Even the steep rocky slopes below Echo Point were supporting hundreds of Agapanthus before the last Clean Up Australia Day.

    Regards …daveW

    PS There are also still zillions of little oxalis (and possibly onion weed) bulblets in those shallow soil depths we were working. It looks like they have been propagating and spreading there for several years. Most bulblets were dormant and found well away from those currently sprouting. Robert suggested that Jeff and I, had been making matters worse by disturbing the shallow soil, rather than trying to think of something more “biodynamic”, But it would be hard to imagine anything worse than the current extent of the problem we uncovered. Considerable careful follow up bulblet weeding will be needed there before zero soil disturbance can again be considered as a viable option.

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