On Sunday 22 October we welcomed Charles Otway from TerraPerma to our garden to talk about weeds. He covered many interesting topics including what weeds can tell us about our soil and how we can use them to our advantage.
The first point Charles made was that the weeds growing in your garden can tell you a-lot about the properties of your soil. Weeds invariably grow better than anything you might be trying to cultivate so rather than fight them, learn to appreciate them! Charles is a big fan of eating weeds as they often have a superior nutritional profile compared to cultivated crops. Weed eating may be an acquired taste as the higher nutritional profile can mean that flavours are more bitter than we are used to.
Looking at which weeds are flourishing is an indicator of soil health. If you have a lot of:
Grasses, chances are your soil structure needs stabilizing and more carbon.
Legumes indicate poor soil nitrogen levels and leaving them to grow can help boost your soil fertility due to their ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen in the root zone.
Weeds with deep tap roots serve to break up compacted soil. They also indicate that your topsoil may need minerals, which they are able to bring up from lower down in the soil profile.
If you want to remove weeds but not lose the nutrients that they are bringing up, the best thing to do is to use a knife to cut just under the soil surface leaving the roots in place, and then leave the weed so that it can wilt on the surface.
What do you do if your weeds have flowered and set seed? Charles made the point that unless your compost reaches 65°C for ten days weed seeds will likely survive and spreading your compost will simply spread them. Most home compost heaps can’t achieve this temperature so an alternative is to steep weeds in water for several months, then strain and use as a liquid fertilizer.
Charles then took us on a ramble around our garden and pointed out all the great weeds that we can eat. Do make sure you know what you’re eating isn’t poisonous and if you’re foraging in public places that you are sure the weeds haven’t been sprayed with herbicide.
If you’re interested in finding out more, Charles has an excellent array of resources on his Terra Perma Design website:
On Thursday 31st August NPCG hosted a surprise visit from none other than Gardening Australia’s Costa Georgiadis. Accompanied by our Mayor, Emma Cole, other invited guests and several very excited garden members who got to meet the gardening guru. There was a lot of laughter as Costa spent an enjoyable morning being shown around and was most impressed with the shade structures, our frogs, the front gate and the whole garden vibe generally.
Sunday was a raining and at times blustery day a perfect atmosphere for having nourishing warm soup. We have some wonderful cooks amongst our membership, that Spicy Thai Pumpkin Soup made with our pumpkin and lemon grass was to die for. Rocket & Parsley pesto on homemade focaccia – yum. The Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup had great zing, there was carrot soup, pumpkin soup, broccoli & cauliflower soup and a hearty barley, spinach & leek soup, banana muffins and spinach & parmesan muffins. We picked our first mandarins and shared them around – very tasty. Olive oil for dipping from the latest harvest of North Perth Primary School which includes olives from the garden’s tree.
On 29th April NPCG hosted a workshop run by Tan Fowler, themed Crop Rotation and Companion Planting. Tan gave valuable insight into how and why to rotate crops each season and what types of plants are good growing together. We thank Tan for her time and effort to come down to the garden and give a wonderful workshop filled with such useful tips. The bed workshop attendees planted is thriving well. Here is some of what she said.
Crop rotation is a useful tool to have in any garden, it has many benefits that can help your garden prosper! Every plant grows differently and has different interactions with the soil, atmosphere and with other plants and animals. By rotating your crops you can balance nutrients in the soil, reduce pests and overall make it easier for you as a gardener!
Below is Tan’s 7 step guide to rotating crops.
List all the plants you want to grow.
Group plants into similar types e.g brassicas, solanums
Give each group a code letter
Create a map of your garden beds
Set each bed a code letter
For each group decide what plants you want to grow this rotation and plant in corresponding beds
For the next rotation, move each group one bed, so code letter A moves to B’s space
Companion planting is another wonderful tool to use in your garden, experienced gardeners may already know of several plant combinations. When it comes to companion planting there are four main reason why it’s used.
Increase flavour! Tomato and basil anyone?
Reduce pests- French marigolds for nematodes
Attract beneficial bugs- Flowers for bees
Structure and shade- corn for beans to climb
If we want beneficial insects we need the pests that they eat!
Something that tastes good together most likely grows well together
Plant something that grows faster between plants that take longer to grow, harvest them whilst the slow growers are still small. Radishes (fast) with carrots (slow)
One plant is better than a few that will compete for soil nutrients
Some plants may be used as a sacrifice to pests so that your harvestable crops remain uneaten
One of my favourite notes was Tan’s motto about permaculture: Observe and interact!
This is so true. Gardens are dynamic, every garden is different and every spot in that garden is different, so to find what grows well in that spot…observe and interact!
What a wonderful day it was, the whole of North Perth seemed to be at Woodville to see Alex Lloyd and others perform enjoying a lovely afternoon in the slightly too warm sun.
We had a constant trickle of visitors interested in where we were and what we do. The kids enjoyed making their pots and planting a seed to take home. We had some interest in the plant sales. Everybody was very impressed with what we have achieved in our garden, something which every member can take pride in being a part of. So congratulations everybody on making our garden a success.