Weeds! They are known as unwelcome pests, taking over our gardens, fields and yards. They hog the water we provide to our crops, and leave annoying stickers all over the dang place when they dry up and die. Even worse, many spread their seed which increases the amount that pop up the following year! Ugh, I could go on for days about my loathing of weeds, particularly the pokey and unfriendly variety. Who knew that understanding weeds would help you understand your soil conditions and allow you to create healthy land?!
The first spring at our new house, we felt like we were drowning in mustard and thistle, as it was covering most all of our fields. We were lucky to have incredible weed abatement (or weed-abaters as we like to call them) in our goats, horse and with the use of our neighbor’s draft horses. I was happy to have a win-win situation with our pets chowing down and staying full, while also getting rid of these unwelcome suckers! Being the novice that I am, I never stopped to think about understanding the weeds and learning what they might tell me about my land. It’s such common place to think “kill kill kill” when it comes to weeds. I never thought that weeds might just be nature’s way of assisting us in learning the deficiencies of our soil and help chart what we should plant to thrive in these fields. Simply put, they help us decipher what we need to do to help make our soil happy and fertile again.
During my battle with the weeds on my property, I started doing a bit of research and came across an excellent article in Hobby Farms Magazine. I learned the importance of identifying weeds. Once you recognize these little suckers, you can understand the reason for them popping up all over the fields. I, for example have thistle all over my pastures. Before we moved in, the previous owner boarded horses, and as such, the land was used for grazing. As stated in the article, according to Larry Santoyo, teacher and founder of The Permaculture Academy in Los Angeles, thistle is the land’s way of saying enough grazing, it is time for the land to heal. Livestock does not eat thistle, due to its pointy leaves, and they avoid trampling on it as well. Mr. Santoyo states that the thistle is communicating to us that the soil needs to be rebuilt and nurtured to allow for nutrients to be regenerated. Here I was thinking the thistle was beautiful but needed to be cut down with a vengeance. It amazes me to know that thistle is just protecting the land and giving the soil some love.
I encourage you to stop and learn what weeds are growing and to truly understand their purpose before removing them. We all want happy and healthy gardens and crops. Perhaps if we take a moment to understand the Earth’s signals in the form of weeds, no matter how pesky they can be, we can learn enough to ensure our crops are happy and growing in healthy dirt!
For more information, click here to read the Hobby Farms Article! Happy planting, everyone!