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Our landscape is mostly natural: cedar, prickly pear, hedgehog cactus, shrubs, foxglove flowers, random weeds, and grass-like weeds. My dad wanted me to pull all of the grass out and place it in a dumpster.

My stance:
1) Weeds, green or dry make good compost, and if you're worrying about reseeding, it is possible to kill the seeds with a proper compost. And pulling all the weeds out will not stop the seeding any way unless you did this for several years while the weeds were still green. Then the weeds will eventually come back on their own.

By the way, the plants that the weeds are growing around are not being overtaken by the weeds.

2) Weeds make good mulch. Just knock them down when they're dry.

3) We're in an ecosystem where a patch of dirt full of weeds is healthier than a barren patch of dirt, and at the moment if I pulled up all the weeds there would be rock and dirt and a few plants here and there. The landscaping I'm doing will happen very slowly as I don't have a lot of money and a team.

Who is right?

Thanks.

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4  
Your dad is right, even if he's wrong. –  uncle brad May 29 '12 at 21:13

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I think almost anyplace is better for weeds than a dumpster, for the reasons you list and more. But there are concerns, too.

A hot compost will kill weed seeds. Get a compost thermometer, and make sure your hot pile is fairly big so it can get hot in the middle -- we use shipping pallets, which makes for a roughly 3' cube.

Do you have chickens? Know anyone who does? They will have a gas tearing through the weeds, picking out the insects and seeds. Then when they're through, what's left will be lovely soil mixed thoroughly with chicken manure.

How about goats? The best way to kill weed seeds is to run them through a ruminant! This also gives you many months' head-start on composting. Goat manure is fairly hot, but you can use it un-composted if you mix it with soil, rather than simply applying it around plants.

Many of these so-called "weeds" are actually your local soil conditions, selecting for what it needs to improve. They are often "dynamic accumulators" that have deep tap roots that bring up needed micro-nutrients.

Whatever you have, if you cut or pull it before it goes to seed, it is perfectly reasonable to compost it, even if you don't have goats or the patience or knowledge to hot-compost.

If you put weeds in the dumpster, you're exporting your soil's fertility.

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My compost is already about 40 gallons, from weeds, and kitchen scraps. I'll try hot composting - saw a 60cm thermometer for $20. –  Enjoys Math Jun 5 '12 at 19:07
2  
And next year, catch them before they go to seed -- problem solved! –  Jan Steinman Jun 12 '12 at 0:25
    
The environment considers bare dirt to be an open wound and barring herbicide application, works to immediately solve the problem. Expecting bare dirt to stay so just puts you at war with the environment till your death solves the problem. Basically that leaves ground cloth and mulching if the intention is to have an artifical, weedless, grassless environment. I've been composting weeds for decades, get them while they're strong, young and healthy, before flowering and they make rich compost. –  Fiasco Labs May 19 '13 at 18:20

Your dad is right. Here is why:

  1. While weeds may make good additions to a really vigorous (hot) compost pile they will likely survive most composting treatments. The reason why weeds are such a nuisance is that they will survive under an extreme range of conditions and consume nutrients that would otherwise go to plants you are interested in growing.
  2. The role of mulch is to help conserve moisture in the soil and keep down weeds. If you just knocked over the weeds you wouldn't achieve either goal. The weeds would consume both the nutrients and water that you were trying to preserve by having mulch.
  3. You may have a point here. However, letting weeds gain a foothold in your garden is a bad idea if you intend to use it in the future, i.e. it will be that much harder to get rid of the weeds when you finally don't want any weeds in your garden. A good alternative might be to put down some landscape fabric and/or mulch (real mulch not weed mulch).
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This is isn't my "garden". This is my dad's yard - mostly native plants and a ditched landscaping effort. There's got to be a way to make the plants do most of the work for you. We've pulled up weeds before and here we are today 3 years later. So that was just wasted effort if that's all we did. –  Enjoys Math Jun 5 '12 at 19:11

What is the difference between a weed and a wild flower? Butterflies lay their eggs under the leaves of nettles and bees can be saved by ivy. It always surprises me how so many gardeners seem to want to kill things and control nature all the time. Isn't it enough to trim, cut back and tidy where we must, and make the most of what we have already? A garden cared for in this way is full of birdsong and can look quite beautiful too, and is always full of surprises

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I like the goat idea, but if you don't have anything to plant now, pulling the weeds out is Sisyphean. One good option is to dig them in, in place. Especially if they haven't gone to seed yet. If they have gone to seed, you want to compost them in a bin that gets hot enough to kill them. But as they come back you can just dig them in and you'll be amending your soil in a way that readys it for whatever you do want to plant instead of yanking out all the nutrients and binning them.

You should look to a local botanic garden or ag extension for ideas on ground covers or cover crops that are suitable to your climate. A cover crop you'd grow and then dig in before it goes to seed (building up the soil), a ground cover you'd just allow to take over (landscaping). Either one will help suppress weeds.

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There seems to debate on both sides but I like a "middle-of-the-road" type approach. Here's why:

1. You're lazy

You're asking an online forum if you can get out of yard work. It probably took more time and effort for you to try to get out of the weeding than to actually do it. That's impressive. But we can all relate; weeds just keep coming back again and again and again and everyone hates them.

2. You're dad is both right and wrong (but either way you should respect him)

No one want weeds in their yard. You have to do something about them. Like they say:

"A year of seeds is seven years of weeds".

But as everyone has said, they can be useful as compost.

Solution: POISON!

This is the perfect solution, you kill the weeds, you compost and you get out of hard yard work. Get yourself some Glyphosate (I'm thinking "Roundup") type weed killer. Spray the weeds and let them die (10 days usually) and compost themselves. It's the easiest way to get rid of weeds.

Trust me, I'm lazy!

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The weeds are mostly dead. They dried up and seeded. This is Northern Arizona. We don't have weeds that stick around unless they're shrub, tree, or cactus. So now that they're dead, I should rake them, and till them in a few places to see if that works better. –  Enjoys Math Jun 8 '12 at 18:50

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