Page 18 - Forest Row Local July Edition 2020
P. 18

18 July 2020 • Forest Row Local
“What shall we do with all this
rubbish?” - how to end the
‘war on weeds’.
As a gardener I often hear this question; no matter how much we prune, cut and clear, Nature creates ever more growth, particularly at this time of year when her growth forces are strong. We can feel overwhelmed with all this ‘rubbish’, perhaps resorting to frequent bonfires, filling our recycling bins or trips to the dump in a desperate attempt to keep on top of it. We can feel that we are ‘at war’ with the garden, trying to hold back
the tide of growth. But it needn’t be like this, perhaps the solution
is to ask a different question: not “what shall we do with all this rubbish?” but rather “is this really ‘rubbish’ and if not, perhaps it is something useful, a gift for us and our garden?” By asking this simple question, we are no longer at ‘war with the weeds’ as we begin to change our point of view. Below is a list of all the ‘rubbish’ that with only a few exceptions can remain in the garden and be very useful.
Woody material: if you are pruning trees, shrubs and woody plants there are many ways of using this material. Any branch larger than 3cm (just over 1 inch) diameter is perfect firewood, if seasoned and dried properly they can be used in an energy-efficient wood burning stove. If you don’t have one yourself then ask friends or neighbours - most people would be delighted to receive your gift. For branches between 3cm and 1cm in diameter, the best thing for these is to create an ‘eco heap’ in your garden. Choose a spot in a corner under some larger shrubs or
trees and build a heap with your prunings; it doesn’t have to be beautiful, but it can be (at Great Dixter in Kent they have built extremely attractive large eco heaps, designed to be admired!) I would suggest limiting the heap to just one seasons worth of wood and then moving to a new area the following season. These heaps are havens of wildlife, particularly insects, but also the increasingly rare hedgehog, as well as a range
of fungi. The heap should then be left undisturbed, perhaps carefully treading it down once a year (in the summer when no hedgehogs will be hibernating) until it naturally disappears over a few years. Prunings below 1cm in diameter can be chopped by hand or with a lawn mower and added to the compost heap.
Weeds: apart from the three ‘difficult’ weeds - dock, bindweed and ground elder, all other weeds can be put on your compost heap. As long as the heap is hot enough from a good mix of different materials most weeds will compost well and contain valuable trace elements. Dock, bindweed and ground elder should not be directly composted until they have been treated with a ‘stewing’ process. A deep bucket or barrel filled with water provides a good place for stewing: add the weeds to the water and allow at least 6 weeks for full rotting to take place, they will be a bit smelly, but they can now be added to the compost heap, again providing valuable nutrients. (NB if the Dock has produced seeds then these should not be added to the stew, rather dry and burn them on a bonfire).
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