How to Read the Weeds and Learn a lot About your Soil  

Posted by Dave in ,

As I look over the sad scene of destruction that is, or rather was, my garden, I can't help but notice that the weeds are doing well despite the demolition work of the deer, and the poor soil. I remember that the soil can be "read" by paying attention to the weeds that grow there. Often the best plots are those that can support a lot of weeds. After all, if weeds can grow there untended, your vegetables, with the added attention and care that you can give them should thrive!

As I survey the damage, I also see an awful lot of buttercups. Despite their humble beauty, I know they are poison to some foraging and grazing animals such as the goats we have been thinking of getting (more later). Buttercups, as well as the dandelions and plantain I see growing here are an indication of heavy soils as are some kinds of dock, which I don't see right now.

If I had the mosses may apples and joe pye weed, which I have down below but not up here in the garden area, I would know that the drainage was poor, so that is not necessarily a problem here. Up by the road I see some cornflower, and chicory so that soil must be a bit lighter, though sandy and probably not too fertile.

Oh how I long for the soil of many of my former gardens, light and humusy, well drained and rich. Usually the purslane and chicory grew right there on their own, and if the dandelions didn't, I planted them.. Not only are they delicious and nutritious, but their long tap roots reach down and break loose minerals and such that are too deep for the vegetables to reach. All of these "weeds" and some others also regularly found themselves on the menu for they are as healthy as they are easy to grow!

If nothing was growing there I'd know that the soil was not too fertile, or had been poisoned in some manner. Still, that truckload of manure I didn't get this spring when my old pickup broke down would have been well received, and I make a note to get it as soon as I can. It may be a bit late to save this crop, but the soil will still benefit from it, and can have the whole autumn and winter to digest and enjoy it and get revitalized for next year.

Now, I have to go finish picking the wild black raspberries and see if i can scare up enough to make a bit of jam. Have a safe and Happy 4th, and don't forget to ponder just what it is we should be celebrating. Hint, its not just a great burger.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 2, 2008 at 1:30 PM and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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