Weeds - an Organic Supplement for your Garden
If you have a weed or two in your garden, and let’s face it - most of us do, you can make yourself a very simple and cheap organic supplement which will provide all sorts of nutrients to the plants you want to grow – it is great for veggies, fruit trees or ornamentals and makes use of something which you don’t want in your garden.
To set up a weed tea system, you will need the following materials:
* A waterproof container with a lid which seals reasonably well – mine is 200 litres but it can really be any size to suit your garden
* A tap to put into the bottom of the container so you can access the finished product easily
* Some leftover shade cloth – enough to line the inside of your container with
* Access to water
Insert the bag into your waterproof container with the opening at the top. You will need to fit a tap into the bottom of the container so you can drain off the weed tea when it is ready. Or you may have an old container which already has a tap in the bottom. Either way, now is the time to fit the tap and make sure it is working. Put it down as low as possible so you can drain as much as possible out of the container. You can buy a simple tap at the local hardware store for a few dollars and they will be able to explain how to fit it if you need help. Place your container in an out of the way place – it is not necessarily very attractive to look at and may smell a little due to the anaerobic nature of the process – make sure you keep the lid on too to minimise the impact.
Cut the shade cloth so that you can fold it in two, length ways, and sew up the two sides of it to form a ‘tea bag’ to fit inside the container - you don't have to have great sewing skills - a large carpet needle and some jute or bailer twine will do the job wonderfully and it doesn't need to be neat or watertight. The fold in the fabric will form the bottom of the “bag”. Shade cloth is ideal as it is easily permeated by the water but will help you to get the weeds out of the water when needed. If you don’t have shade cloth you can use old net curtains or anything which has small holes in it.
Once you have your container setup, head into your garden and gather enough weeds to fill the bag inside the container. If you can pull up the root of the weed as well, this will stop it from re-growing in that spot. It won’t matter if there is still some soil attached to the root – shake off the excess and add the rest to the weed tea – it will break down and return to the soil eventually. If you don’t have enough weeds to fill the container (lucky you!), then just put in as many as you have – you can add to the container gradually over coming weeks as more weeds appear. You can also add soft prunings from your garden to the tea mix. Add enough water to the container to cover them completely – you are essentially drowning the weeds so make sure they are below the surface of the water. Soaking them for 4 – 6 weeks will kill the weed seeds, thereby breaking the cycle of weed production from those plants. The nutrients in the weeds will leach out into the water – each weed will provide different types and amounts of nutrients to your weed tea so try to get a wide variety of weeds – you could even ask your friends for their weeds. Make sure you don’t collect weeds which have been sprayed with any chemicals, as they may well survive the soaking and end up in your garden – which you won’t want if you are growing organically.
When the weeds have been soaked over a period of between four - six weeks, you can drain off the “weed tea”, as it is now into a bucket or watering can. Water it down at a ratio of about 1 part weed tea to 10 parts water and feed it to your garden plants, veggies, fruit trees and ornamentals– they will all love it! Within a couple of weeks you should see them responding by putting on new growth and bearing more food for you to eat.
Keep adding weeds to the mix and top up the water as needed, it will continue to break down. Every now when the original weeds have been in the water for around 4 – 5 months and then you will need to empty out the dead weeds from the waterproof container, as all the nutrients will be drained away and you will want to make room for fresh weeds. If the container starts to smell, then it is working – because everything is covered in water, the mixture will be anaerobically composting, which can smell a little. Make sure you keep your container in an out of the way place where you won’t be worried by the smell. To remove them from the container, pull out the full bag you lined the container with and dump the drowned weeds onto your compost and turn them in – they will continue to break down in the compost and all of this lovely nutritional matter will end up on your garden eventually too.
There are some simple ways to enhance your weed tea too if you get really keen. You can grow things like comfrey, dandelion, lavender and other herbs which are full of all sorts of goodies, specifically to add to your weed tea. You can add a dash of commercial fish emulsion, collect a small amount of seaweed from the beach and include that for some variety or throw in a handful of rock minerals. All of this will enhance your garden’s nutrition.
No matter what organic matter you put into your weed tea bin, it will eventually break down and return nutrients to the soil so get creative with what you add – this is a great way to stop those nutrients leaving your propriety in the bin and returning them to the soil, to feed your plants, your soil and your family and won’t cost you much more than a plastic container, a bit of shade cloth and a small tap and will provide you with nutritional support for a long time to come.