At this time of year the annual struggle against perennial weeds – dandelions, bindweed, mares tail, dock…. is really getting going. What to do with the weeds? One cannot put them directy into the compost heap because the roots do not decompose in a home composting environment, so they will propagate themselves with great enthusiasm. An alternative is to bag them and chuck them into your LA’s green waste heap (assuming it exists) but an even better alternative is to use them to make free organic liquid fertilizer – otherwise known as Weed Tea.
Perennial weeds, especially those with very deep roots such as dandelions, dock and creeping buttercup, have mined valuable minerals and other vital nutrients from the soil and store the nutrients in their roots and leaves. When you pull up these weeds and simply throw them out, you toss out the minerals and nutrients as well. Turning the weeds into liquid fertilizer returns the nutrients to the soil. It is recycling at its best. After the process is complete the roots will be drowned and unable to propagate so you can safely add them to your regular compost heap. The process is quite smelly, so you will not want to do it in a small back garden, but hidden away at the bottom of your plot, it will simply add a rich agricultural atmosphere.
Turning weeds into liquid fertilizer is rather easy but does take time:
- First collect a reasonable pile of perennial weeds removing as much soil as possible – a couple of pounds at least.
- Get a large bucket or other container with a lid and line it with a permeable bag (e.g.hessian sack or old onion set/bulb bag). Tie the bag to the lid or handle of the container.
- Put the pile of weeds (including both roots and leaves) in the bag in the bucket. Add about 8 cups of water in the bucket for every pound of weeds; the water should cover the weeds in the bottom of the sack. Cover the bucket with a tight-fitting lid. Leave the bucket for 6 to 8 weeks. This should ensure the perennial roots are not able to create new growth at the end of the process. Stir it every week or so. But be forewarned—the fermentation process can be aromatic! Try not to get any of this concentrated concoction on your hands or clothes; it will stain.
- Remove the bag, the liquid is what you will want to use on your plot; the solid mass of fermented weeds may be added to a fresh compost heap. After you have removed the sack and you are left only with liquid, the weed tea is done.
- Dilute before using, at the rate of 1 part weed tea to 10 parts water. Then pour it on the soil at the base of your plants. To use it as a fertilizing foliar spray, dilute it until the colour of the liquid is like a weak tea. You can also pour it on the base of your vegetable plants, but don’t spray it on the vegetables that are ready to be harvested.
People have been gardening for thousands of years, and did not always have manufactured fertilizers available for purchase. They used what they had available—including weeds— and made their own fertilizer. Making liquid fertilizer from weeds is a back-to-basics way of returning the nutrients in weeds to the soil and avoids increasing waste going to landfill. What could be easier?