The many surprisingly good values of the common weed
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The many surprisingly good values of the common weed

JUST about now, you are probably beginning to despair of weeds, especially the pernicious kinds which defy chemical control or hand weeding.

Some are of limited use on occasions, but others can prove extremely beneficial given the willingness of the gardener to experiment and nurture.

Did you know for example that the stinging nettle can be a blessing in many respects - apart altogether from the fact that in high end restaurants and hotels nettles make a wonderful soup and addition to salads.

As a plant, it contains nitrogen which can stimulate growth in soft fruit - if allowed to flourish nearby.

When cut for use in the compost heap, it breaks down into an excellent humus and, like grass clippings, instantly raises the temperature needed for fast decomposition.

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Used as a mulch between vegetables it has no equal in keeping down other weeds, retaining moisture and feeding.

If you soak an armful of nettles in rainwater for a fortnight or so you will have a rather smelly but efficient liquid fertilizer which is particularly suited to tomatoes and produce which relies on high potash for colour, flavour, and high yield.

An infusion made from a handful of fresh nettles, boiled in a pint of water and allowed to cool can be mixed with four parts water and used as a spray against mildew, blackfly, and aphids - in addition to its value as a foliar feed.

Organic gardeners will find nettles to be of great value provided the growths are picked whilst fresh and young, and prepared immediately.

Once the plants get long in the tooth, say from mid-August onwards, the results taper off and beneficial effects become reduced.

Apart from fresh nettles, other weeds can be used to make a good, natural liquid manure by steeping them in a bucket of rainwater for a couple of weeks.

This returns all the excellent nutrients and trace elements to your plants rather than relying on artificial fertilizers or growth boosters.

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Another useful ploy is to allow weeds develop in onion beds when these are (now) getting to a good size.

By depriving them of nitrogen you increase their ability to keep over the long winter without spoiling.

Remove flowering seed heads, of course, or you may end up in future years with all weeds and little clear ground for those vegetables.