A place for Everything
It’s been a little while since the previous post. I think perhaps my creative energies are being ‘used up’ somewhat in being the editor of the Geelong Organic Gardener’s newsletter (which also comes out this weekend!), but this time I think I’ll make an extra effort to put out a post as well. Problem is there is soooo much to write about. Hopefully I’ll be able to get through some of them in the coming weeks / months; with a bit more time spent inside with the colder weather.
This quick post is about 3 weedy plants… or are they weeds? What is a weed anyway? I often ‘excuse’ the existence of these plants to visitors; but really, if I’ve learnt anything about permaculture in the last few years; it’s that just about everything in permaculture is dependent on your site, climate, needs, wants, time and CONTEXT. I’m NOT saying you should plant these; I’m saying that I did, and for a reason. 🙂
Let’s get into it.
They’re a bit all over-the-place in suburbia; and definitely a bit of an eye roller when people visit.
So why was it planted?
They went in when we first moved in (2008), and the reason was to provide some quick summer shade for the car in the driveway – getting in a car that’s been sitting for hours in hot sun is not fun. From our previous house (where the seedlings came from), I knew they could quickly develop quite a beautiful, strong, overhead structure, at just the right height to fit a car underneath. Have had good shade since about 3 years ago; and now quite a good canopy overhead. The berries drop / are eaten by birds in the late autumn, but by then (if you are wondering), the car doesn’t need to be parked underneath anymore. Since we are in suburbia; being ‘weedy’ (spread by birds) isn’t really a problem; given the number of these around suburbia, and can’t recall seeing them in local parkland (if you neighbour a nice bush reserve, might be a different story). The 2nd main permaculture / ecological benefit of the Cotoneaster tree is that it is a valuable bee forage in mid summer; just when most other spring flowering trees and plants have finished.
A bit of a stretch I admit to include these, esp as I’m not sure we planted them ourselves; but they fill a niche where pretty much nothing else would grow: Too dry in summer; too much root competition from neighboring trees, and almost no sun in winter. The flowers are nice, but they scraped the car when they got too long.
Never considered getting a yield of anything from them; but after they died back a bit this year, got to see how much mulch they actually generated; quite a bit it turns out, enough to mulch over a small garden bed. The bulbs and sap are meant to be a bit toxic (skin irritations etc), but I don’t remember having any problems when clearing all the mulch without gloves, oops! They’ll grow back and look great, until…they get the chop.
I thought it was ‘carpet weed’. It’s not, but sure looks like a weedy carpet! Can’t remember where they came from, but were planting after our ‘Verge Blitz’ to keep weeds down and to be able to walk all over it without worry. Also, it needed to be free, and completely set-and-forget; unlike many other ground covers, which struggle to compete with weeds, or are a bit more ‘needy’ in order to get established.
One little side affect, was that it would over-spill the gutter, and create a ‘sediment trap’ in the gutter; trapping all manner of leaves and things. It was a minor effect (we do have street sweepers which come down and clear most of the gutter debris); but after some rain; the material underneath was like compost; and for zero effort.
They did their job, and were pulled out recently to make way for less aggressive groundcovers like Dichondra, creeping Thyme etc. The large mats were placed upside down in a couple of weed prone-spots around the garden.
So there you have it…
3 Plants no self respecting permaculturist should have in their garden.
Next post; 3 plants every permaculturist MUST have in their garden.
PS: Here’s my quick functional datasheet for these plants:
|Common Name||Ecological Function||Human Use||Notes|
|Cotoneaster Tree||Leaf mulch, insectary, bee forage, Bird attracting||Firewood, shade, windbreak||Seed spread by birds (can be a weed), valuable bee forage in the summer 'nectar gap'.|
|Agapanthus||Erosion control, mulch||Flowers, Fire retardant||Plant under large deciduous trees|
|Creeping Saltbush||Living Mulch, valuable colonizer and soil stabilizer in disturbed environments. Bees, Lizards attractant.||Playground friendly; fire retardant; carrying animals over periods of feed shortage. +Compost maker!||With adequate levels of crude protein, can be an drought resistant 'emergency' food-crop for animals.|