Using ragweed and wingstem as mulch
Our farm grows wingstem
and ragweed better than anything
else. Although our honeybees visit the flowers, we don't get
any other products from these acres and acres of
The tall weeds that line our
driveway have always looked like an opportunity, but I never could
figure out what they were an opportunity
for. One winter, I gathered the dead stalks and sent them through
mill, but the
process took forever and I was worried that the seedy mulch would cause
At this time of year,
though, ragweed and wingstem are shooting up fast and have no flowers
or seeds in sight. Add in the scythe and a bed of raspberries
that the chicks had scratched nearly bare, and I thought I might have
figured out my opportunity.
It took me about an hour
(and two big golfcart loads) to cover up the cardboard of my kill mulch
with a new organic layer. I mulched very thickly since I know the
weed leaves will wilt down to nearly nothing, but I hope the stems will
be enough to provide a long-lasting mulch. That means it took
just a bit longer to mulch the row than if we'd hauled buckets
of composted wood chips from the parking area, but only about half as long
leaves out of the woods.
The trick to speedy weed
gathering was to hit spots right along the driveway where partial shade
keeps the vines down and allows the scythe to make short work of the
weed stalks. Actually, I spent a lot more time collecting the
weeds off the ground than cutting them down, meaning that if I wanted
to build a grain
cradle for the
scythe, I could probably become significantly more efficient.
I also suspect that I'd
get more biomass for my effort if I waited another few weeks until the
weeds were starting to bloom. At that stage, they'd be higher in
carbon, which would make the mulch last longer while encouraging
beneficial fungi in the soil. Right now, the shaded wingstem and
ragweed in the woods are between three and five feet tall, but they'd
be bigger at bloom time.
I'll try to remember to
report back once I get an idea about how well the weeds work as
mulch. I'll probably repeat the experiment in a few other patches
in the meantime --- scything combined with the golf cart is too much
fun to pass up.
Our chicken waterer is the POOP-free solution to
a wet, dirty chicken coop.
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