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I have long been a mulch junkie such that my garden has been built with lawn clippings. It is now a rich loam chock full of life. It is spongy and worm dense.

Hypothetically any weed 'problem' was simply blanketed with more mulch.

But with the recent drought conditions my working template fell apart. I was now overhead watering and my mulch supply -- via the 'Mower Men' of my acquaintance --dropped off to nothing.

Then the  Tradescantia (Wandering jew) invaded.

With the recent weather I've got a major Trad Happening outback.

How much of a problem is this, I ask myself? What have I done to deserve such weedy abundance?

Other weeds are easy to manage but Wandering Jew keeps wandering no matter how much of it you pull out.

The chooks love the stuff. I make a  great brew of weed tea with it (if I can say so myself).

But this time around the weed has gone crazy.

While I chop it back and pull it out -- not that you can ever get all of it -- I'm beginning to learn to live with it.

The irony of Tradescantia is that despite its  contagiousness, it is remarkably easy to pull out. Grab a good hand or sickle full and pull!  It inhabits the soil so very lightly.

So I am forced to ask: what harm is it doing?

Maybe I can use it as a cover crop?

I've not found anyone celebrating Wandering Jew this way.  It's really a bit 'out there' to even suggest it -- unless you were Peter Andrews.

This weed may now be carpeting  so many beds but my veges are doing fine growing within it. There is a problem with shading as the Trad builds up and thickens, but otherwise I'm finding I can intervene at my leisure.

Mulching with lawn clippings doesn't suppress Trad. Mulching with Vetiver does.

Of course there is a feral  POV that weeds are good -- just a plant out of place -- but if you are hosting a Tradescantia monoculture it isn't easy to be so generous.

And is embarrassing in front of visitors.

But I yearn to be lazy..and weeding is something I seldom do. It used to be a 4 times a year job. Beating Trad would require that  I invest a lot more time and energy into forensic herbicide.

However...

This article really does lay down the joy of weeds:MANAGING WEEDS AS COVER CROPS.

As its author,Eric Koperek , argues:

Sell your plows, disks and harrows — you don’t need them.  Grow weeds or other cover crops and leave the fungi alone.  Open the soil just enough to get seeds or transplants into the ground.  Further disturbance cuts profits and yields.

Don't get me wrong I'm not saying that we leave weeds alone and I definitely don't argue to let Trad be...but methinks  that as weeds go, Tradescantia  makes for a pretty good cover crop.

There are better ones of course. But a weed in the hand is worth two in the next paddock. Or , at least, the weed you know is better than the one you don't.

Anyone who has mowed Trad knows how much of a green smoothie it can be turned into. Why waste all that goodness? When you cut it with a brush cutter or mower you often get steam -- the creeper's leaves and stems are so succulent, you see.

So pull and drop is OK -- but the Trad will prevail again if you drop them in situ.

Get used to it.

I don't have a mower. I cut whatever little grass I have with an electric WhipperSnipper. I'm definitely not 'anal' when it comes to grasses and weeds. I am in no way a 'lawn' person.

But I'm going to transition to a more robust technology (above) and deploy it on my beds as well as the verges and grasses.

This device will certainly facilitate my Vetiver harvest.

The pending option, you see, is to treat you garden beds  as grazed paddocks. Trim the weeds by all means . Mulch them/mulch the soil. But don't get obsessed with pulling them out and wasting them. 

I may not be planting many speciality cover crops like legumes ( but I do  have a few peanuts in the mix). I am, instead,  making do with what's there.

All I have to do now is tell the fam ,and any others ,that the jungle I  call a vegey patch is not a mess, but managed cropping with ground cover.

AFTERWARD:

Not that I urge you to eat Tradescantia  (although my chooks love it) but you may have read this story which is definitely food for thought:Study: Weeds are More Nutritious than Store-Bought Produce

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Comment by Sophie on February 4, 2020 at 10:30

I've found this also and never worried about it much. If it gets too much, so easy to just rip back, let bake in the sun & use as mulch

Comment by Dave Riley on February 3, 2020 at 19:13

I'm so surprised that the weed that  seemed undeserving of being so maligned wasn't Trad  after all but a native ground cover.

My intuition was good.

Mind you Scurvy Weed  can be  vigorous and warrants thinning if only to find the veg hidden among it or to create a space to plant a seedling or two.

But as a GROUND COVER:

  1. it covers and shades the soil
  2. its vegetative spread is loose so plants can survive within its jungling
  3. it's shallow rooted and seemingly doesn't aggressively compete with other plants.
  4. it is easily cut back.

I'm not arguing that folk go get themselves some Scurvy Weed to plant out, as once you have it, you'll never get rid of it.

And its green! Ever so green, such that finding other plants by colour among all that greenery is  a hard ask .

Then when you get visitors they'll think you are just growing weeds.

Comment by Sophie on February 3, 2020 at 16:06

I've also left 'weeds' in the veg patch this summer, namely trad - sorry, scurvy weed!- and cobblers pegs (chop before seeds appear) and amaranth. With a cassava canopy, these have created an understory for the more desirable seeds to germinate. Definitely been a garden saver this summer! And yes, the chooks love scurvy weed!

Comment by Dave Riley on February 2, 2020 at 22:31

CORRECTION:

here I am waffling on when I discover that my Wandering Jew which I think is almost benign is, in fact,Commelina cyanea.

Scurvy Weed

Other names: Sometimes called Wandering Jew, though this name usually refers to introduced weeds in the genus Tradescantia, which I don't think are edible (. Sometimes called "Native Wandering Jew"

Introduced From: Nowhere - it's native to Eastern Australia

Not Trad:Commelina cyanea.

...Scurvy weed is a very versatile and hardy plant for the home garden; its blue flowers are distinctive and attract native bees. It can be grown in a wide range of conditions, but prefers those similar to its natural habitat (forests), such as half shade to full sun. It likes moisture and prefers heavier moisture-retentive soils. It will regenerate spontaneously from old plant material, such as stems, nodes or seeds and may colonise bare ground quite readily. On occasions, it can become weedy and smother small plants if not watched closely. However, in other cases its appearance in summer is a welcome and colourful addition to the garden. (ANPS)

                             TRAD: Tradescantia (Wandering jew) :Obviously I cannot tell one from the other  and I've seen commelina cyanea in the bush.The dead give away are the flowers. Blue vs white.

Comment by Dianne Caswell on February 2, 2020 at 7:45

Hi Sid,

Some weeds are a welcome visitor to my garden others, well they get the cut and leave treatment. The Friendly Bugs also appreciate a bit of a wild area where they can live and have many babies. You have the right idea there.

Please contact me via the Message email on BLF or phone 0407691485, just let me know the month and your preferred date. I am sure everyone would be interested in your garden and how you have grown along with your, you only need look back at photos you have put on the site. Cheers....  Dianne

Comment by Sid Saghe on February 2, 2020 at 5:46

This is something anyone who wants to come round for a garden visit at mine will have to deal with - I do exactly as you are suggesting here and let the weeds be, mowing them back in a chop n drop method. I love it. I can't be certain but I suspect one of the reasons I have relatively few bug issues is because I leave weeds go wild at the side of my garden and they are free to banquet there. Life is too short to obsess over removing them if they're not causing you a problem in my opinion.

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GrowVetiver

Vetiver grass helps to stabilise soil and protects it against erosion.  It can protect against pests and weeds. Vetiver is also used as animal feed. (Wiki.)

GrowVetiver is a plant nursery run by Dave & Keir Riley that harvests and grows Vetiver grass for local community applications and use. It is based in Beachmere, just north of Brisbane, Australia.


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