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When pulling out weeds in the vege patch, I want to think of more ways that I can put it to good use that might be even better than merely letting it break down above the ground on its own (assuming you are on a property where you are responsible for for the green matter disposal).

So far I can think of:

  • Eating them if they are edible (meaning you don't have to plant so many intended garden greens / buy as many seeds from elsewhere, with all the sustainability considerations that that entails) - many field weeds such as dandelion are edible (including even the root), the greens of which is actually extremely nutritious unbeknownst to most.

  • Contributing them to green manure compost to put back into the garden once microbes have broken the weed down into highly beneficial humus / organic matter.

But what might be other ways? The more ideas the better. I am sure there are many.

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  1. For certain materials, you can use them to make bug hotels with the material.

  2. Fine materials (hair grass, small twigs, seed fluff) can be left as nest making materials.

  3. Fine materials can also be used as firestarter.

  4. Some material, such as prunings, can be used in various crafts: for winter decoration, basket weaving, etc.

  5. If you are in the right city, you can separate green stuff and the city will compost it, either for reuse or resale.

  6. In some cases you may have a neighbor who can use it. Ask around.

The bulk of this material, however is best used in your compost pile. A well run compost heap will kill all the seeds and most of the pathogens (fungi, bacteria, etc). Turn it into humus and put it in your garden next year.

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Want to agree with Sherwood Botsford's answer in that you should try to recycle the nutrients in weeds back into your soil via composting as the first priority. You might see that many weeds have quite long taproots, which draw up nutrients from much deeper soil than other plants can reach. So this would be a way to get more nutrients to your wanted crops. Composting, if done properly, should raise the temperature enough to sterilize weed seeds. The other consideration is that it is better to uproot the weed (or mow it) before it can even set seed, so that over time you may get less and less weeds.

But you are right about the eating part too: weeds are often just perfectly good plants that nobody has deemed it worth to cultivate. (And nutritious, due to the root as discussed.) My rocket (aragula/rucola) goes to weed easily, so I always have a good supply. I have also recently discovered Purslane in my garden, which I now actively try to propagate although it is a hard-to-eradicate weed. It has many and nice culinary uses and is extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids (for a plant).

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I place my weeds right down where I pulled them up. All stages of the plants decomposition are beneficial, not just having them ready composted and dug into the soil.

The first stage of having the wilted plant there is useful because slugs often prefer to eat it instead of live plants. The next stage of having brown straw like matter on top of the soil is a habitat for many beneficial animals like ground beetles, frogs, spiders, slow worms. Next it gets taken down into the soil by worms and provides energy for many more animals and fungi.

Having the dead plants lying on top of the soil is usually not done by gardeners because it looks untidy, but when I realised how much life and activity it creates I learned see it as beautiful as my live plants.

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    Do you also do this with weeds that already developed seeds? – THelper Jul 30 '16 at 8:38
  • Not if there are difficult weeds to pull up. Easy to remove weeds can be beneficial though because they suppress tougher weeds, also they are a source of dead weeds which I said find useful. – John Spence Jul 30 '16 at 8:58

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