Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Weed of the Week

This week’s Weed of the Week feature is an ecological diatribe is disguise. We feature stickweed, the famous Verbesina occidentalis, an interesting creature found not so much in the fields but around the edges of the farm. We have quite a bit around the pond, up and down the fence-lines and along ditches, bare, unkept places that get full sun. The stickweed is a tall fellow, sometimes to eight feet, with a small yellow flower up top and distinctive wings along its stem. A brief examination of stickweed or any late summer weed reveals an entire universe: ants crawling up and down the stem, bees, wasps and butterflies feeding from the flowers, assassin bugs mating on the leaves, and deeper and greater mysteries that go unnoticed. Beneficial bacteria may be co-existing with underground exudates, forming complex communities with-in the root system. In short, there’s a hell of a lot more going on here than on a tidily mown front lawn.
We keep the areas around the field as wild as we can, letting the natural world express itself in any way it wants to and providing the appropriate niche for many different creatures. There’s no telling how this benefits the garden – did a beneficial wasp feeding on that flower then parasitize a caterpillar on a tomato vine? Are the wildflowers attracting aphids that would otherwise be on a vegetable? Do the wildflowers provide a home for assassin bugs that then prey on veggie pests? The answer is yes, yes and more, but none of these little creatures work in a planned or predictable way. Rather, we maintain a healthy environment that can sustain all kinds of wildlife, and then let the ecosystem evolve in its own way. We take care of it and it takes care of us.


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