This is a comforting little book that speaks up for ‘weeds’. The author is keen to tell you about their finer points, before telling you how to manage them in an earth-friendly way – if you still want to. He describes a selection of 60 weeds common to the UK Midlands. The principles apply to many other weeds of similar habit or species, so this is not intended to be a definitive guide. It is more of a ‘spiritual’ guide; a guide to developing a mindset that recognises that some weeds have a useful place, and others do perhaps need gently dissuading if we are to achieve our gardening goals.
The first section builds the case for ‘weeds’, their place in the ecosystem and their secrets to success. This includes their growing habits, lifecycles and propagation mechanisms. ‘Living with weeds’ then explains the benefits that weeds can provide for the gardener, including soil improvement, food for us and for wildlife, mulch, indicators of soil health and fertility, and homes for wildlife. The middle section, ‘know your weeds’ gives information for each of 60 weeds to aid identification, understand benefits and risks, and how to gently manage them as required. The final section provides information and techniques to prevent, clear and control weeds without chemicals. This includes essential information about what weeds require in order to grow, and therefore how to frustrate their efforts. For example, if you cover the soil to exclude light, seeds are unable to germinate. There are some really simple ideas which don’t involve backbreaking work with a spade.
All in all, this is a gentle, friendly and interesting book which leaves you feeling that you know and appreciate a lot more about ‘weeds’. It will empower you to manage them in a way that is gentle to both your back, and the ecosystem of your back garden. It has definitely earned its place on my shelf.