Weeds For The Best Mulch For Citrus – Day 10 of Low Carbon Living

Source: Gill King, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Source: Gill King, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Day 10 of 365 Days Of Low Carbon Living.

Rain + warmth = weeds.

Return from travels = weeds.

Weeds. Weeds. Weeds.

It’s a never-ending war on weeds.

Their seeds blow in.

And if you let your weeds go to seed, there will be more – for years to come: ’One year of seeding means seven years’ of weeding’.

Yet, even if you are diligent, there are sure to be some weeds that you miss and go to seed…or which go to seed so fast that they already have seeds on them when you find them.

If you don’t have a compost system hot enough to kill seeds, or animals that will eat them, what do you do about those seedy weeds?

One option is to take or send ‘away’ to a hot-compost facility or to the dump…but that option has a number of problems:

  • It maintains a ‘waste’ mentality – when there is no such thing in nature, and when the concepts of ‘waste’ and ‘out of sight means out of mind’ are the causes of so much of the damage to our common home, Earth.
  • It requires transport, with all its greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, infrastructure and cost.
  • It uses our time and energy, if we transport the weeds ourselves or organise other people to.
  • It removes valuable nutrients and carbon from our local patch of earth and, if the weeds are buried, from access at all.

What I do

There is an alternative that avoids all these problems – and has the added benefit of providing heavy, nitrogen-rich mulch to plants: use the weeds as mulch.

I find this particularly useful for shallow-rooted, nitrogen-hungry citrus trees. It has made a huge difference to the health of my citrus.

It’s also very quick.

And the pile of weeds smothers just about any seedling that might come from the seeds…and makes it easy to pull out the occasional one that makes it through (invariably at the edges of the pile).


In my last post I outlined the problems that plants are having as the consequences of damage to our climate unfold – and why mulching is so important.

On top of that, global growth of plants (and thus food) globally is now limited because of how we humans have used two nutrients essential for plant growth: nitrogen and phosphorous. The one-way thinking of industrial agriculture means that we have used these nutrients in such a way that they are lost to land-based growth systems. This contrasts with natural processes which are cyclical and in balance.

Furthermore, these nutrients can accumulate in local areas. In this case, they become pollution and can lead to ‘dead zones’. In turn, nature and food production suffer.

The consequences of all of this? As Professor Will Steffen says:

Transgressing a [planetary] boundary increases the risk that human activities could inadvertently drive the Earth System into a much less hospitable state, damaging efforts to reduce poverty and leading to a deterioration of human wellbeing in many parts of the world, including wealthy countries.

In other words, foohttp://www.stockholmresilience.org/research/planetary-boundaries.html

Why now?

Simply, the later we leave it to take action, the worse the consequences.

In terms of nutrients, it is worth remembering that population growth and maintenance is always dependent on food supplies. Less nutrients = less food; less food = less people. It might take a while to get there, but that is the harsh reality. Then of course there is all the other life with which we share our home…and those other species are in the same boat on this matter.


It’s easy: simply gather up the weeds and lay them around the base of your (citrus) trees.

Ensure you don’t pile up mulch against the tree trunk, as it will lead to the bark rotting.

Pointing the seed heads away from edges of the pile (including the tree trunk) means seeds will not fall at the edges – and so you will not be creating a weed problem there.

Remember that mulching is most effective if the mulch is placed on damp soil so you get a head start at keeping moisture in the soil.

The challenge

Can you use all seedy weeds on-site?

Join me!

Any change or challenge is easier if you have company along the way.

So let’s embark on this journey together.

  • Read my blog every day for ideas, thoughts and experiences for living a lower carbon lifestyle, more in harmony with nature – while also adapting to the consequences of our damaged climate.
  • Subscribe to get posts direct to your inbox.
  • Commit to taking action yourself.
  • Add a comment to let me know you’re joining in the effort to turn around our world so it can remain liveable – and what your experiences are.
  • Share with others my posts and what you’re doing – our efforts, progress, experiences and challenges – on Facebook, on Twitter, in conversations with friends, on talkback radio and in letters to the editor.

A problem shared is a problem halved. We’re all affected by the changes to our world so we need to be all in on the action!

Till next time…