If you dig up weeds don’t waste them: turn them into compost. Photograph: Alamy
Three years ago, I stood on my plot and looked across a sea of weeds with one sage plant in the middle. I had couch grass, bindweed, docks, creeping buttercup, nettles and brambles. I drew a line through the middle and started a no-dig experiment that changed the way I garden.
For the definitive guide to no dig, read the books of organic vegetable grower Charles Dowding. I dug over one half of my garden, the other half I let be, but within a year I gave up digging altogether.
Now I’ve got a surprising present for my efforts. If you have to dig (and there is always some digging of pernicious perennial weeds such as brambles or dock, which you must remove before you start a no-dig bed) you may well be rewarded with more than just strong arms.
Domestic composters don’t tend to heat up enough to kill off perennial weeds. Couch grass, bindweed, brambles, dock and creeping buttercup will laugh at your efforts to destroy them, while supping up all the goodness from the compost, ready to colonise new land when you spread them out.
They need a different tactic. Rot them down into weed soup: add the resulting gunge to the compost, spread it around shrubs and fruit bushes, or siphon off the brown liquid to use as a low-grade feed for plants. But if you have a large area to weed, you will need endless buckets and water butts.
Too often you end up bagging the weeds and sending them off to the council to be composted on an industrial scale, where high temperatures will kill them off. This is a waste. The council has to collect, process and redistribute nutrients that could stay in your soil.
The solution is to compost the weeds slowly over two to three years, excluding light and as much air as possible: in short, you starve them. I bagged mine up into biodegradable bin bags. A wall of bags is not pretty, so I hid them behind the shed, covered with black plastic to exclude light and air.
After three years, the bags began to degrade, which prompted me to sort through them – a task I was dreading, but it turned out to be joyous. Apart from a small handful of bindweed, it was all rich, dark, crumbly loam. I could see worms had got into the degrading bags, as there were hundreds of tunnels.
I spread out some loam and covered it with clear plastic to see if anything would germinate from the residual weed seed bank. Very little did, while a sowing of mustard showed it was rich, good stuff, ready to go back where it had come from.