Population Boom in Nelson Village!

Val Van Meier writes a monthly column for the Nelson Agricultural Commission.

Chipmunks are scurrying around the rock walls, crying an alert sound anytime we walk nearby. Tonight an adult woodchuck scampered away as I stepped out the door. The robins nest had three hatchlings and last year’s invasion of eastern cottontail rabbits has, well, you guessed it….multiplied. The other evening my husband told me to slowly approach a window and watch six small rabbits and their Mom enjoy scurrying through my garden. This has me fearful for the tender seedlings I was hoping (pun intended) to plant out in the flower garden.

We prefer to live on land in Nelson without fences; rock walls determine the boundary of our land. My electric garden fence borders my vegetable garden and might spare those rabbits a nasty surprise. In this case, fences do make good neighbors. A barn cat to help with voles, chipmunks & RABBITS is appealing. Our tasty garden greens we would prefer to eat and not feed to critters.

Weed Tea

Those nutrient rich greens are nourished with my new favorite amendment, weed tea. You ask what is weed tea? Last year I started with a five gallon bucket added macerated leaves and roots of weeds, added water and let the warm days start decomposition. When the contents started smelling, somewhat like manure, I watered my plants. I typically dip a one-gallon pitcher into the “brew” and don’t worry if a few decomposed leaves flow in with the water. That’s just more nutrients to add to the soil. Never one to do something small, this year we have a 50-gallon rain barrel for weed tea. Comfrey is a good addition, especially before it flowers. The idea is that any long rooted plant draws nutrients from deep in the ground and those nutrients are then used in the green growth. The prolific plant, ground ivy, otherwise known as creeping charlie, a plant I’m sure you love to pull out, has flowers that feed many pollinators. After it is done flowering, put it to good use, use that green growth to feed your tomatoes and cucumbers. If you are worried about raising a scourge (the collective noun I found online) of mosquitoes in the barrel, place a mosquito dunk in the water. A mosquito dunk is about the size of those small packaged powder sugar donuts, it contains a bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis serotype israelensis or bti for short that the mosquito larvae feed on and then die. It’s ingenious and easy to use, just drop the dunk in the water and replace in 30 days.

Looking at the weeds in my garden in a different light, no not the light of dawn, my eyes are hopefully closed then. What use are weeds besides for weed tea? Many weeds, like lambs quarters, sorrel, purslane and ground ivy, are edible and quite tasty! Use them in your kitchen. By identifying your weeds, you can learn about your soil. There are resources that can tell you what weeds prefer what soil types. Some plants prefer rich soil, others poor and compacted. Ground ivy is an equal opportunity plant, though I find it most prolific growing in loose garden soil. It is a pioneering plant, spreading, setting roots and stabilizing soil, protecting it from erosion. It also seems to grow near clover; naturally, it must be using the nitrogen that the clover fixes in the soil. Ground ivy arrived in New England with the colonists. It was used in beer making when hops wasn’t available; it was also used in herbal remedies and as a substitute for rennet in cheese making. I make my own feta cheese and want to research this further. A bitters made with ground ivy, bee balm, mint, etc. is maturing in our pantry as I write this column.

Those weeds underfoot can feed not only our plants, ourselves and of course the growing population of rabbits.


Creeping Charlie

Creeping Charlie detail

Overview of veggie garden and weed tea barrel

Weed Tea

Mother and Child

Fields of Nelson

Trees … maple, pine, ash, oak, and more cover Nelson’s hills, valleys, and most of New Hampshire. After exploring (some call this bushwhacking) the woods through a blanket of green or gray-brown, depending on season, I’ll often come out onto a road, homestead, or fields. This time of year, when I come out to a field, I like to stop, breath in the scent, enjoy the sunshine, flowering grasses, the beauty of the clearing, and hopefully a view.

May 9, 2022|

By |2021-07-13T17:21:39-04:00July 10, 2021|Nelson Agricultural Commission, Nelson in Common|2 Comments


  1. Beth Draper July 14, 2021 at 7:52 am - Reply

    Awesome article Val! I love how your experience with the plants and other critters illuminate! Thanks so much for this article.

  2. Susan Peery July 14, 2021 at 8:09 am - Reply

    I pull up a lot of creeping Charlie and other weeds and dump them over the bank or in the compost, but now think I will adopt your idea, Val, of making weed tea. Thank you for a good article!

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