We all know that we must eradicate Docks from our plots right. Well maybe not.
Nature hates bare soil. Apart from earthquakes and landslides you hardly ever see bare earth in nature. Nature deals with bare earth in the same way your body deals with a wound and tries to cover it up as soon as possible. Docks and other pioneer plants are natures scab protecting the soil from damage from the sun, wind and rain. When it comes to bare soil, if you don’t put something there to cover it, nature will try to do it for you. This is why you have ‘weeds’. In some ways you are fighting a loosing battle. The more you try to clear the soil the more nature will try to cover it up so really you are just making more work for yourself.
I know you have always tried to eradicate things such as Docks from your allotments but do you know why you are going to all this trouble or is it just the way it has always been done.
Docks do have some benefits. They will grow in very poor soil and they are an indicator of poor overworked soil. This is why you see them in farmers fields. They have deep tap roots so do not compete with your shallow rooted annual vegetables as much as you think and because of their deep roots they bring up minerals from the subsoil. They are what’s known as a Dynamic Accumulator. They also benefit compacted soil aiding soil structure and drainage.
The best way to deal with Docks is to snip them off before they go to seed and either let them rot on the surface as a mulch or put them into your compost heap as Docks make great compost activators.
I tend to just snap off the dock leaves as and when I see them and let them break down on the surface thus releasing all their goodness back into the soil. If you do this as and when you see the leaves in your beds you will not give the docks a chance to thrive and they will eventually give up and die.
Another way to reduce the amount of docks is to not dig your beds each year. Docks thrive in poor soil and so breaking up the soil each year gives them the perfect breeding ground. If you refrain from digging the number of Docks will decrease as your soil improves. Keeping the soil covered with other plants will also discourage weeds of all sorts.
If you try to dig them up you will end up spreading them about and you will end up with a bigger problem than you had before, another great reason for not digging the soil.
Dock are edible -Although I have never tried them- and are related to sorrel. They are rich in vitamin C and have many medicinal uses. They also have antihistamine properties and conveniently grow near nettles.
So, before you reach for the fork or even worse the Roundup just think why you are trying to kill that weed and could it actually be a benefit to you and your garden.