The Benefits Of Docks

Katie Shepherd
Friday, 26th July 2013

Katie Shepherd is a hill farmer in North Yorkshire. Using permaculture principles on her farm, she has been looking at the positives of weeds.

This year, I've made a conscious effort to explore the positive aspects of 'weed' control on the land I farm... and with good old docks, I've identified the following yields:

  • The docks reduce compaction of the soil (long roots)

  • Cutting them down by hand just before they seed, weakens the plant, and is good exercise for me!

  • I observe the land more, with greater detail on a more regular basis, enabling me to notice changes, improvements, challenges etc.

  • Good neighbour relations when I chop the docks out of his meadow prior to hay making (docks in the hay spread the seed massively)

  • The woody stalks from the plants, once dried make excellent kindling of fuel for a kelly kettle 

Further resources

More from Katie: Hill Farming - A Permaculture Perspective

Celebrating June - Growing, Picking and Preserving Edible Native Flowers

How To Use Weeds To Do The Dishes

Foraging for Wild Food and Medicinal Plants - Brassicas plant Profile

Wendy |
July 27, 2013 - 2:57pm

This piece is incredibly short on useful information for something that purports to be about the benefits of docks!

One of the first things to grasp when trying to understand their role is that nature doesn't leave soil uncovered, so docks are one of nature's primary 'wound healers' that grow in response to disturbed, exposed or compacted soil.

Docks are a sign of poor soil care. They occur far less in mature undisturbed deep litter soils teeming with life. If you have a serious amount of them outcompeting other plant species, stop ploughing and using heavy agricultural machinery on the land because it's that that's causing the dock overgrowth!

They can tolerate poor soil, drought and compaction far more than many other species. Their deep roots don't just remediate compaction, but bring up essential minerals from the subsoil to remineralise the upper layers and begin the restoration process of trashed topsoil. They can quickly cover exposed soils with their large and broad leaves which, as they die, make a highly nutritious mulch for the soil as well as activating the composting process of their own and other decaying plant matter. You can use them as compost activators and mulch in other areas too.

Docks are edible. Rich in vitamin C and minerals and available all year round. Broad-leaved dock (Rumex obtusifolius) is relatively high in phosphate and potassium levels in the leaves, and is particularly high in magnesium. See more here - http://vimeo.com/2492132

They also have medicinal uses and are an important feedplant for several species of butterfly.

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