Valuable weeds

Weeds provide many functions and products. Make the most of them to improve your agricultural production as they are good for:

  • Mulch and compost material
  • Organic matter
  • Protecting the soil from erosion
  • Products, such as fibre and paper
  • Providing homes for pest predators and attracting pollinators
  • Indicating what grows well as many weeds have productive plants for relatives: If a weed grows well, its productive relative probably does too.

Tithonia diversifolia (Tree marigold or Mexican sunflower) is a great example. It is an entrenched weed in most tropical countries. However, it has many uses and should be considered a valuable part of a productive farm!

Some of Tithonia diversifolia’s uses:

  • Biomass producer − large amounts are produced which can be used for mulch, organic matter, compost material and liquid compost material.
  • Soil improver − the roots loosen the soil and make it better for other crops.
  • Green manure crop − it can be used as a green manure crop for agricultural land and rice paddies. See Soil (CH 5).
  • Fertiliser − a fertiliser can be made directly from crushing the leaves and mixing them with water.
  • Animal food − it is great food for rabbits, and is good for part of a chicken’s diet too.
  • Firewood − it is a good fire fuel, especially for clay and other wood-burning stoves and ovens.
  • Problem weed prevention − it has been used to out-compete other weeds that cause problems.
  • Erosion control − it covers bare soil on sloping land.
  • Drought tolerant − it is great for dry tropical regions.

There are many other land and water weeds − such as purslane, water hyacinth and duck weed − that can be used to fill many needs, turning problems into solutions.

For more weed information read:
Weed management section in Family gardens (CH 6)
Land and Crop Management section in Sustainable Agriculture (Ch 13)


Image: Mexican sunflower, Tithonia diversifolia is a weed of roadsides. Christmas Island, Australia, April 2011. John Tann from Sydney, Australia (Thankyou)

Sponsor the Guidebook

We’re offering you an opportunity to sponsor a chapter and join us in publishing the open source Tropical Permaculture Guidebook! The positive impacts include improving health and well-being, education, food sovereignty and resilience to climate change while also reducing its impact. It is especially for developing countries.

From us a huge thankyou because you are helping us achieve our goal. We have seen how much difference the original book has already made in Timor Leste and we want to replicate and expand that positive change across all tropical countries.

From the people who use this book – they will probably never know that you helped them and their families, but they will be able to have more food, cleaner water, be more resilient, more sustainable, have better livelihoods and live in healthier and more stable communities. You will know that you’ve contributed to that!!

Photo: Eugenio Lemos
Photo: Eugenio Lemos

Timor-Leste school garden permaculture program

Eugenio (Ego) Lemos, co-author of the Tropical Permaculture Guidebook presents the amazing Timor-Leste school garden permaculture program at a TEDxDili. It also includes a short film at one of the gardens and of course a couple of Ego’s songs! This is the culmination of many years hard work by Ego and the Permatil team, and the beginning of a new program that will provide short and long-term educational, nutritional and environmental benefits to children across Timor-Leste. Enjoy!!