Guardians of the Soil


Joseph A. Cocannouer

Author of Trampling Out the Vintage

The Devin-Adair Company
Old Greenwich • Connecticut

Copyright, 1950, by The Devin-Adair Company.
Manufactured in the United States of America.
Reprinted, 1980


1. Weeds and Youth
2. Weeds and Weeds
3. Weeds and the Soil World
4. The Fertility Chain and Soil Balance
5. Plant Roots
6. Weeds as Mother Crops
7. Weeds in the Rotation
8. Weeds and Pasture Improvement
9. Weeds in the Compost
10. Weeds as Food
11. Weeds and Wildlife
12. Sponge Structure versus Dams
13. Here and Yon
14. Nature's Togetherness Law

Publisher's Preface

SO FAR as we are able to determine this is the first book to be written in praise of weeds. Many are the books which treat weeds as pests, and each season sees an advance in anti-weed campaigns and techniques; a host of chemicals, mechanical eradicators and even flame throwers are making life increasingly hard for nature's greatest and most widely dispersed group of plants -- the plants which stand condemned because they are deemed "out-of-place."

That the ordinary garden and roadside weed might have a vital function in the scheme of things and be of inestimable value to mankind seems not to have occurred to most agriculturists, whether in the classroom, the departments of agriculture or on the farm.

The author of this book has been teaching conservation and biology for close to fifty years. But he has been a student as well and a keen field man who has specialized in the ways of weeds, not only in his home state of Oklahoma where he has spent much time learning from the Indians, but in other parts of the world -- in Europe, India and the Philippines, particularly.

According to Joseph Cocannouer, weeds -- the common ragweeds, pigweeds, pusleys and nettles, to mention four -- perform the following valuable services among others:

1. They bring minerals, especially those which have been depleted, up from the subsoil to the topsoil and make them available to crops. This is particularly important with regard to trace elements.

2.When used in crop rotation they break up hardpans and allow subsequent crop roots to feed deeply.

3. They fiberize and condition the soil and provide a good environment for the minute but important animal and plant .life that make any soil productive.

4. They are good indicators of soil condition, both as to variety of weed present and to condition of the individual plant. Certain weeds appear when certain deficiencies occur.

5. Weeds are deep divers and feeders and through soil capillarity they enable the less hardy, surface feeding crops to withstand drought better than the crop alone could.

6. As companion crops they enable our domesticated plants to get their roots to otherwise unavailable food.

7. Weeds store up minerals and nutrients that would be washed, blown or leached away from bare ground and keep them readily available.

8. Weeds make good eating -- for man as well as for livestock. The publisher can vouch for the superiority of lamb's quarter -- a favorite of the author -- over any other domestic form of spinach or cooked greens.

No, Professor Cocannouer does not believe that weeds should be allowed to go rampant and take over our farms and gardens. The function of this book, a pioneering work, is to demonstrate how the controlled use of weeds can be sound ccology, good conservation and a boon to the average farmer or gardener.

D. A. G.

Next: 1. Weeds and Youth

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