There are a lot of weeds in my garden. Some good, some not so good. What should I do with them? Let's consider the options at PumpjackPiddlewick

I have given up on weeds. Okay, maybe not entirely, but I have decided to live and let live. And eat.

Can You Eradicate Weeds?

In reading and watching lots of ‘how to’ in gardening, weeds are a verbose topic throughout the medium. Generally with a view as to how to eradicate. Well, maybe not eradicate, as honestly is this even possible? But more, curtail, control.

Now this takes a lot of work. And I say this with some experience. The first spring in developing my veg garden, I managed to get it weed free. For about a day. It was a lot… a lot… a lot of work. A lot. And then they came back. Almost immediately.

It was time to re-think this whole weed business.

A Weed by Any Other Name

This year in March, I was planting bulbs in my designated perennial flower section of my medieval restoration garden. One of the bulbs’ names caught my eye. It was Oxalis. It is a mid-spring, very pretty flowering plant. Here in France it is sold as a very inexpensive bulb for your garden. Yet, interestingly, in the US it is considered a weed. A rose by any other name and all that.

This gave me an ah-ha moment. Especially when talking with a gardening friend. She happened to say ‘a weed is just a plant in the wrong place.’ Another light bulb went off for me.

A New View

Thus, to make my life easier, I have decided on a different approach. The idea came about in early early spring, when the ground and garden were pretty bare. And honestly, not that pretty. First to come in were wild flowers. And, of course, weeds. And then the weeds flowered, and were very pretty.

I took some pictures of a few flowering plants (aka weeds?) in my garden and sent to friends and family who are much better and more knowledgeable than I. My pictures weren’t great, not enough detail, and identification proved difficult, but ideas were bandied. Essentially word came back, and across the board it was: ‘it’s a weed and should be removed’.

But, they have such pretty flowers. I decided to leave and see what came of them. And do a little research. So I downloaded one of those plant identifier apps and went taking pictures around my garden. I was going to determine what weeds I wished to keep, and those I would actually pull out. If any.

Edible Weeds

Many weeds are edible, you see. Dandelions are well known as an edible plant. I found this delicious sounding recipe for dandelion jelly (jam) that I simply must try. Except I don’t have any pectin at the moment, and have left it too late. But it gave me the idea, maybe more of the weeds in my garden had a purpose other than to be pretty and a potential pain in the proverbial.

Violets are technically not a weed, I think, but I didn’t plant them. Yet they are, or were, in the wrong place. So I transplanted them to where I wanted them. (Oh, and violets are also edible.) My poppies, too. I have lots and lots of poppies. The kind you can collect the seeds from to use in cooking. I just have to wait for them to die and dry.

Mustard

I worked out that another lovely flowering ‘weed’ that is rather prolific throughout my garden is Wild Mustard. It looks a lot like canola or rape seed, so created some confusion. By the time I figured out what it was it was a bit to old to eat as mustard greens, but there is always next year now that I know.

In the meantime, other than a few in wrong locations that have been cut back or removed, the rest have been left to do their thing. I now have a lovely yellow border along my stone wall, quietly generating seed pods. I will harvest these come time as mustard seeds are something I cook with a lot. (Can really recommend curry and mustard seed celeriac chips!) And I plan to make my own mustard, too.

Alfalfa and Nettles

Another ‘weed’ spotted in a few places in the garden, which I am still in the process of identifying, looks to be Alfalfa. Research is being undertaken and it seems this is an edible plant packed with vitamins. I have heard of alfalfa sprouts, but am not yet sure what all we can make from the plant itself. Time and more research will determine.

There are also Dead Nettles and real Nettles, eg stinging nettles. Dead nettles are actually part of the mint family, and are edible, but they look like stinging nettles except when they flower. They have a lovely purple cluster of flowers. I also like to keep small patches of stinging nettles, particularly if there are tomato plants nearby. Nettles make great companion plants. And I also like to make Nettle pesto.

Clover and Vetch

Oh, and Clover. I found an abundance of clover amongst a patch of my raspberries. They create a nice ground cover, so have been left in peace, and await flowering. Clover in salads is absolutely delicious, and pretty.

Vetch is probably my favourite weed. The plant and flower are simply lovely. This is a weed I will often transplant rather than tried to eradicate. The best way to ‘tame’ it is to give it something to climb. Like any clinging type plant, I do have to keep an eye on it not attaching to my strawberries, but the odd strategically placed stick also helps in this process. Oh, and as the vetch is part of the pea family, it turns out it is edible as well. Result!

Weedus Horribulus

Every gardener has a bane, and I am no different. Mine is Bindweed. Sigh. Okay, yes it has a lovely flower. Really lovely. Morning Glory to those who don’t think of it as a weed. But by the time it gets to flowering stage it can kill whatever it has climbed, and consequently strangled. And boy does it grow fast.

But rather than rail against the night, I am again turning to research. Turns out bindweed shows up particularly when the soil is low in nitrogen. It aids in mending, putting nutrients back into the soil. Sigh. Of course it would turn out to have a good side.

Rather than try to foil, I am trying to work out ways to deal with this particularly pernicious weed. Where it is prolific, I am taking this as a sign of need and putting in sticks to try and train it upwards, rather than outwards into the rest of the garden. I don’t mind if it strangles the odd stick. Where it shows up in my veg garden beds, it gets pulled out. It’s a little 5 minute chore I have tasked myself with daily. This also gets me in to garden, rain or shine, and gives me a quick overview of how it is doing and what else may need tending to.

And Now?

With this view towards weeds the garden looks lush, and should do no matter the time of year. Well, except for winter when even weeds die back, I think. Oh, and I am awash in butterflies and bees! So maybe an attitude of live and let live, with the odd transplant or pull, may work. Time will tell, but I certainly hope so.

After all, rather than weeding weeds, I could be spending time actually ‘gardening’, writing, hanging out with my animals or simply contemplating the world going round. But let me catch one in the wrong place…

More Know How

As I am not one for videoing my work, but appreciate it in others – Here are my go to visual Gardeners for information and ideas:

Huw Richards – Grow Food Inexpensively

Liz Zorab – Byther Farm

Grow Veg

Self Sufficient Me

More Gardening?

If you enjoy gardening, or simply like to read about gardening, please check out my other Garden Findings.

If you like what you read and wish to join in and support Pumpjack & Piddlewick, do check out my Nourish page.

And here’s a taste of garden items in My Shop:

(Simply click on an image of interest to see more.)

2024-06-21

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