Do you consider mustard a weed - PumpjackPiddlewick

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

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 our 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.

And then, this year in March, I was planting bulbs in our perennial flower garden. One of the bulbs name 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 Pumpjack said to me ‘a weed is just a plant in the wrong place.’ (He may not say much, but when he does…)

Thus, this year I have decided on a different approach. The idea came about in 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 our 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.

Many weeds are edible, you see. Dandelions are well known as an edible plant. I just came across 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, rather prolific in part of our sudo-lawn. Wrong place and all that, so I transplanted them to where I wanted them. (Oh, and violets are also edible.)

I worked out that another lovely flowering ‘weed’ that is rather prolific throughout our garden is Wild Mustard. It looks a lot like canola or rape seed, so created some confusion. By the time we figured out what it was it was a bit to old to eat as mustard greens, but there is always next year now that we 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. We now have a lovely yellow border along our stone wall, quietly generating seed pods. I will harvest these come time as mustard seeds are something we cook with a lot. (Can really recommend curry and mustard seed celeraic chips!) And I plan to make our own mustard, too.

Another ‘weed’ spotted a few places in the garden, which we are 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.

We also have 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.

Oh, and Clover. Found an abundance of clover amongst a patch of our 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. It is the one weed last year I transplanted rather than tried to eradicate. It now is twining itself along my wattling fences and across some of my broken tile paths. 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!

Every gardener has a bane, and I am no different. Mine is Bindweed. Sigh. Okay, yes it has a lovely flower. Really lovely. 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.

It is and always has been quite prolific in our garden. 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 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.

With this view towards weeds the garden looks lush, no matter the time of year. Well, except for winter. And the perennial fruit and veg border looks even healthier than ever, with all the plants looking bountiful. Oh, and we are 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 our animals or simply contemplating the world going round. But let me catch one in the wrong place…


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

For a visual progression of our (restoration) Garden you will find videos on our YouTube Channel. Or you can flick through the before to now slide show below…

Veg Garden

Our Restoration Garden is a long work in progress, with picture and blog post updates happening all the time. We hope you will join us in our constant discoveries about France and country life. Sign up below (scroll down to grey area) to receive updates of new blog postings by email.

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