My Edible Garden

I've been gardening for most of my life and have been a devoted fan of organic gardening the whole time. It just makes so much more sense to work in harmony with Mother Nature than to fight her. Besides which it is better for the planet and better for our bodies. Here you can see what I'm planting and harvesting, with gardening hints and resources thrown in for good measure.

Monday, July 11, 2016

thoughts on weeds

Red Root Pig Weed

What is a "weed" anyway? Most of the the definition I see is "a plant where you don't want it". Some people seem to think everything that they didn't plant is a weed and must be totally eradicated.

For me most plants that others would call weeds, I just call doing their jobs. They are working hard for me and my garden. They are covering the soil to help prevent erosion and evaporation. Even if I've neglected the garden a bit and it is 'weedy' I don't go in and cut everything down at once. There are hundreds of lady bugs and praying mantis and other creatures living in those weeds. If I'm clearing out the garden I do it one bed at a time. Not only does that spread the work out, it also gives those creatures a chance to move out and find a new home. It just kills me to see people clear cut large areas of vegetation, they are losing a lot of beneficial insects. And if they rake up and throw away all that vegetaion, then they are also losing soil fertility.

Some plants are delicious to eat and can be even more nutritious than the ones you planted on purpose! A great example is lambs quarters, Chenopodium alba. This is a great thing to have growing everywhere! According to this wikipedia article   Lambs Quarters has significant amounts of vitamin A and C, with (73% and 96% of your daily requirement per 100 grams of raw plant) along with being a good source of several other nutrients. Steamed Lambs Quarters leaves are, to me, indistinguishable in taste from spinach.  Lambs Quarters is related to Quinoa and also has nutritious seeds.

I pick Lambs Quarters for cooked greens for myself and cut it for my chickens. Cutting a few inches above the ground will allow it to grow back to be cut again.

lambs quarters
Redroot pigweed, Amaranthus retroflexus, is another nutritious "weed", whose leaves and seeds are good sources of various nutrients. (reference

Pigweed leaves can be used like spinach, but has a 'chewier' texture. Larger leaves can have the stem and mid rib removed to make them more tender.

Pigweed, in good soil with plenty of water can grow 6-8 feet tall so I do pull out seedlings in my growing beds. I do leave it around the edges of the beds and wherever else it shows up. Like cultivated Amaranths pigweed is a hot weather crop and thrives during our monsoon rains. I cut it back as necessary and feed a lot of it to my chickens, knowing next week that there will be more.

Henbit and chickweed are two cool weather weeds that blanket the ground in winter and early spring. Chickweed has a pleasant green taste when raw and is nice in salads. Henbit is related to mint but has a strong medicinal taste and smell which I'm not fond of. I feed both to the chickens. They make a good ground cover and I often leave them in the growing beds between other plants as a living mulch.

So it's good to know your weeds and what they can do for you. Don't be so quick to pull them out, they are busy working for you and your garden. If nothing else they will make a lot of biomass for your compost pile or can be pulled up and layed back down as part of the mulch.

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