Now that our gardens are planted, they are growing weeds along with vegetables, herbs and flowers. But the term weed is subjective. When a plant has a use to someone, it is not a weed.
Edible and Medicinal
Some weeds are edible foods, such as purslane, a succulent groundcover. You can pull it out, put it raw in salads or cook it like spinach, chard of kale. Purslane is very common here, and as a groundcover it acts as mulch.
Lamb’s quarters is another ‘weed’. It, too, can be eaten raw or steamed like other leafy greens. The ever-famous dandelion is completely edible – roots, leaves and flowers can be eaten in salads, stir-fries and soups.
Other weeds are medicinal. All medicines are plant derivatives. Long before there were doctors and hospitals, sick people were given plant matter in different form to heal them. Science has turned those plants into pills now.
You can chew a piece of plantain and apply it to a bug bite or sting for immediate relief. Jewelweed can be applied to a spot on your skin where you rubbed up against poison ivy to keep the rash to a minimum. Thankfully, jewelweed grows right alongside poison ivy! White yarrow slows down bleeding and is helpful with digestive issues.
But the weeds we need to get out of our garden are plants that don’t belong there. There is a saying that a weed is a plant growing where you don’t want it. This is why the definition of a weed is subjective.
Seed gets dispersed through birds, wind and other animals. It is very mobile! Say you have a flowerbed that has a lot of reseeding plants, such as hollyhocks, cosmos and calendula. You may find hollyhocks in your lawn, cosmos in your vegetable garden or calendula across the walkway. That’s when a plant becomes a weed. If you want to maintain the look and feel of your manicured yard, sadly these weeds must be pulled.
Plants that grow where you don’t want them will suck water and nutrients away from the plants you do want growing well. If you have a vegetable garden with reseeding cosmos sprouting in it, as beautiful as they are, the cosmos will have to go into the compost pile. Cosmos is a big plant that will use a lot of water and drink fertilizer meant for its neighbors, as well as cast shade on plants that need sun. Any plant that detracts from your intended plants are weeds!
Getting Rid of Weeds
The easiest way to pull weeds is to be sure the soil is damp. Plants come out with little effort on your part. Water at night and pull weeds in the morning. Simple!
Once the weeds are out of the ground and in the compost pile, water again. You will need to settle the soil that remains. After watering, cover the garden with a thick layer of mulch to keep the moisture in and the weeds down. Smothering weeds is a great way to have a tidy garden.
Now, after all that about neat gardens with no unwanted plants in them, I have to tell you that I don’t garden like that. I love reseeding plants, and I pretty much let them grow where they sprout. Pretty much, I said. I do remove large plants (like cosmos) from the vegetable patch, but I let others grow if they are not interfering.
This year, I have marigolds, calendula, cilantro and borage reseeding from last year’s plantings. I am letting them grow out, but I did move a few to places where they wouldn’t crowd out other plants.
I also let the purslane grow to add to salads (I’m a voracious salad eater!). As a spreading groundcover, it shades the soil from the sun and keeps it cool. When it gets out of hand, it gets weeded. It can take over smaller plants.
Define ‘Weed’ for Yourself
‘Weed’ is a subjective term. You have to determine what you want growing where, then remove the other plants. Dig them, pull them or chop them down. Use a little elbow grease! Please don’t use herbicides that kill all your plants and beneficial bugs! Garden organically always!