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Putting "bad" "weeds" to good use

 
steward
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Do you have a stubborn weed that seems to grow everywhere, and you feel like you can't get rid of it?!

There's another thread Which "weed" do you dislike the most? where we talked about weeds we dislike.

One of the weeds I dislike the most is dogfennel (Eupatorium capillifolium).

It's toxic and after looking it up I couldn't find any good uses for it.

However, last summer, I had a period where I let everything grow in my garden, and a cucumber started trellising up the dogfennel. Both plants grew at about the same speed, so it provided a perfect living trellis for the cucumber to grow on and supported all the cucumbers. It has thin feathery like leaves, so it provided mild shade for the cucumber plant during our hot summers.

The cucumbers were bug free too, although I think this was more due to breeding, as it was a super vigorous volunteer and the other cucumber volunteers were the same way. This vine lived longer than the other ones though.

Have you found any good uses for frustrating weeds?
 
pollinator
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I've never tried this before, but I've seen one gardener on Youtube use Solanum carolinense (Carolina horsenettle) as a barrier to keep small critters out of his garden. I cannot find the video though .
 
Steve Thorn
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Ryan M Miller wrote:I've never tried this before, but I've seen one gardener on Youtube use Solanum carolinense (Carolina horsenettle) as a barrier to keep small critters out of his garden. I cannot find the video though .



Very cool!

I've been thinking about letting wild blackberries grow around my fruit trees to do a similar thing, they are just so tough to get rid of though once they get established.
 
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Year before last found me spreading dandelion seeds over my lawn. My “lawn” was planted on a hard pan and I wanted the dandelions tap root to help break it up. Best way to keep your lawn dandelion free is by trying to encourage them.
 
Steve Thorn
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Dennis Mitchell wrote:Year before last found me spreading dandelion seeds over my lawn. My “lawn” was planted on a hard pan and I wanted the dandelions tap root to help break it up. Best way to keep your lawn dandelion free is by trying to encourage them.



That's awesome how a "problem" can be a solution!
 
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Dandelion is by far my most common weed. By leaving it to grow I noticed that aphids left all my other plants alone.

Chickweed seemed a problem last winter but it didn’t stop any of my desired plants growing. It dies completely in my summer so I have absolutely no need to be concerned about it.
 
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We have a garden we didn’t plant this summer, and I saw goldenrod among weeds growing in there. Just took a few cuttings to make an oil with it, but letting them lay out in the sun for at least a day before I bring them inside and wash them before making it.

There’s supposed to be uses for the sweet mint that is overtaking our backyard, but none of those uses appeal to me. I am not okay with pouring borax all over my backyard, but laying tarps around to sit on them instead, so that I can plant wheatgrass in their place.

So long as I remove any flowers or seeds, plus also the roots, the other parts of most weeds can go in the compost pile as a green addition.
 
Audrey Wrobel
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Steve Thorn wrote:

Ryan M Miller wrote:I've never tried this before, but I've seen one gardener on Youtube use Solanum carolinense (Carolina horsenettle) as a barrier to keep small critters out of his garden. I cannot find the video though .



Very cool!

I've been thinking about letting wild blackberries grow around my fruit trees to do a similar thing, they are just so tough to get rid of though once they get established.



You can grow chives, garlic, nasturtium, and some other things around fruit trees. Google “herbs to grow around fruit trees,” as many carry benefits that may be good for your particular fruit tree. You want those that have shallow roots, impart nutrients your tree needs, and/or protects your trees from from pests, so I vote for chives if it fits your needs best.

You need to divide chives as they grow bigger, like every two years or so. They tend to bush out as they grow larger, and they self seed by flowering mainly purple; are perennial.

 
Steve Thorn
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Audrey Wrobel wrote:We have a garden we didn’t plant this summer, and I saw goldenrod among weeds growing in there. Just took a few cuttings to make an oil with it, but letting them lay out in the sun for at least a day before I bring them inside and wash them before making it.



I've got some goldenrod growing too. How do you process and use it?
 
Steve Thorn
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I don't really think of my goldenrod as one of the "bad" weeds, but it can spread with it roots pretty easily and grow fast and shade out other things.

This can also be used as a positive thing though, as it can shade out less desirable plants, and it seems to be pretty shallow rooted and easy to pull out if needed.

Did I mention it will attract more pollinators and other beneficial insects that you can imagine! And it looks amazing too!
Goldenrod-blossoms-in-early-fall.jpg
Goldenrod blossoms in early fall
Goldenrod blossoms in early fall
Goldenrod-and-cinnamon-basil.jpg
Goldenrod and cinnamon basil
Goldenrod and cinnamon basil
 
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I use blackberry cuttings to help reinforce the bottom of one section of my deer fence. The adult deer don't come through but the fawns were finding a way through which then made the adults panic and sometimes break through the fence.

But as I'm digging out blackberries the dried thorny canes work great to help block the areas the fawns were going through. In the long run I will be planting a hedgerow but in the short run the blackberries are a great fix.

I also maintain some blackberry patches as living fences to keep deer out. This has worked well in several areas.

Plus, every summer I harvest a ton of blackberry berries and my family and I love eating them.

In that thread you linked I think I mentioned blackberries as my most hated weed. But despite that I do use them a fair bit. I'm just also steadily removing them and replacing them with other plants. Though I doubt I will ever eliminate them and I don't really see a need to as long as I can push them back to a couple manageable patches as opposed to the third of an acre they covered when my wife and I bought our land.
 
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A weed is a flower growing in the wrong place.
George Washington Carver
 
Steve Thorn
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That's some good uses for the blackberries Daron, and you're right, they are very tasty too!

I'm so clumsy with them, they always seem to poke me somehow. Even if I wear gloves, I still get poked somewhere, guess I need some thicker clothes.
 
Daron Williams
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Thanks! Yeah, they still poke me despite all the "experience" I have with them. I always come away from my work removing them with cuts and at least one thorn stuck in one of my arms or legs...
 
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Steve Thorn wrote:

Audrey Wrobel wrote:We have a garden we didn’t plant this summer, and I saw goldenrod among weeds growing in there. Just took a few cuttings to make an oil with it, but letting them lay out in the sun for at least a day before I bring them inside and wash them before making it.



I've got some goldenrod growing too. How do you process and use it?



I can't seem to track down which of my wild food books it was in, but I swear I remember that all above ground parts of goldenrod are edible.  Personally I will eat the young, more tender leaves growing at the top of the plant, usually just adding them to a salad or cooked dish.  The flavor for me falls into the "eh" category so I can't say that I really use it much despite the abundance I have growing.  I believe most people will collect the leaves and flowers, drying them out to then use for making tea.
 
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Just before Japanese stiltgrass seeds out, I grab handfuls to use as a straw mulch in the beds. It is quick work to pull up a sizable amount.
 
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This is a very different take on bad weeds, but by knowing what kind of soil they thrive on, I know what I can apply for fertilizers and lime to make my soil thrive again.

Smooth bedstraw is really aggressive here, but getting your soil sweetened with lime will kill it. Just like potash will wipe out milkweed. Make the soil what it ain't and the weeds go away!

In this way weeds are not really "bad" just indicators of what my soil has for problems. If there is anything bad about them, it is that I let the soil degrade to the point where they thrive. And I am really the bad villain if I do nothing.
 
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Mart Hale wrote:A weed is a flower growing in the wrong place.
George Washington Carver



Then what is this? (Couldn't resist. Two of us have been sawing and hacking on this thing for two hours. Long way to go. No way to get a truck in to drag it out.)

Monster-holly.jpg
Monster
Monster
 
Mart Hale
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Diane Kistner wrote:

Mart Hale wrote:A weed is a flower growing in the wrong place.
George Washington Carver



Then what is this? (Couldn't resist. Two of us have been sawing and hacking on this thing for two hours. Long way to go. No way to get a truck in to drag it out.)



That is a weed growing in the wrong place.     :-)


There is the 55 gal barrel method of burning it out.





Also you can make a forge out of it :-)




 
Diane Kistner
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Mart Hale wrote:


Also you can make a forge out of it :-)






I could send my landlord this video and give her a heart attack! LOL! It was one of three old holly bushes growing up by the house. They would grow up about four feet taller than the roof and were a bear to hack down. Finally, I got two of them dug out by this guy, who came back to finish the third one. The third one was twice as big as the other two and is proving to be a real PITA.

 
Steve Thorn
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Here's a video I made of the wild goldenrod above and some cinnamon basil growing near it.

The goldenrod starting blooming just a few days ago in very late September, but the cinnamon basil I planted has been blooming for maybe even three months now, which has been a great long blooming plant that has attracted a lot of beneficial insects and pollinators too!

This video is best viewed on full screen on a computer to get the full effect. That's for those that like looking at insects though!

 
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Tall oatgrass (Arrhenatherum elatius) is my monster weed.  If you've got larger livestock, I guess they can eat it, but it's useless, otherwise.  Well, it would probably slow down an attack of zombies approaching in the dark from your perimeter; when you mow, set the blade on a high cut, and NOBODY can walk through your field because they will be tripping over it with every step, and end up either retreating, or attacking on their hands and knees.

It has small (1/4 to 1/2") stacked tubers, which create thick clumps when they multiply, and spreads by seeds, too.  Most people seem to dig it out, but if you leave a viable tuber behind, guess what happens?

The pH of the soil doesn't bother it, it's happy in very acid or very alkaline soil.  The state ag colleges say it's even relatively impervious to glyphosate.  Their only real suggestion is to keep it mowed really short CONSTANTLY for several years and starve it out.  Maybe.
 
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I have a weed I hate but use. Some call it coffeeweed,  others coffee bean weed. But it's actually a legume. The reason I hate it so is it has hard seed. So once it goes to seed you'll be fighting this thing for 4-7 years. I only have 3-6 to go LOL. But now every time I disk, turn soil, pull a harrow I have hundreds to thousands of them pop up. But knowledge is important,  my clover cover crop is slightly poisonous to germinating seedlings. So when I disk under my cover crop a month before I plant, or transplant, I let the weed grow. Then the day before I plant or same day, I disk the weed under and plant my cash crop. I then cultivate crops of 2nd flush of weeds (which is usually less than 1st flush) and it's slowly lowering the seed bank reserves in my fields. But at least it added some nitrogen and biomass to my beds.
 
Steve Thorn
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I used to severely dislike Privet (Ligustrum sinense) since it came up everywhere, grew pretty fast, and could be hard to get out. Recently I've learned to embrace it though, and am trying to maximize its positive aspects.

It has strong flexible wood, and grows pretty fast, so it makes a good living grape trellis. It is also semi evergreen here, so it looks nice when other things are dormant and provides habitat for beneficial birds during the winter.

Does anyone else have any good uses for Privet?

Here's a video I made about taking its "negative" traits and turning them into a positive!

 
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Sue Monroe wrote:Tall oatgrass (Arrhenatherum elatius) is my monster weed.  If you've got larger livestock, I guess they can eat it, but it's useless, otherwise.  Well, it would probably slow down an attack of zombies approaching in the dark from your perimeter; when you mow, set the blade on a high cut, and NOBODY can walk through your field because they will be tripping over it with every step, and end up either retreating, or attacking on their hands and knees.

It has small (1/4 to 1/2") stacked tubers, which create thick clumps when they multiply, and spreads by seeds, too.  Most people seem to dig it out, but if you leave a viable tuber behind, guess what happens?

The pH of the soil doesn't bother it, it's happy in very acid or very alkaline soil.  The state ag colleges say it's even relatively impervious to glyphosate.  Their only real suggestion is to keep it mowed really short CONSTANTLY for several years and starve it out.  Maybe.


    Be creative. Maybe you can use it for chicken bedding, which can then become  garden mulch. Maybe you can plant other really aggressive plants with it, to compete if not out-compete. Maybe giant amaranth? Maybe you can shade it out or plant a black walnut guild to kill it with juglone. Maybe you can find out what it’s indicating about mineral deficiencies in your soil, and remedy those.
 
Myron Platte
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C Rogers wrote:I have a weed I hate but use. Some call it coffeeweed,  others coffee bean weed. But it's actually a legume. The reason I hate it so is it has hard seed. So once it goes to seed you'll be fighting this thing for 4-7 years. I only have 3-6 to go LOL. But now every time I disk, turn soil, pull a harrow I have hundreds to thousands of them pop up. But knowledge is important,  my clover cover crop is slightly poisonous to germinating seedlings. So when I disk under my cover crop a month before I plant, or transplant, I let the weed grow. Then the day before I plant or same day, I disk the weed under and plant my cash crop. I then cultivate crops of 2nd flush of weeds (which is usually less than 1st flush) and it's slowly lowering the seed bank reserves in my fields. But at least it added some nitrogen and biomass to my beds.


    Interesting, using one nitrogen fixer to kill another. Have you considered fast-tracking the nitrogen process by adding oats —which collect lots of nitrogen and lay it down as green mulch— and daikon radish—which stores nitrogen in the decaying roots, and then slowly releases it— to your cover crop mix? That way the nitrogen niche will be filled more completely and the won’t have an “excuse” to be there.
 
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Giant ragweed is a pain to deal with here. It comes up by the thousands in various patches, and it seems it gets 8 ft tall overnight, and the stems are too thick to mow down or use clippers on.
But, the problem is the solution. The stems/trunks work well as temporary stakes or pigeon roosts. When the pig pen gets too muddy, I pull up some dead/dry stalks from last year to add to the surface as litter. It also usually doesn't go to seed until late summer/fall, so it's a lot of biomass for mulching trees and gardens (does better chopped up in gardens or else it takes forever to break down). Now that I've learned of it's protein level, I foresee lots of it being used as chicken & pig fodder.

Haven't come up with a solution for wild morning glory yet. It grows extremely fast and chokes out other plants (and can pull down structures). Since it's constantly going to seed, it doesn't work as mulch, unless one wants a morning glory patch. The animals don't seem to care for it, either. Since it's very unlikely I can totally eradicate it, I just plan to focus on the main spots I don't want it and try to fill it's niche with something desirable.
 
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Steve Thorn wrote:

Audrey Wrobel wrote:We have a garden we didn’t plant this summer, and I saw goldenrod among weeds growing in there. Just took a few cuttings to make an oil with it, but letting them lay out in the sun for at least a day before I bring them inside and wash them before making it.



I've got some goldenrod growing too. How do you process and use it?



I harvest and dry goldenrod for a medicinal herbal tea.
 
Steve Thorn
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Got weedy bushes or trees? Grow grapes on them!


 
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I have quite a bit less of insect damage on veggies since letting the weeds grow. Introducing other weeds to weeds you don’t prefer works as well.
 
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Pokeweed is one we get quite a bit of. Tremendous amount of biomass. For me it goes into the compost or dropped as mulch. I know some view it as a pretty good edible, but I choose not to eat it.
In 2020 American fireweed showed up on our site in abundance. Another that's purportedly edible, we tried it, not impressed ;) Tried it with our rabbits and poultry, they also seemed unimpressed. So it's another mulch plant.
In the weeds I hate category, smilax (catbrier, greenbrier). Nasty thorns, vicious tripping hazard, climbs trees and can pull them down if smother them. Young shoots are edible and taste pretty good, steamed for 15 minutes they're quite pleasant to eat, but not so much as to make up for the negatives.
 
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Cogon grass. If there is a good use for it please let me know. It's considered one of the world's 10 worst invasive plants. Almost impossible to control let alone kill. I don't even use it for composting because if any seeds survive the composting process it could ruin the garden. Quickly. It's nasty stuff.

It is similar to Johnson grass in appearance. It looks almost ornamental when it's flowering. An easy way to tell if it's cogon is to feel the edge of the leaves. Cogon has rough saw tooth edges. The central rib of the leaf is also off center. If you happen to see some report it to your state ag or wildlife department so they can get on it right away.

https://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/terrestrial/plants/cogongrass

https://www.cogongrass.org/identification/

https://www.mfc.ms.gov/forest-health/invasive-plants/cogongrass/
 
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I.E G Dog Fennel;  I looked up the uses; says its used as a mosquito repellant and an anti fungal -- I would guess a topical; the juices are used to repel insects...just sayin, for some of us who are allergic, the insect repellant spray for  skeeters would be a great use...
 
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Here in southern Ontario, Canada, dog-strangling vine is a very challenging invasive plant that crowds out native plants. Apparently it was brought by eastern European settlers over 100 years ago as an ornamental plant. Its power of reproduction is impressive - the root crown is below the surface (so doesn't come out when pulled) and the roots can get as prolific as a head of hair! Then each stalk has numerous seed pods filled with MANY seeds. I've discovered that the seed pods will dry and open even after being picked from the plant. It also has different appearances (maybe there are different types of it). It happens to be part of the milkweed family & likely is one of the causes of the Monarch butterflies' demise ... they mistake it for milkweed, lay their eggs on the leaves, then the larvae starve because it's not the milkweed they actually eat.

In my experience, the best method of control is persistent mechanical removal before the seed pods develop, digging deep to get as much of the root system as possible.

I would like to learn if there are any constructive uses for this plant! Is it edible or medicinal? The one positive use I see is that it can help prevent erosion.

https://www.invasivespeciescentre.ca/invasive-species/meet-the-species/invasive-plants/dog-strangling-vine/#:~:text=Height%3A%20Dog%2Dstrangling%20vine%20has,forming%20dense%20mats%20of%20vegetation
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Most weeds we use here. A lot of the invasive type species have potent medicinal properties,  i e. goldenrod, chickweed, mugwort, plantain, dandelion, burdock, yellow dock etc.  The two I haven't found use for (yet) are thistle and bindweed.  I did find a recipe for thistle soup, but haven't given it a go yet. And mullein is medicinal and stunning both first and second year.
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The most problematic weed for me is canadian thistle. I know it is on the land to help heal decades of use as pasture (I'm managing about 20 acres). A few years ago I read about a rust fungus study that seemed most hopeful, but I have not been able to learn anything about how that came out, and when I contacted a professor involved I learned that only state agencies would be getting access.  I would like to learn what I can plant that will heal the soil without violating the noxious weed laws (which the canadian thistle do). Any suggestions for using nature to minimize the canadian thistle are most welcome.

I have bull thistle and some tansy ragwort also, but those are in numbers I can deal with by hand pulling and/or digging. I am with Daron regarding the invasive blackberry: I just keep contained by pruning off the spreader shoots a few times a year, and I keep my back in better health and have a few good berry patches and a place wildlife likes to hang out.

thanks all.
 
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