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the weeds we love

 
gardener
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Location: East Coast, Canada
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Reading through some stuff about the Garden Master Course, and Helen's holistic approach to "weeds" has me thinking...

I'm sure some weeds are more or less helpful or harmful depending on location and what they're growing near, among other factors.

What are your favourite weeds that have brought benefit to your garden, and why?
Is there a weed you know others have a tumultuous relationship with, but you love?


For me, I've been loving the ol' lamb's quarters this year. Back in Ontario it was a fun edible weed, but when I moved out here it looked a lot less appealing... It was always covered in slimy wormies and always looked kinda nasty. Turns out the leafminers are a big problem here, but my garden had few problems with them because I let the lamb's quarters grow! They seem to like spinach-family plants quite a bit. Unfortunately this means my spinach was not saved, as they liked it just as much, BUT! At least they didn't eat everything else like in my friend's garden. I'll figure out the spinach next year...

I also was excited to see a few evening primrose plants pop up, and am thinking I'm going to grow them as a food crop next year. Beautiful, and never seemed to bother any other plants, so I kept them. Pretty much anything I notice the bees love, I try to keep.

Wild peas were a favourite of the bees, and kept the aphids distracted, which had been a huge problem previously. The number of aphids out here is honestly terrifying. And there are too many kinds!! They're so nasty-looking. In the beds where I left the wild peas, the aphids didn't touch my crops.

Not to mention the many weeds that just made great rabbit food! Pineapple weed, plantain, dandelion, willow, clover. I let them all do their thang.
And the bees love the goldenrod, which stays flowering long after a lot of other pollinator-faves have died back.


So which weeds are your best friends? Who do you let take up space in the garden?
 
steward
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Before we moved where we now live and before I found this wonderful forum I spent hours ridding our property of stinging nettles.

I now cherish their existence and wish I had more that is if I still have some. The ones I found here were not in an area good for gathering.

I hated burr clover though when I made peace with that plant it chose to go somewhere else and not bother me.

I used to love thistle because it has a pretty flower and always grew away from me though within eyesight.  Last summer it tormented me though this year we have none.
 
master steward
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I was trying to find a "beautiful weeds" thread, but this thread seems close enough. I was struck by the beauty of this buttercup's leaves the other day. Funny how you can look at something and not really see it, but then realise how pretty it is. This is a non creeping buttercup, so not as 'weedy'. The cut leaves with the darker colours are just so lovely, you could grow it just for the foliage!
buttercup-leaves.jpg
Beautiful cut leaves on field buttercup use of weeds
Beautiful cut leaves on field buttercup
 
gardener
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I have a soft spot for these "weeds", which are feral petunias, because...I mean, look at them go!
Same for the little wild violets, johnny jump ups and purslane that makes it up through the cracks in the cement. Talk about blooming where you're planted
68531113212__4C8A83CC-6F05-45FE-B417-B1986E5154B8.jpeg
Rampant urban feral pink petunias
Rampant urban feral pink petunias
 
pollinator
Posts: 235
Location: Southwest VT, zone 5a slope ~10°-30°
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They’re not the most productive weeds, but one of my favorites is black nightshade berries. They are tiny and sweet, a little like tomato in their taste.

At this point, I can barely weed the garden anymore because I’m afraid of weeding out all of the vegetables. That is, chickweed, selfheal, wild marigold (Bidens frondosa), amaranth, evening primrose, lamb’s quarters, dandelion, plantain, etc. I do weed out goldenrod though, because there is a whole meadow of goldenrod right there, and perennial grasses because they are very competitive. Ground ivy is good in spring as a culinary herb, but after they are done flowering I try to pull out every tiny bit of runner.

I also love to pick the shoots and flower buds of wild turnip.

It is easier to care for diversity knowing the ethnobotanical value of many plants, and caring for diversity. I know grasses are very good for invertebrates and soil, but I also know that strong plants like them can stagnate in monoculture. So one can disturb an ecosystem at the same time as making sure that they continue to exist, rather than exterminating them.
 
pollinator
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I have an ambivalent relationship with creeping charlie AKA ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea). It was always a large component of our family's lawn growing up, and I am happy to have it there--easier than turfgrass!

It's in the garden beds that I am not so sure. IN years past, I was bent on ripping it all out (easiest to root it out in spring when it's small and weak). I had some years where if I ignored it for a few weeks it just literally overran and smothered everything.

However, over time I have realized that it also has some benefits in the beds:

1. It covers fallow ground and crowds out other weeds that are harder to deal with. (creepign charlie so shallow rooted it's easy enough to tear out)
2. It may aromatically hide my squash and cucumbers from insect pests.  I let the creeping charlie go this year, and had *zero* squash vine borer damage and very little sightings of cucumber beetles.
3. It does not seem to bother the corn, sunflowers, groundnuts, or pole beans, while also covering the ground. Doesn't grow around the tomatoes at all, it seems.

The cons are still there, though. It does not play nice with the strawberries.  Nor with peanuts. And can't really plant fall crops like turnips, lettuce, beets with the creeping charlie everywhere.

So, if I'm content to stick with the tall and vining crops, and not bother with the small-seeded root- and leaf vegetables, maybe the creeping charlie can stay?
 
Maieshe Ljin
pollinator
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Location: Southwest VT, zone 5a slope ~10°-30°
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That’s interesting about the vine borers. We had vine borers the first time this year—I wonder if my assiduous weeding had something to do with it. Next year I will let them grow back once the squash are established and maybe it will improve.
 
Posts: 147
Location: KY
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I want to bump this thread up for more attention, happy to have found it!

I love weeds. At least half, possibly more, of my garden beds are intentional weed beds. All of my "lawn" areas are weeds with whatever grasses can survive.

Yarrow, Mullein, Clovers, Docks, Pokeweed, Ragweed, Butterflyweed, Daisy, Susans, Banes, Milks, Thistles (I actually try to remove those 😅) Wild Lettuce, Wild Onion, Wild Carrot, Plantains, Chicory, Vetch, Smartweed, Chickweed, Goldenrod and more!! I never knew what any of these were several years ago but decided to be nature's friend and see what I could learn. They all just showed up! I've learned to admire and appreciate life - from weeds.

I mow in place and/or chop and drop in place with a hoe. Pull out very few things, Johnson grass and Thistle are two that I do. Eyeing a hand sickle purchase in the near future. Get lots of mulch that way! Gardens are full of insects and different heights of colorful flowers most of the season. I really do love it, and I can still even sqeek out a few crops here and there if I stay focused. I don't let the weeds in the beds I actually plant and seed.

 
pollinator
Posts: 449
Location: Clackamas Oregon, USA zone 8b
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Last year crabgrass was my enemy and common nipplewort was my salad friend that showed up.  This year I'm ending up with bitter doc and pigweed, both of which I like because we eat it in salads, soups and sautei.  Also some beautiful clover with yellow flowers showed up and made me very happy.  Tomorrow night I've got to harvest the pigweed in the cucumber pot and we'll eat it, its crowding the cucumbers.  Every surprise plant that shows up is a fun mystery, I love the plant ID app. my husband helps me with it and we learn all kinds of things.
 
gardener
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Location: East Beaches area of Manitoba, Zone 3
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Love this thread!

For me, it's plantain, stinging nettles (although with limits!) and goutweed. I also the wild daisies, which are considered invasive in our area. I only had them one year and wish they would come back. So beautiful!
Another things that has taken over our yard/garden is forget-me-nots. They are breathtakingly beautiful but would refuse to let anything else grow if they had their druthers.

I am super-curious about lambs quarter, which I have been hearing about and want to learn more.
 
pollinator
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Location: Root, New York
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nice, i also like weedy feral edibles. red clover, "cheese" aka wild mallow / malva neglecta, miner's lettuce, violas and violets, sheep sorrel and lamb's quarters are some of my favorites for eating, as well as the different varieties of wild onions/leeks/garlic.  and of course the beautiful wild rose, wild strawberry, and even invasive blackberry, as much of a pain as it can be to manage, love a good good black berry patch.
 
Riona Abhainn
pollinator
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I ate a clump of yellowwood sorrel last night, its the sour clover I loved eating when I was a kid in my grandma's backyard with my cousins!  We also had calendula leaf salad last night, yum!  Its my first time growing them so I'm learning how the flower life cycle works before we eat those, giving the pollinators a turn with them before we take and eat them in the next salad.
 
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Location: Southwestern Ohio, Zone 6b
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leila hamaya wrote:and even invasive blackberry, as much of a pain as it can be to manage, love a good good black berry patch.



I decided to move a few wild blackberry plants from the wood's edge since they were browsed by the deer and didn't look like they were going to do anything back there. They now reside in a back corner of my protected garden space. Definitely need to stay on top of their desire to spread. This spring was the first time they flowered. I think I have hundreds of black berries on the vines and they are starting to ripen in larger numbers. I hope to harvest enough to make some jam.

For my "weeds", I make salve with the purple dead nettles, dandelions, and plantains that volunteer around the house. I add my home grown comfrey, calendula, and I am going to include yarrow this year. I love watching the bunnies enjoy the clover and violets. Since I stopped mowing the "meadow" out back, I now have oak, maple, ash, and poplar "weeds" growing all over the place. This year the deer have not browsed the little seedlings and saplings, so it looks like the small local trees may have a chance to get some height. We'll see.
 
gardener
Posts: 495
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When I created my last garden I decided to let a few sheep sorrel plants grow in the garden paths as the soil was poor and finding enough to add to a salad took some time.  Well evidently it loved the wood chip paths and the raised beds because it went absolutely nuts and I'm constantly pulling the runners out of my beds and trying to contain it to one corner only.  I also let the lamb's quarters grow with intentions of harvesting a mess and now they're gargantuan in size.  Narrow leaf plantain was a rarity here too and it has managed to reseed and become quite prolific.

I still cherish the dandelions, violets, chickweed, purple dead nettle and especially bittercress as I can always count on them to provide some early greens.
 
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