Choose your weeds

In my past gardens, and at our farm, I’ve tried to leave the tastier weeds to cover the soil until they are big enough to eat. That’s mainly chickweed, lambsquarters, and pigweed amaranth. I don’t need to leave the dandelions in the garden because there are plenty in the lawn when there are no other greens in season.

I’ve enjoyed cooking stinging nettles when I found them, but overall, I’m glad we don’t have them at Sunny Woodlands. Recently, purslane appeared in a batch of compost we bought from a farm in a nearby town, and it has been growing in a couple of places in our cucurbit patch. I will be encouraging it. One of the purslane plants has a particularly citrus-y flavor. So does the wood sorrel that is common in the garden and elsewhere.

I have twice had success establishing kale as my primary “weed” in parts of my garden, though at Sunny Woodlands, it seems to have crossed with other brassicas we grew, and it is now too pungent for Bill. Strong brassicas don’t agree with him, and he doesn’t like the small pointed bumps the volunteer kale gets compared to kale grown from commercial seed. (Not noticeable when cooked, in my opinion.)

The key to more-desirable weeds is selective weeding. I leave what I can eat, and I’m a little slower to weed what the chickens and rabbits can eat, too. I don’t really want a lot of Dock (yellow, curly, or burr) in my garden, but as the autumn days get cooler, I might start only picking the leaves for the rabbits, and not bothering to dig the roots out just yet.

Nature abhors a vacuum. If there’s a bare spot, there will be some kind of weeds. If you don’t have a enough edible weeds to out-compete the non-tasty weeds with a little help, you should “chop and drop” (or “pull and drop”) what you don’t want, especially the ones that will just get harder and harder to remove as they get older. Chickweed spreads like crazy, but it makes a good salad base, and is much easier to remove from an area when you need to put something else there than “gill-over-ground,” or “creeping charlie.”

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