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Garden Blogging: Learning My Weeds

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 20:01:25 PM PDT

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With my big front yard swale project out of the way, I'm getting started on the backyard. The backyard intimidates me. It's huge, full of bermudagrass, and parts of it are covered in chips of paint from the construction that's gone on here over the past year or so. I've been having conversations in bad Spanglish with Jorge the painter about why we don't want paint in our soil.

Today I decided to take on a mini-project: getting the smallest bed ready for garlic planting. I'm not ready to plant garlic yet, but the garlic's ready - so I don't have much choice. As I set out to check out the soil in the bed I wanted to use, I discovered a new weed - and a really unpleasant one at that. I posted about it on Facebook, and that led to a very interesting conversation about local weeds and how to identify them...

Jill Richardson :: Garden Blogging: Learning My Weeds
Since I've gardened in California, I've encountered the same weeds over and over again. So it seems about time to figure out what they are called and if there are any good uses for them. Here are some of my old friends:

Bermudagrass: This stuff is The Enemy. Details here. I've already set to work on the insurmountable task of removing it from the yard of my new place. Of course, that's about as pointless as Sisyphus pushing his big rock up the hill, because the stupid thing has its roots far under the patio where I can't remove them. All I can do is keep this one at bay. And the chickens don't even really like to eat it.

Common Mallow and Little Mallow: Details here:Common Mallow and Little Mallow. Turns out it's edible! I don't know which species I always find in my yard but it appears that you can eat both of them. As a gardener trying to get these guys out of my garden, I try to remove them when they are small because their roots get big and hard to pull as the plant matures.

Stinging Nettles: Details here. I hate these guys because they HURT when you run into them accidentally in the yard... but they taste great cooked. I treat them like spinach but take good care not to touch them when they are raw. I use various garden tools to touch them or else I wear oven mitts. Stinging nettles don't sting anymore once cooked.

Filaree: Details here. Apparently the leaves have a lovely parsley flavor.

Wood Sorrel a.k.a. Sourgrass: This one's edible too, but I try to get rid of it from the yard if I see it. Details here. The little stinkers reproduces by growing a bunch of bulbs on their roots underground. That means that just pulling up a plant doesn't work - you need to find and remove all of the bulbs too.

Spotted Spurge: The weed that looks like purslane but isn't. Details here. It always made me very sad that the garden at my old place was entirely infested with this stuff... but not purslane!

Nettleleaf Goosefoot: Details here and here. I'm not 100% sure this is the weed I've been seeing in the yard, but I'll take a closer look now that it's edible.

Foxtail: Another one I've been pulling out of the yard forever. Details here.

And here's the new f***er I found today:

Nutsedge: Details here.

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I got weeds weeds weeds (4.00 / 2)
To digress a bit I am also writing a screenplay called I only see the weeds. It's about a suicides effect on a family ( mine) I only see the weeds was actually said to my daughter when we pulled into the driveway and she said "Dad the garden looks great" and he said "I only see the weeds" He just couldn't deal with weeds or the messiness of life. And he used TONS of round up here :(

I have gout weed. Lots of it.On the side of house next to the driveway its mixed in with the ferns. When the ferns are at its peak they hid the gout weed. The problem is ferns take a lot of water to look nice. If I was redoing over I wouldn't plant ferns here. But BEHIND the ferns is a spot that is completely over run with gout weed. Two years ago I spent countless hours lasagne gardening over the gout weed And then in the fall dumped my leaves. It turned to soil but since the gout weed spread two ways they came back. Don't know what I am going to do yet.

We've got three weeds we introduced ourselves (4.00 / 2)
Our oregano, which I'm really happy about. Lemon balm, which really sucks - even though we give a lot to our bunnies. And wild arugula, which is just too awful for me to stand. It's tuff and has too much arugula taste. THe arugula has been really hard to get rid of.

All weeds go into the compost (4.00 / 2)
They break down, turn to soil which gets returned to the garden and slows down the process of returning to the original sand dune, which is what the garden really wants to be. More organic matter the better, as long as it isn't toxic.

Lehman's sells various cultivators and weeders, some quite ingenious. Have no idea if they work.

the thing with nutsedge and bermudagrass (4.00 / 1)
Is that you can't put 'em in the compost. MAYBE they would break down if the compost got really hot, but I'm not confident that my compost is hot enough and I'm not taking my chances. These things are tough plants that won't go away. The other weeds go in the compost or I feed them to the chickens.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
Confused (4.00 / 2)
Are these two weeds toxic? If not, I don't see a problem feeding them to chickens.

I think one problem with your compost might be that you live in a drier climate and things take longer to break down in the compost heap. Depending on how good conditions are, I get about a foot of compost per year out of each 3 foot x 3 foot compost bin.  

[ Parent ]
Oh they are fine to feed to chickens (4.00 / 1)
So long as my birds eat every last scrap of them entirely. But the nutsedge has a little "nut" that the chickens wouldn't eat. And the chickens don't really like bermudagrass that much. Where the chickens come in useful is in eating these weeds as they emerge from the ground - they ARE willing to eat the new shoots as they come up, and that can ultimately starve the weeds of photosynthesis.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
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