ArceyJohnson
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Are all weeds bad weeds?

This is my second year of organic gardening (second year of gardening, period).

So, my take on "organic methods" is basically that you want to create an entire environment for your plants to thrive -- bugs and soil included. Use the good bugs to help you, nurture the life in the soil, etc.

As I indiscriminately weed, I can't help but wonder if I am pulling out some good guys along with the bad. Is there such a thing as a good weed? Could purslane act as a living mulch to keep soil moist? Would some weeds attract beneficial insects? Are there weeds that leaf-munching bad bugs would prefer and happily abandon my cabbage for?

Not that I am just trying to get out of some garden chores.... :wink:

I did leave some tall grasses along the edge of the garden near a pond, because the frogs seem to like it and I'd like to encourage their presence. But other than that sort of thing, I am just wondering if I am perhaps losing out on some free help.

DoubleDogFarm
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This is a huge topic. I suggest you look in the permaculture forum.

Soil and Applestar your on. :)

Eric
Last edited by DoubleDogFarm on Tue Jul 26, 2011 1:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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soil
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yes there are tons of beneficial weeds. not only to your garden but to you yourself. since you mentioned it purslane is a fantastic summer green. tasting like a ever so slightly sour head of lettuce. it does protect the soil from uv rays and is a companion plant to quite a few.

the only thing i don't leave for sure is grass. grass doesn't belong in a veggie plot. unless its wheat, oats, barley or rye( and a few other grassy grains). grasses like to make the rest of the area just grass.

my advice would be to identify all of the weeds you have. once you find out the name you can use google to help you find out what its good for or if it is. for example i would google "purslane uses" and once i found its eatable and useful. next would be "purslane recipes". you can also look to see what other countries call the plant. for example in mexico purslane is called verdolagas.

some of my fav weeds are

dandelions
lambsquarters
chickweed
purslane
nettle
miners lettuce
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rainbowgardener
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Yes there are lots of beneficial weeds and they can be beneficial for other reasons than being edible.

Velvet leaf comes up as a weed all around my yard (though admittedly it originally came from a packet of wildflower seed I planted years ago -- everything else from the packet died out). I keep it because it works as a trap crop for leaf miners, who prefer it to anything else.

I keep some wild grape vine which is also a weed in my yard, because the Japanese beetles love it and tend to stay on it (especially when it is blooming!) and not bother anything else.

Sometimes I keep weeds even when I don't know what they are, if they are being all eaten up and the veggies next to them are not. I figure whatever is eating them is preferring to eat the weed than the veggie.

Stinging nettle is theoretically edible, though since I'm very sensitive to the sting, I haven't tried that. But besides that it is a host plant for butterflies and very good for your compost pile.

Clovers and desmodium (tick clover, tick-trefoil) are nitrogen fixers that add fertility to your soil.

There are weeds with medicinal value and other weeds besides the nettle that are host plants for butterflies or beneficial insects.

Absolutely agree that what we organic gardeners are trying to do is to get a little eco-system going, that is in balance and relatively self-maintaining.
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ArceyJohnson
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Ahhh, thanks! I knew it. I've been leaving the purslane for a while now. I like its low webbing, and as long as it stays out of seedling beds I'm all for it.

I will start identifying the other little guys. Although most of it IS grass, of course...the kind with very deep roots.

Permaculture is absolutely where I'm heading ...not just with the garden but with our entire property. We have 25 acres of pasture and some pine woods that we are raising pigs on. Not too soon to start plotting out nut trees, crab apples, root crops for forage, three sisters plots, etc. Trees especially grow slower than piglets :D

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lorax
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Weeds are in the eye of the beholder. For example, I'd never refer to Dandilions, Purslane, Speedwell, Gallant Soldiers, Epazote, Malabar Spinach, Quinua, Sanguarachi, Taxo (banana passionfruit, roundly cursed in these parts as a weed), and so on as weeds. To me they all have some use in my garden or on my table, although I might not have planted them on purpose.

I'd reserve the term Weeds for unwanted, unhelpful plants in the garden. For example, to me, Goldenrod is a weed, as is Bitter Nightshade and several types of Oxalis.

ArceyJohnson
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I agree with the goldenrod. It's taking over a bunch of areas with a more diverse mix of grasses and flowers. It is on my naughty list, and so hard to remove or control!

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We have 25 acres of pasture and some pine woods that we are raising pigs on
I'd like to hear more on this. What breed? Do they run in the woods? Does the pine woods have understory?

I'm thinking about putting up more fence and let a couple pigs park out a wooded area. I'm thinking about Tamworth or Wooly pigs.

Start a new topic if you don't want this one to wonder off topic. :wink:

Thanks
Eric

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rainbowgardener
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Incidentally your tall grass is good habitat for a lot of things, including praying mantis, a great beneficial insect.
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Vorguen
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Doesn't tall grass bring snakes around though?

cynthia_h
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Snakes control rats, mice, and other rodents. Grass doesn't "bring" snakes; it provides habitat for snakes who may already be present.

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lily51
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A definition of a weed:
"A plant that grows out of place"
So corn in my landscaping could be a weed and a rose out in the bean field go be a weed. :)

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rainbowgardener
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lily51 wrote: So corn in my landscaping could be a weed and a rose out in the bean field go be a weed. :)
Unless you decide it isn't! :) I have some broom corn that has been coming up in the same spot in a flower bed for a few years now. I think it started from some bird seed. Definitely a volunteer that I didn't put there.

The stuff is gigantic, must be 9' tall or so, a big clump of it. But it is tall and slender and sways wonderfully in any breeze. I leave it all winter to be motion in the winter garden. Birds eat the seeds.

So weed? Not weed? Most people wouldn't think it belongs in the flower bed and I didn't put it there...
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Vorguen
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i did a little bit of research and i realized the majority of poisonous snakes are in texas... and living in south texas that poses a concern. Personally rodents bother me less than a rattlesnake, coral snake, water moccasin, etc in the vicinity, especially when im going to be having kids in the next couple of years.

if i could identify the snake perfectly and i knew it was harmless, i probably would leave it alone..

also i meant it brings around snakes as in, in theory, if you keep your lawn perfectly mowed and don't have good spaces for it to hide it would naturally migrate out into other areas with better cover, same if you provided good cover it may migrate in and stay

also, i agree with the OP, i would never consider certain things to be weeds, especially clovers and dandelions, and any volunteer vegetables / annuals / fruits

lily51
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yep, rainbow,that was my point. If you don't want corn there, it's a weed,if you do, it's not. :D

ArceyJohnson
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@ DoubleDog -- we have heritage crosses; none of them are pure-bred (better genes that way we think). The boar is a Large Black-Hampshire, two of the sows are Duroc crosses, the other sow is a Tamworth cross (and she loves the forage more than the others...she prefers greens over dried grains any day!). The piglets are a mix of all of those :) They would prefer the woods in the hot, sunny season, but we haven't fenced in that part yet so they have to make do with scattered trees and scrub.

The pigs bring an enormous number of volunteers to the pasture...squash from the excess zucchini that I gave them last fall, LOTS of corn and oats from their feed, and even some tomatoes from the end-of-the-season green tomatoes that I couldn't keep up with canning. They are amazing at clearing and aerating the land. Sod gets chomped and then flipped over so they can get at the roots. I'd recommend them to anyone who has the space.

I do like the tall grass; and it does indeed bring snakes, which I also like (but of course ours are non-poisonous!). The birds seem to like the tall grass too -- red wing black birds perch on the goldenrod. Last year I had such a terrible slug problem until the birds found my garden...

I feel like in other years I could stand being a bit more lax on "weeds" in the garden...this year has just been so dry that I feel like I need to spirit away all the unplanned greens to save every drop of water for the planned things!

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Arcy, we had a long drought too, you can help your plants by encouraging fungi, which attach to roots and bring up nutrients and water from deeper layers, we are into another hot dry spell now but plants are doing well despite the drought

https://newfarm.rodaleinstitute.org/depts/NFfield_trials/0604/factsheet.shtml
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hewitt12
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You'll never know when snakes and other rodents may enter in your garden. Might as well be extra careful to avoid incidents in your household.
virtue is an option.

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rainbowgardener
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snakes and other rodents? Snakes aren't rodents, they are reptiles. Rodents are furry mammals.

And in most places of the US there is little reason to "be careful" of snakes. Most parts of the country (not all!) any snake you would find in your urban/ suburban garden will be harmless and likely way more afraid of you than you are of it. I consider myself very lucky to catch a glimpse of a snake now and then. I do have a lot of little lizards, but they are also totally harmless and they are cute.
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rainbowgardener
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trying to do weeding...

I told a friend I would water and weed her garden while she was on vacation, so I was doing some of that today. I realized my expanded perceptions have made me perhaps not as good a weeder as I used to be. :)

Started pulling weeds and then went oh maybe I shouldn't pull those, lambsquarters, dock, and purslane are edible. Maybe I shouldn't pull that, clover is a nitrogen fixer. Maybe I shouldn't pull that the goldfinches love the thistle seed. Maybe I shouldn't pull the wild grapevine, it's a good trap crop for Japanese beetles. Maybe I shouldn't pull the asters, they are native wildflowers ....

I don't mind pulling bindweed, tree of heaven, and devil grass though.

(it occurs to me if I give tree of heaven its other common name stink tree, the real nasty weeds become obvious by their names - bindweed, stink tree, and devil grass!)
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soil
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Started pulling weeds and then went oh maybe I shouldn't pull those, lambsquarters, dock, and purslane are edible. Maybe I shouldn't pull that, clover is a nitrogen fixer. Maybe I shouldn't pull that the goldfinches love the thistle seed. Maybe I shouldn't pull the wild grapevine, it's a good trap crop for Japanese beetles. Maybe I shouldn't pull the asters, they are native wildflowers ....
haha exactly
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:lol:

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Vorguen
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I need to get good at identifying weeds, other than sheer experience, how do you all do it? Say you bump into a weed you don't recognize

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rainbowgardener
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Experience is the main thing, but there's still plenty of weeds I don't recognize. In my friend's garden if there's a weed I don't recognize, I probably just pull it. In my garden, I tend to leave one or two (but pull the rest if there's a crowd of them) to see if I can identify them later.

Plants, including weeds, are usually easier to identify once they flower. Then you can look on line or post a picture here. There's lots of weed identification sites. Here's one with pictures of a bunch of common weeds (you have to scroll down past the ads, that's how they support the website)

https://www.growinganything.com/identifying-weeds-pictures-of-weeds.html
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soil
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funny half of those "Weeds" are eatable and delicious.

i second getting to know the whole cycle of the plant before pulling it. just don't let it go to seed fully until you know if you want it or not.

as for identification, i find the best source is just local people. chances are SOMEONE around you knows at least the common name for the weed. which can help you search for the true latin name.
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I have really enjoyed watching this thread evolve. Note, there are things that work well one place on the planet and not another. For example in the UK some cultivate Queen Ann's Lace. Here in the Pacific NW it is everywhere, by the road, in alleys and in the water sheds. It is ubiquitous and has to be controlled. I love the post on dandilions being good weeds, not here, but in some places in the US they are cultivated and you can buy seed- if anyone needs it I can ship you pounds of the stuff if you like. We have pig weeds everywhere, but in indochina they are cultivated as a food crop, where I live they are a weed that would take over everything if allowed to. So, yes what is a weed is in the eye of the beholder and where you live.

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Weeds and mycorrhizal fungus

When I grow crops that have no mycorrhizal relationship, I do not worry much about the weeds. A few weeds then are good to keep the fungus alive. So I always leave a few weeds in the brassica and beets.

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