To Weed or Not to Weed

| 2/20/2009 11:31:27 AM

Tags: weeds, chickweed, ground ivy, wood violets, Glechoma hederacea, Stellaria media, Viola odorata,

Katherine TurcotteSpring brings the arrival of many joyful sounds and sights. The return of birdsong in the morning, the cheery sound of the peepers in the valley, and the bulbs and flowers that faithfully return year after year. And, let’s not forget … the weeds. But as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” And I couldn’t agree with him more!

Pulling weeds should be a simple thing, and for most gardeners it is. Not much thought goes in to yanking out the dandelions, tugging out the chickweed or eradicating a stubborn patch of ground ivy, Glechoma hederacea (which by the way is a wonderful ground cover and will help keep soil from eroding). If you have ever mowed over ground ivy, aka Gill-over-the-Ground, you will enjoy its minty type scent. Weeding is a natural response to get rid of the predator that threatens to invade our orderly gardens. Not!

When it comes to gardening by no means am I overly frugal. But when I see what most people consider “weeds” – I see possibilities. Chickweed (Stellaria media) is a nutritious treat fresh from the ground. My chickens enjoy it every bit as much as I do, and I know my eggs will taste all the better for it. I love finding the first big patch and eagerly munch on it fresh from the ground, sharing it with my goat, Billy Bahh Bahh. It has a most green taste and is not in the least unpleasant.


A wonderful addition to a fresh garden salad it is also useful to help curb the appetite. Nourishing and tonifying it is an excellent source of Vitamin C, phosphorus, copper, iron, zinc and magnesium. It is a great herb to help with digestion and word has it that it has been helpful for people with rheumatic conditions.

Chickweed is excellent to use for skin eruptions, itching, irritations and rashes. I have even used it with success as a hot compress for an abscess on one of my cats. Chickweed infused in olive oil for four to six weeks is a wonderful base for a soothing salve. It is an excellent emollient as well as being soothing and astringent. Once you start making herbal salves, I promise you, you will look at “weeds” in a whole new light.

kathy turcotte
2/28/2009 11:16:38 PM

Thanks for visiting my blog Robyn! I am so pleased to be a part of the Grit family Bloggers! I can hardly wait for spring and was just today thinking of how much of the chickweed will return. I love it really, and even if someone were not to like it, it is easy to pull out. My chickens love it and my goats too! Making salves is such fun and such a feeling of pride when you open your first tin of salve to use for yourself. What I love about making my own salves is that if offers me the opportunity to experiment. What kind of salves do you make? I have containers in the kitchen that have decanted herbal oils just begging to be made into special salves and I must get a day when I can concentrate on getting them done. My heart is winter weary right about now and the snowdrops are up so it will not be much longer! Looking forward to posting regular blogs! Kathy of the Piney Woods also

robyn dolan
2/27/2009 1:14:52 PM

Hi Kathy, Welcome to the Grit bloggers. I love making herbal salves and lotions, too. Any green weed that doesn't turn into nasty stickers later is very welcome here! We just want some color in our dried out soil. Checked out your blogspot and am following it on mine. Look forward to reading your blogs.

cindy murphy
2/21/2009 7:01:49 PM

Ah, yes - I am a weed-lover; it is my excuse for my gardens sometimes weedy. I really have to laugh about extolling the virtues the ground ivy; it's something I've done myself since moving into this house with its ravine carpeted in the stuff. I've driven a co-worker nuts when he complains about ground ivy in his gardens and I come back combatting his complaining with a benefit of this wonderful little plant; it's been a running joke of ours for years. He's finally resigned himself to the fact that it's there to stay, and he might as well learn to love it. I checked out your blogspot; nice - and the pure white deer is amazing; I've never seen such an animal. So you are a practicing Wiccan? Very cool. I had an inkling reading your blog here; I'm not sure why, just a hunch. Check out my blog - A Lakeside View - here sometime. When Nature is ready, (we're in the midst of a snowstorm now, and spring seems so far away), I've got a lot of gardening projects waiting in the wings, and would love your input. Sharing a love of plants - even if it's what some term "weeds" - with others is what gardening is all about.

kathy turcotte
2/21/2009 2:20:29 PM

Thanks Cindy - I am glad to know some of these plants have a fan club! I love fresh chickweed and it grows so well in certain parts of my property. My chickens love it! If you have chickens, you can feed the excess to them. The salve is very easy to make and fun! Yes, chickweed is good for your skin and I even used it as a hot compress on one of my cats that had an abscess and it worked great! Ground ivy really is a pretty little plant when you look at it closely - I love the flowers! It also keeps the soil for eroding which is another plus for it. Ahhhh, the wonderful virtues of 'weeds' - my yard gets so covered in wood violets, I love their heart-shaped leaves. I think starting this Spring I will start a herbarium and keep a journal of all the myriad of plants growing on my property! Take a peek at my other blog below and you can see my white 'spirit'deer! Blessed be, Kathy of the Piney Woods

cindy murphy
2/21/2009 8:41:37 AM

Oh! I love the ground ivy and violets that cover the floor of my ravine, along with the tiny wild strawberry! Such a floriferous display of springtime color! You're right, Kathy, the scent of freshly mowed ground ivy makes cutting the lawn a pleasure. Not to mention, during drought, both these plants provide an expanse of green without a drop of supplemental watering. Now, if only I could convince my clients at the nursery of their benefits! Both are nearly impossible to eradicate from lawn without diligent effort, and often chemical applications. Pfft! Of course, I'm not one for a golf course lawn, so my tastes run different from many. I have recommended though, (and succeeded), in convincing a few people that ground ivy makes a wonderful ground-cover for partially shaded spots where nothing else will grow. Instead of fighting it, let it thrive. Chickweed, I'm not so fond of; I cringe when I see it in the yard. Speaking in terms of aesthetics only, it dies out in the mid-summer heat here, leaving dusty patches that are not nearly as pleasing as the ground ivy to mow. I suppose I should learn to take my own advice and not fight it. A co-worker plucked some when my arms were covered in juniper rash, telling me to chew it up, and apply to the affected areas. It worked to relieve the itch, (though I could have done without the bitter taste it left in my mouth). Maybe this year, I'll give your salve recipe a try. I've determined to put the dandelions to use as salad greens if I can catch them before they flower; I'll just add chickweed to the list of useful weeds too. Welcome to Grit, and I look forward to reading more from you.

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