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Weeds, wonderful weeds


Sun, Sep 3rd, 2000
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Monday, September 4, 2000

I’ve heard it again. ‘Oh, I’d love for you to see my garden, Virginia, but I’m so embarrassed because of all the weeds.’ Well who is missing out here, you or me? I’d love to see your garden, weeds and all. I love weeds, I say. But they never believe me. But, I say, a weed is any plant that is in the wrong place. So the only garden tour I get is in my own backyard. You want to see weeds? I don’t have any weeds, but I do have dandelions, purslane, nettle, shepherd’s purse, horseweed galore; there’s pigweed and smartweed, and some really great yellow dock and wow, the biggest burdock you ever saw. But what’s different is I love all my plants. These are strong volunteer plants that have grown without any doing from me, and grown healthier than my imported delicacies from South America. And take out your herbal reference books, many of these plants are high in vitamins and minerals and some even have great healing properties.

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to attend Frontier Cooperative’s Herbfest 2000. I came away with a renewed sense of stewardship for the entire plant kingdom. One seminar in particular, ‘Dinner Underfoot’ by Peter Gail, invited us to dine out in our own backyards. He has done extensive research and has compiled over 800 recipes for dandelions alone.

Another seminar gave us new insight with ‘S.A.D.’ Standard American Diet vs. ‘J.O.Y.’ Just Our Backyards. Wow.

But there is also some hard science at work. New research has shown that ‘weeds’ will grow where they are needed most. That is, when your soil is lacking in a certain nutrient, the ‘weeds’ that grow there are rich in that nutrient. So that when they are allowed to complete their lifecycle and be turned to soil, the soil becomes balanced.

There is a great book available from Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Services, MOSES, of Spring Valley, WI entitled Weeds and Why They Grow, by Jay McCann, which describes one farmers observation of weeds and soil conditions, noting that certain weeds prefer a certain soil and mineral balance. He uses this knowledge to control weeds by changing his soil. You can contact MOSES at (715) 772-3153.

So try to appreciate the native plants that grace your gardens for they bring you not only information about your soil, but the cure for your soil when allowed to grow and be composted. Their deep tap roots break up hardpan, they provide shade for lettuces and seeds for bug eating birds. And if you’re brave, remember the spirit of Euell Gibbons and stalk your wild asparagus. Some parts are edible.

Next week more DISEASES.

Virginia Cooper writes and appreciates the native plants on her farm in Mabel. She can be reached at the Extension office at (507) 765-3896, or via email: virgcoop@yahoo.com

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