Friday, September 30, 2011

Good weeds

Like most people we have lots of weeds in our garden. Some of them are bad, like soursob and rye grass and many more I can't name. But some are good, which I guess means they're not technically weeds. Isn't it funny how the word weed is pejorative, as in someone is weedy. The reality is that weeds are the strongest since they don't need as much water, nutrients, etc. Here are a few of my favourites. Some are blow ins and some were introduced by us and keep coming back.

Warragal greens (New Zealand spinach). We got some seeds of this and it grew really well out the front with no watering. It's good for chook feed, as a live mulch which out competes soursob (a nasty weed) and as a spinach substitute if we don't have any. Also good for bulking up compost. It comes up from seed in winter and dies back in summer.

Nasturtiums. I can't remember if we planted them or not, but they thrive here. They can be used in salads, but we mainly use them as a compost feedstock. The flowers are beautiful and attract polinators.

Nettles are blow ins. They are one of what permaculturalists call 'dynamic accumulators'. These are plants with deep roots which can access nutrients that are unavailable to most other herbs and vegies. The nutrients are stored in the plants and we use them (and comfrey) in our compost. Care is needed with these stingers though, Amy is always asking me to pull them up but I can't bear to. I think the best thing to do is to plant/transplant into inaccessible spots.

Fat hen. I got some seeds from City Farm and since planting they have come up all over the place. This photo is of an old bed frame in the chook yard which has some fat hen under it. The chooks eat any leaves they can get at without killing the plants. A great chook feed plant.

Italian or flat leaf parsley. This comes up in winter and grows prolifically until mid summer. It's just great in cooking.

Marigolds. These are supposed to be pest repellant and they're also a good one to bring in pollinators.

Cape gooseberries. These are just yum, Quin has them straight off the bush and we sometimes get a few left over for salads.

Cos lettuce. Most lettuce will self seed if you let them, here's one happily growing in the paving. We've found cos are the hardiest and easiest to grow here in Perth.

Poppies. These are the old type (opium poppies). The flowers are beautiful and so is the grey foliage. We also harvest the seed to use in sourdough bread, cakes, biscuits and soap. If you're down on your luck you could even have a go at making your own heroin!

You'll no doubt have other species which do well in your backyard.  And as Jerry Coleby-Williams says, you shouldn't let plants dictate where they grow. If you get self sown plants in spots you don't want them just pull them out or transplant them. Just be careful not to introduce a plant into your area that could become a noxious weed. Your local agriculture department should have a list of these and you'll need to be especially careful if your property backs onto bush or a water course. 

Like mallees in the wheatbelt, weeds grow without TLC. They get by on rain and whatever nutrients they can get. If they can do the job of other plants which need more attention, just go with the flow. Why fight nature? Next time you go to pull something up that you don't recognise just wait a while. As the permies say, don't pull a weed until you've identified it. It could be a great asset in the garden...


  1. I'd like to make my own heroine, do you have a recipe? I'd like one with blonde hair and strong thighs.

  2. Why is soursob bad? We've got incredible amounts of the stuff and I'm never sure whether to pull it.

    I'd like a heroine too, but I'd prefer mine to fight off evil with one arm and do my housework with the other.


  3. Mine would do my day job while I stay home to make compost and just potter around...

    Sorry, no recipe to hand. Have you looked in River Cottage no.20?

  4. PS. Soursob is bad because it's very hard to get rid of and it will rob water and nutrients from other things you want to grow. It can reproduce vegetatively, so if you pull it up it will resprout. Best way to get rid of it is with neat roundup painted on or maybe chooks which like it.

  5. hey I like the old bed frame idea.