“A weed is but an unloved flower.” — Ella Wheeler Wilcox

The weeds sure are popping up faster than I can get at them. The worse one right now seem to be bedstraw and chickweed. Both are hard to get rid of since they bloom and seed very early. Instead of fighting with chickweed, I decided to learn a little bit more about it. I always knew it was edible but hated it so much I wouldn’t even try it. Like all things in my life, there is change.

“If you can’t beat them, join them.” Here is the scoop on chickweed. Chickweed is packed with nutrients. The plant contains as many vitamins and minerals as spinach and has just as much iron. Chickweed is native to Europe but it naturalized in North America and grows everywhere. Both humans and animals benefit from this weed. Chickweed was also popular to the ancient Greeks and commonly consumed in ancient Ireland.

It is a funny thing to desire a weed in the garden but chickweed is well behaved, within reason, and it doesn’t seem to compete with cultivated plants. It likes moisture and sun and tends to die back in summer and return in the fall. There is a variety of chickweed that likes shade and it’s called “star” that is native to England.

The other awful weed that is popping up now is bedstraw. This belongs to the Cleaver family. It seeds readily. It competes for water, light, and nutrients in landscaped and gardens. This plant vines through the garden, tangles itself on all vegetation, and clings to clothes, animals, and vegetation.

Now is the time to look for it in the garden before it gets too big. It is very fragile so be sure to get the roots. You could also smother it with wood chips or a competitive crop like wildflower mix. Pre-emergent herbicides can help prevent new seedlings of bedstraw to emerge. As with all weed, they have their uses, at least they did in pioneer days. Bedstraw was used to treat psoriasis and eczema.

The name bedstraw comes from use of the plant to make mattresses. The clinging characteristics of these prickly plants stopped the mattress from matting. It was also used to strain hair out of cow’s milk and feed for geese and birds. The roots can be used to make red dye but I sure don’t know how they did that because the roots I’ve seen are tap roots and very thin.

Contact Phyllis Both by email at pboth@charter.net or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County University of Wisconsin-Extension office, 608-355-3253.

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