Make the most of your weeds


There are two types of gar­den and lawn plants – the ones we want and the ones we don’t want.

Usu­ally, we call the un­wanted plants weeds, but the say­ing, ‘‘one man’s rub­bish is an­other man’s trea­sure’’ also ap­plies.

Ju­lia Sich of Ju­lia’s Ed­i­ble Weeds (see ju­liased­i­ble­ not only cul­ti­vates nu­mer­ous weeds, she teaches peo­ple to do like­wise, and how to turn them into smooth­ies for great health ben­e­fits.

I have an old book called A Mod­ern Herbal by Mrs M. Grieve. First pub­lished in 1931, the 912-page book is now out of print, but copies are avail­able through Ama­zon rang­ing in price from $US32 to $US300.

Of the more than 800 plants in the book, a large per­cent­age are ‘‘weeds’’.

It gives the his­tory of the plants, their med­i­cal prop­er­ties and uses, along with most other in­for­ma­tion known at that time.

One dis­cov­ery from it is rose-petal sand­wiches: Put a layer of rose petals in the bot­tom of a cov­ered dish. Wrap 4oz (110gms) of fresh but­ter in wax pa­per, place on top of the petal layer cover with an­other layer of rose petals. Seal and put some­where cool overnight (fridge)

Next day, cut thin slices of bread, spread the now per­fumed but­ter and place sev­eral petals from fresh red roses be­tween the slices, al­low­ing the edges to show. The more fra­grant the roses the finer the flavour.

It lists the health ben­e­fits for red roses – con­sid­ered to be more as­trin­gent than oth­ers: ‘‘it strength­eneth the heart, the stom­ach, the liver and the re­ten­tive fa­cil­ity; is good against all kinds of fluxes, pre­vents vom­it­ing, stops tick­ling coughs and is of ser­vice in con­sti­pa­tion’’. In­ter­est­ing stuff.

Violets or clover blos­soms could be used as well as roses.

My pre­ferred clas­si­fi­ca­tion of a weed is a plant grow­ing where you do not want it to grow. Ben­e­fi­cial plants such as mint or com­frey should there­fore be planted in a size­able con­tainer so they can­not spread.

Be­fore weed-killing her­bi­cides such as the con­tro­ver­sial glyphosate, were in­vented, there were a num­ber of weed con­trol meth­ods, many of which were based around in­ex­pen­sive ev­ery­day do­mes­tic prod­ucts and kitchen condi­ments.

Try spray­ing vine­gar and cook­ing oil over weeds on a sunny day when the soil is dry.

Salt can be used to keep growth away from cob­bled ar­eas, drive­ways and for keep­ing waste ar­eas weed-free.

Weed eaters with a pro-privot at­tach­ment, the tra­di­tional dutch hoe, a sharp carv­ing knife, and the weed hook, are all handy weed con­trollers.

How about the good ol’ get­ting down on hands and knees weed­ing. It’s a stress re­liev­ing prac­tice which per­mits con­tem­pla­tion, and is re­puted to be ex­cel­lent for heart and gen­eral health.

As we roll into win­ter and prun­ing time, here’s a tip for the week: Don’t throw away your pruned branches. They make good free kin­dling for open fires and wood-burn­ers. Tie the cut­tings into bun­dles and store them un­til they’re dry.


To pre­vent any use­ful and flavour­some plant such as mint from be­com­ing a weed, plant it in a con­tainer, or in a con­tained space.

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