Monday, May 23

One woman's weed is ...

Which of these would you say was a  weed?
And the answer is ... ... A. Yes it is - and it had to be weeded out. I know it’s a potato but it's a ‘volunteer’ from last year’s potato crop, probably one of those tiny tubers that are missed when harvesting. Not only is it possibly carrying blight but it was growing in our new strawberry bed and it wasn’t welcome there. So potato plant or not – it was a weed!

B are self sown speedwell – a weed or not? Well if it had been growing in our strawberry bed the answer would be undoubtedly yes but it’s growing in the grass under our greengages so it’s allowed to stay. It doesn’t mind being strimmed or mowed – it just pops back again. So to me this is just a really pretty wild flower and allowed to stay.
Other ‘weeds’ in our strawberry patch were self sown poppies. Loads of them seed all over the plot along with cosmos and sunflowers. Some seedlings are left where they are and others are transplanted just to see if cross pollination has created an interesting colour but if they germinate in a place where I don’t want them – then however pretty they may promise to be they are weeds and are dealt with accordingly.

We had lots of coriander seedlings growing in the strawberry bed – no doubt arriving courtesy of the tubs of compost transferred from the garden greenhouse. Although I love coriander and had just sown lots of seed in pots in the greenhouse, this lot of choice herbs achieved weed status and were pulled out!

French marigolds have self seeded under our pear trees – they will be allowed to stay and may be transplanted when they grow a bit bigger. It will be interesting to see what their flowers are like.
We started with just six poached egg plants (limnanthes if you want to give them their Sunday name). Now each year they self seed and create a carpet of yellow under our roses. Not only do they look lovely but they also attract hoverflies which hopefully will gobble any greenfly. After flowering, and spreading the seed that will form next year’s carpet, they disappear. They are allowed to stay unless they inadvertently stray into a vegetable bed. Then that will be another story.
Chives are another prolific self seeder from one plant I have ended up with enough to create a chive border around my newly planted herb bed and also have plenty left to give away. The bees love them. In the past they have been left to do their own thing but I think I need to be a bit stricter with them from now on.
We often have different varieties of self-sown lettuce popping up unexpectedly. This one was in amongst the onions. It was doing no harm and so was left to provide a free addition to our salads.
Another self seeding salad plant is red mustard. We grew this a few years ago but now it has become a weed cropping up all over. Sometimes we may leave it to grow but not if it is growing in the wrong place.

Spot the weed in this photograph. It’s grown rather large by weed standards. The hawthorn by the greenhouse was deposited by a bird a few years ago. I decided to have a go a training it into a tree and now it provides a bit of shelter and shade to the plot greenhouse.

From plot to garden

This poppy arrived outside our garden greenhouse – another ‘weed’ but a pretty one that is doing no harm and so can stay along with the self sown fern and what I think is a self sown hardy geranium. All are growing in places that you would never be able to plant successfully.
Another self sown fern – I think there are several here really – are growing in the tub which houses our dead tree fern. If I tried to grow ferns from spores I don’t think I’d have much success but these are growing happily and are true to the parent plant which is in a nearby pot. Maybe the fern stump will have to stay as it provides an effective backdrop to the weeds!

Close by is a self sown aquilegia – this time in the tub in which is growing a palm. I’ll leave this alone too – can’t wait to see what colour it is. The jury is out at the moment on whether this will end up being a weed or a choice garden plant!

Less welcome is the black violet that seeds itself everywhere. It grows in tubs, cracks in paving in fact anywhere it can and once it grows is quite difficult to uproot. It’s pretty and is allowed to stay in some parts of the garden but in tubs it has weed status! Forget-me-not, cyclamen hederifolium and alchemilla mollis share the same status. I only ever bought one of each – come to think of it I don’t think I bought a forget-me-not. Unless I have forgotten!

Then there is the plant I wish I’d never planted. Bought as an alpine, linaria muralis is a thug which once planted as a tiny plant is impossible to get rid of. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing – a pretty little baby that grows into an adolescent tear away. I’ve just have learned to try my best to control it and where I can’t - just live with it!

One definition of a weed is that it is a plant growing in the wrong place. I think I more or less agree with this but here’s one plant that is the exception to that rule. Another bird sown weed appeared in our garden and could have easily been pulled out at an early stage. I didn’t recognise it as a weed that I knew so left it – just to see what it grew into - I’m really glad that I did. I ended up with a lovely daphne – growing in the wrong place but in this case – who cares?

School web resources
By the way if you work in a school you may be interested in the free garden related web resources that I have produced here If you are a new gardener some of the vegetable resources may interest you too.


  1. A very interesting post, Sue! The definition of "Weed" is as you say open to a fair bit of interpretation. Likewise, what is a Herb? It's a very loosely-defined term.

  2. Gosh, I wish I could get poached egg plants to spread a little on my plot! They're just not interested for some reason!

    And it's crazy - I've been fretting about not getting any poppy seeds to germinate in pots but actually, they're reproducing like nobody's business out on the open soil - I'll just have to move them where I want them!

    I seem to always have chard or perpetual spinach seedlings coming up everywhere too, which is curious, because to my knowledge I've never let any go to seed...

  3. Glad to hear chives self seed. I have one lonely little plant that I keep thinking I could do with adding to. It's flowering now tho so perhaps soon we'll have some babies! :)

  4. I always thought herb was short for herbaceous, Mark meaning a plant whose leaves and stems die down over winter in which case basil, rosemary, thyme etc. wouldn't be herbs. Botany seems to create its own rules and then not let us in on the secret.

    You're right about poppies Naomi but when you transplant make sure you move in a clump of soil as poppies are keen on being moved. The poached eggs that we planted withered quickly and the a year or so later six plants were found on the plot - these were the originals. One was planted between each rose and you see the result.

    Just don't chop off the flowers P&M (is it still Mel who comments?)and you should have babies - maybe though sprinkling seeds from a flower head into a pot would be a good idea as if you weed too energetically around your herbs you could pull up the young chives which look a bit like grass. As you can see I wasn't an energetic weeder.

  5. I never fail to be amazed at the number of potatoes I leave behind each year that grown on the following year. Must work on my harvesting technique!

  6. I don't think it matters how careful you are Rob. Apparently a bit of peel will grow a plant if it has an eye.

  7. wow- this is really interesting! I've just planted chives and marigolds in my veg beds in the hope of attracting the right kind and repelling the wrong kind of bugs!

    Potatoes are popping up all over our allotment this year- can you eat the volunteer potatoes? or path potatoes as we call them as theyre growing up through my other half's carefully laid paths hehe!

    Holly x

  8. We've eaten the tubers from volunteers, Holly so yes you can. The amazing thing is we wouldn't plant potatoes to over winter and yet they can do this themselves.

  9. So many pretty weed there. I thought I have only weeds on the veggie patch. But many are popping out from the containers too. I like your poppies. I keep on trampling our poppy seedlings.Opps.

  10. I'm sure you will have plenty of untrampled poppy seedlings Diana

  11. AnonymousMay 25, 2011

    I have this argument with a lot of my personal opinion...a weed is only a weed if you don't want it...and if you 'choose' to grow a hundred dandelions in your garden then they aren't weeds!!!

    My veg plot is for veggies so I pull out the self seeded plants....however a garden that I work in is quite wild looking and I often leave in the poppies and things as they add colour and texture to the pretty borders....anything can be pretty ...I just make sure I keep them in check!!

  12. I go along with that Anon - well so far - I guess people have a bit of a right to get upset if all the wild flowers seed and blow around into their garden and dandelions are a bit prolific in that respect.

  13. Hey GLA....the anon. comment above was me...guess I clicked on the wrong link when posting...sorry about that!


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