Good Weeds 
We think of all weeds as uninvited and unsightly nuisances that Must go!
But there are Bad weeds and Good weeds, and some Very Good Weeds. 

The "Bad weeds" grow among the roots of choice Plants and rob them of nutrients. Then they tower over our Plantings and rob them of sunshine, resulting in a meager crop of Flowers or Vegetables. 
Some, like Poison Ivy, even exude harmful Toxins.

"Good Weeds" have short, shallow roots which absorb few nutrients. They shade the soil with their foliage which helps to preserve moisture and  keep the soil cool for those Plants that prefer it. And when the growing season ends, their remains decompose (Compost), and contribute to the fertility and structure of the soil.

In addition, some weeds have properties which are attractive to destructive insects. Allowed near your Plants, some of the insects will visit these weeds instead of your Plants, making it less necessary to use poisons on your produce. Still other weeds have properties that repel destructive insects, making them great Companion Plants.

So next time you pass a neighbor exercising his porch swing while the garden "needs" weeding, think about this page and learn how to separate the good from the bad.

"Very Good Weeds" are in a class of their own; They are EDIBLE !
We don't need to buy the seeds; or till, sow, water, fertilize, mulch, spray, and cultivate the soil. We don't even need to pull the weeds. Common Milkweed is an example of one of these Very Good Weeds.


1- Milkweed gets its name from the copious bitter, white, sticky liquid that flows readily from a wounded Plant. It may be found in fields and fence rows or any fallow area that is open to full sunshine. You can also grow it from seeds planted on the North side of your sunny Garden
where it will not shade other Plants.

In nature it grows in irregular patches to 5 feet tall, with leaves approaching a foot in length and 4 inches in width. Patch and Plant size are determined by location and soil conditions. The leaves are horizontally opposed on a round hollow stem the diameter of your thumb. Each pair of leaves grow at right angles to the next of about 12 pairs. A flower cluster contains upwards of 100 flowerlets. 

The Insert shows a Pod which has split open to expose its fluffy parachute to the wind. It will be blown away to its new home many feet or miles away, where it will germinate and start a new plant to perpetuate its species.

2, 3 - Its fragrant Blossoms attract many  nectar-seeking insects, Bees, and Butterflies, including the Monarch Butterfly which also selects it for depositing eggs, and raising Caterpillars.

 4 - Its fluffy seed parachutes attract birds that use it for nesting material. Baltimore Orioles are especially fond of it. Butterfly Weed is a member of the Milkweed family.

Delight your Songbirds by gathering Milkweed Seed Pods in late Autumn when they are just beginning to split open. Put them in our Nesting Material Dispenser in the Spring to provide nesting materials. Lint from your Laundry Dryer will also be welcomed.

7- Gather Flower Bud Heads (similar to Broccoli and Cauliflower) just before the blossoms open. This stage is signaled by the green Buds taking on a hint of pink, indicating that the pink Blossoms are about to open. Tender young leaves and stems may be included in your cuttings as shown in the photo. Handle them so as to avoid the sticky, white secretion.

As you gather them, examine each cutting for insects and spiders. Insects are not numerous at this stage of blossom development, but are attracted later when the opened Blossoms offer their sweet nectar.

6- After the flowers have bloomed, Pods are produced that will contain the seeds for future generations. Pods are also edible; with a different flavor and texture. Pick them when they are about 2-1/2 inches long. 

Don't remove ALL the Bud Heads or seed pods from the plants, unless you want to stop the crop. These edibles are the basis of future plants. You may prefer to harvest only the tender top leaves, leaving the Blossoms and Pods to produce more plants.

As with most vegetables, the less time between picking and eating; the better. Put them in a sink or bucket and cover them with cold salt-water for a half hour. Any insects you missed should float to the top. Then vigorously swish each cutting under the water several times and shake off the excess. 

5- Cut into bite-sized pieces; a kitchen shears works well for this. Cook them in lots of boiling water, stirring occasionally. When you are able to stick a toothpick through a thick stem; they are done. They will lose some of the green color which will be taken on by the boiling water. If the flavor is too pronounced for you, boil them again in a second water.

The flavor may be reminiscent of Green Beans. But if you prefer, you can change the flavor to Mushroom, Asparagus, Broccoli, or Cheese by adding undiluted Cream Soup for a dressing.  Butter, Salt, and Pepper are also good flavor enhancers. Or you might try Celery Salt.

Leftovers can be put in Freezer Bags or other containers much as Green Beans are. A Soda Straw inserted into the mostly-zipped bag will allow you to suck out the air. A 5-gallon bucket of Milkweed will equal about 10 pounds in the freezer. They make a welcome addition to Vegetable Soup.

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