Sunday, July 1

My Personal Axis of Evil

Every gardener, whether vegetables, flowers, or both, battles the weeds. Each season they seem to come from nowhere - one day your garden is a beautiful patch of dark brown soil, evenly planted with rows of potatoes, onions and beans. And the next day it seems to have been taken over by hordes of odd looking plants, grasses and winding vines.

How is it that weeds grow so fast and invade on such a grand scale? I find myself out in the garden during any space time I have ripping clumps of various weeds out by the roots. It makes the most satisfying of sounds - when I know I have gotten the root system and you can hear those roots giving up their hold on the soil. But no matter how many I pull, I will always see a row of more to pull as they take over my neat rows of tomatoes. I know it has gotten out of hand when the peas and beans have started attaching themselves to the tall weeds and using them for support.

And just when I think I have gotten things back to a pre-weed state, I let my guard down and they come right back. Sneaky in sending up new shoots under the broccoli leaves where they will go unnoticed until they get established again.

This year, I have three species in particular that have been giving me grief. Two of which I had known for years and have a deep seeded (pardon the pun) hate for: Ground ivy and Catchweed. The third has only shown up here in the last few years but in those few years it has multiplied exponentially: Purslane.

The purslane reminds me of some of those fancy tropical/cactus plants that you buy in the little clay pots at the garden center. The ones that are always near the checkout line and don't cost too much. They have the waxing looking stems and thick, equally waxy looking leaves and they almost look pretty. Getting the little suckers out of the ground is another story.

The root system holds on tight and the branches will snap off rather easily making it hard to be sure you have gotten the whole plant out. It spreads very fast and can cover the whole section of future pumpkin and gourd vine space in the course of a week.

I knew almost nothing about purslane until about a half hour ago when I was looking it up online. Apparently, I should let it grow. This goes against every instinct I have as a gardener. First, people eat it - it is an eatable plant that is said to be very nutritious and deliciously tangy in flavor. I will have to take their word for it because there is no way I am tasting that weed.

Secondly, it turns out that purslane is often grown as a companion plant in the garden in that its deep root system brings up moisture and nutrients for itself as well as for surrounding plants. Corn will extend its root system deeper alongside the purslane in order to push through tough soil and reach water sources. Maybe I should be letting it grow - at least where my corn should be growing. I have no corn this year - none. Maybe the answer is purslane.

I do not like to use the term 'beneficial weed.' It just goes against everything I have learned in the garden. Weeds take food from plants, therefore the plants' growth is stunted and they produce less fruit. Weeds are the enemy. And I hate to admit defeat. Does anyone out there have this purslane problem? Have you gotten rid of it or let it grow? Has it helped your garden?
Ground Ivy
Ground Ivy - the ever-present underlying yard and garden threat. I hear the theme music to Jaws every time I see this plant encroaching on my unsuspecting poppies. It starts so innocently and the little purple flowers do add such a nice little splash of color to a freshly mulched garden. It seems to show up before the majority of the garden flowers start to bloom so the purple is almost welcome just to see a flower.

Then it turns on you.

It starts creeping into every available garden space. Under rock borders and into the tight spaces between the thorny bases of the rose bushes. It comes out easy enough and you can see that you have gotten the root but this plant is like the floating menace that sunk the Titanic - you can only see the 'very tip of the iceberg.' This plant grows on every square inch of my property. It is intertwined in all ears of the lawn and I have constantly fighting to keep it from taking over the flower gardens. It seems to have stayed away from the vegetables this season which is relief - I have enough other varieties to deal with there.

Short of spraying a ton of chemicals, which I refuse to do, there does not seem to be any way of getting rid of ground ivy. I just keep pulling the extensive roots, fighting and gaining back every inch that is has invaded along the garden borders. And there are times when I just let it go. I keep it in check, but I pick my battles.


And we cannot forget what I call the 'Velcro' weed. Catchweed. Again, this one is all over the property, mostly concentrated in the wooded areas and the borders of the yard where the weeds grow up. It is an ambitious climber that I have seen cover the bottom half of a cedar bush with little effort.

Pulling this weed is a sticky and very annoying task and as I am ripping it off of my lilies, I know I am helping to spread the sticky little seeds around as they get stuck to my gardening gloves and plant legs.

They come out of the ground easy enough but they make up for it in their sticking ability and their sheer numbers. It is everywhere and grows fast. As of right now - the end of June - it has almost died off. It turns a sickly looking light brown color and wilts right on whatever it was climbing up when it was green. There is shrubbery here that looks like the dead carcass of some large brown mammal - a lump, completely covered in the wilted mess.

So my Axis of Evil has a possible ally. The purslane could be my personal WWII Italy. Starting out on the wrong side of the garden law but coming around to be a stagnant, but beneficial partner in the war on weeds and flight to keep my dream of growing corn alive. I'll let it go for a bit and see what happens.....


  1. Oh my gosh, let the purslane grow!!! LOL!! I actually just started seeing it in my garden this year for the first time, and after I learned what it was I've begun letting it grow and we're harvesting it to eat. I'm thinking about dehydrating it to make a powder to add to smoothies and meals for a super boost of vitamins and Omega 3 fatty acids.

    Here's my favorite recipe so far. PLEASE try it!!! :)

  2. What you call in the UK we call it goosegrass and those annoying seeds they are known as sweethearts!

  3. For the reader who left a great comment about purslane and mulching in the garden, I am sorry your post does not appear here. Blame a 3 year old messing with the computer....
    Thanks for the tips!