The Weed Oxymoron

My garden has many weeds, which draws me to ponder just what they really are. Common definitions of weeds often revolve around them being "unwanted plants" or "plants without value", so what is a weed is heavily dependent on context. For example, a walnut tree could be a valued plant if it was growing in an orchard, or an unwanted plant, and therefore a weed, if it grew on a sports field.

So this makes me wonder just how weedy my garden actually is. The more uses I have for weeds, the more they are wanted, and the less weeds, by definition, I have. I can passively weed the garden by doing nothing but changing my philosophy.

So there are really three types of plants in my garden, species that are intentionally propagated, species that were originally planted but now self-seed to form sustaining populations, and species that, through neglect or oversight, grow there unassisted. Some of the latter are true weeds, unwanted in any form, whilst others I am discovering, are not actually weeds at all.

Its midsummer at the moment. Most of our salad greens have turned bitter or bolted to seed, and it takes quite a bit of foraging to harvest a salad - a few remaining lettuce leaves, tat soi, chicory, the last of last winter's corn salad, and some sorrel. Yesterday, while picking such a salad I remembered the edible qualities of young dandelion leaves. Sweet, and I was soon to learn, rich in a multitude of minerals and vitamins, including folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Magnesium, Calcium, and many others. Despite my best efforts, dandelions grow with wild abandon from the paths, garden edges, and forgotten corners of my garden. Tentatively tasting the young shoots I had the epiphany that this plant was actually an overlooked and under-utilised resource.  I successfully unleashed the leaves on unsuspecting dinner guests, and a new vegetable was born. Dandelion has joined the growing list of "self-sown" vegetables on offer, and another weed is gone.

So what 'wanted weeds' are there in your garden? 

Dandelion on the garden path
All of our swiss chard (silverbeet) is produced by letting them grow wherever they self-seed.
I wasn't planning on growing pumpkin this year, but nature had other ideas. This pumpkin plant germinated from our compost. 
Self-sown tomato "Gold Nugget". We often get our late tomato crop (March-May) from self-sown plants that germinate in November-December. 

A self-sown parsnip that will now provide the seeds for a self-sown crop in the winter-spring of 2014