Get down and dirty in the garden
Cynthia Meredith has been gardening with herbs, reading about herbs, and discussing herb gardening in Texas for more than 20 years. She has owned The Herb Cottage (www.theherbcottage.com) for over 10 years, selling herb plants to people all over our state.
Yesterday was the first day of autumn, and we had a lovely cool, cloudy and rainy day. I know the hot weather isn't over yet (it's supposed to get up into the low 90s this weekend), but even that is a relief from our brutal summer. For now, I'm enjoying the cooler weather and the rain.
My newly planted bed has responded to the rain with a growth spurt of everything—including weeds! Well, what did I expect, you might ask? I've been wishing for rain and watering when it didn't rain. Those weed seeds were just waiting for some moisture to show themselves. And, show themselves, they have.
Guess which one is the weed? Why the most prolific one, of course!
The most prolific weed I'm seeing is only a weed to some. To some, it's a salad or a braising leafy green. I also feed it to my chickens because it's healthy for them, and they love it. It's a relation to our more common weed known as pigweed. It's got a pretty green leaf with red accents. Can you guess what it is? If you guessed Lamb's Quarters, you'd be right.
Lamb's Quarters, (Chenopodium album) is a nutritious wild plant that grows almost everywhere throughout North America. The leaves can be harvested and steamed or braised like spinach, chard or kale. Young leaves are added to salads. Lamb's Quarters is also related to Quinoa (Chemopodium quinoa) the grain we eat. It is also related to beets and our common spinach.
Small Lamb's Quarters (Chenopodium album)
A large Lamb's Quarters plants can take the form of a tree with quite a large central stalk. The stalk of Lamb's Quarters, or Goosefoot, as it is also known, due to the shape of its leaves, has been used as a walking stick for centuries. According to Wikipedia: "In China, the stalk had been used as a walking stick since ancient times. For example, the following passage comes from Romance of the Three Kingdoms/Chapter 1: ... the old man had a youthful countenance, and was carrying a walking stick fashioned from the hardened stalk of a goosefoot (Chenopodium album) plant. (Wikisource translation)"
Tree-like, large Lamb's Quarters plant.
Like the common pigweed or amaranth, Lamb's Quarters throws lots of seed. And, I mean lots. The bed I just planted is near a large plant I keep mostly to feed the chickens. So, the new bed was literally covered with tiny seedlings after I started watering. I've hoed quite a bit of it, but since I direct seeded the bed, I could not get too vigorous with the hoe where tiny seeds were just a quarter inch or so below the soil. So, I've been waiting for the new seeded crops to emerge so I could weed around the new seedlings and not have a whole bed of Lamb's Quarters instead of the nasturtiums, parsley, spinach and minutina that I planted on purpose.
And, so it goes. The plants we want with the ones we don't. Who said something like: a weed is simply a plant in the wrong place? Now that we're getting some rain, I'm planning to transplant some of the Lamb's Quarters out to the chicken yard so it's closer to the chickens. I'll plant it where they won't have free access to it, or it would never survive!
"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need."
Marcus Tullius Cicero