Weeds in my Garden

Like most gardeners, I’ve clocked hundreds of hours weeding and will continue this regimen in my mixed borders of shrubs and perennials. But where my lawn used to be, I’m actually encouraging weeds — the ones I like the looks of and the ones that help prevent erosion on my hillside. Then I simply remove the others. (I explain to visitors that the “birds and the breeze” get credit for this lawn replacement.) Through this sorting process I’ve gotten to know the weeds in my neck of the woods.

The Lookers

Sedum acre, the primary weed I’m using to replace the lawn because I had plenty of it and it fills in SO FAST, is covered more fully in the ground cover section of this site. LOVE IT!

Purslane, (Portulaca oleracea) is an annual originally from India but long grown as a vegetable in China, England, and even in Australia by the Aborigines. It thrives in full sun, poor soil and drought. No known insect or disease problems. Photo left.

Smartweed (Polygonum pensylvanicum) is a summer annual that’s seen almost everywhere in the U.S., preferring wet areas but having no problem in the driest parts of my garden. I love its 8 to 10-inch spikes covered with dark pink flowers from June through August. Photo right, and smartweed in my own garden here on my blog.

Clover. Finally, people are catching on that clover’s one fabulous plant — drought-tolerant, low-maintenance, green through even the driest summer, and able to withstand foot traffic (though not as much as turfgrass.) It feeds the bees AND feeds your garden — because it’s “nitrogen-fixing.” Here’s my blog post about clover, and because I’m a big cheerleader, my article on Organic Gardener.com about clover.

I particularly love the taller red clover, which actually has purple flowers (photo left). Where it isn’t mowed it can grow to its full 10-inch glory and really show off those blooms.


Now back when I had a lawn I’ll admit to digging up dandelions after they’d bloomed but they look just fine in the new “freedom lawns” being promoted nowadays (where anything goes, weed-wise). I let them bloom because the pollinators love them but another reason to keep dandelions is because they’re good eating, according to this article by Ed Bruske, who wrote about cooking dandelions for Martha Stewart Living magazine. And here’s my story about changing attitudes toward them. If you don’t like them, here’s good advice about getting rid of them.

Wild violet (Viola papilionacea) is native to Central and Eastern North America. A perennial, it spreads aggressively and is resistant to most herbicides. I don’t mind it when it’s blooming in April — June but after that, they’re less good-looking and I dig up as many as possible. The next year, they’re baaaack!

“Ornamental” or plants commonly considered good-looking also blow into my garden, like the perennials rudbeckia and garden phlox. They’re great in a meadow or a freedom lawn.

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Photo credit for purslane. Photo credit for smartweed. Photo credit for dandelion.  Photo credit for violet.  Photo credit for crabgrass.  Photo credit for plaintain. Photo credit for carpetweed.  Photo credit for chamberbitter.  Photo credit for yellow nutsedge. Photo credit for dead-nettle. Photo credit for spurge. Photo credit for creeping charlie.