Common garden weeds: can I eat them?

Are you fed up with battling your common garden weeds? Do you follow a strict weeding regime year-on-year-out, and you still have a flowerbed overgrown with invaders? Have weeds crept into your lawn?

Weeding is probably the most thankless of all garden chores. You turn you back for what seems like a couple of days, and they’re back in more significant numbers. And there’s always that moment of dread when you arrive home after a two-week holiday…

All gardens have weeds; it’s as certain as death and taxes. But – actually – not all weeds are bad. Some have pretty flowers that attract the bees. And many common garden weeds are edible!

So, stop battling the weeds and start eating (some of) them. This article is all about what to do with common garden weeds. Sure, they might look unsightly, but some of them are mighty tasty.

What are the most common garden weeds?

Common garden weeds in the UK have excellent medieval names: chickweed, fat hen, hairy bittercress, ground elder, shepherd’s purse, for example. And many of these are not only edible but full of medicinal benefits.

But don’t run off into the garden and eat the first weed you see! You need to know what you’re looking for.

The most common edible weeds are:

  • Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
  • Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)
  • Chickweed (Stellaria media)
  • Hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta)
  • Goosegrass (Galium aparine)
  • Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
  • Ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria)
  • Fat hen (Chenopodium album)

We’re going to explore what some of these common edible weeds look like and how you might add them to your kitchen table.

Can I eat Dandelions?

A single dandelion

Well, yes – you can. And there’s a powerful argument that you should!

Dandelions are one of the most recognisable of all garden weeds. Commonly invading lawns across the UK, you can also find dandelions in flowerbeds and on verges.

The whole plant – whether cooked or raw – is highly nutritious:

  • An excellent source of A, C, and K vitamins
  • Contains Vitamin E, folate, and trace elements of vitamin B
  • A great source of iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium
  • The root is rich in carbohydrate inulin – a soluble fibre that supports healthy gut bacteria
  • High in potent antioxidants
  • Anti-inflammatory

Additionally, dandelion could help regulate blood sugar (chicoric and chlorogenic acid), reduce cholesterol, and lower blood pressure. The antioxidant content could promote a healthier liver. And this super-weed could even aid weight loss (although this is yet to be conclusively proven).

And some test-tube studies have demonstrated that dandelion root extract can slow cancer cell growth in the liver, colon, and pancreas.

The list of health benefits goes on: it improves digestion and aids constipation, boosts immunity, can be used in skincare products, and supports healthy bones.

So, almost from head to toe, it seems that dandelion is a superfood.

What on earth are we doing by chopping them in their prime and throwing them on the compost heap?

How do I eat dandelions?

Knives and forks

You can eat the leaves, the flower, and the roots.

The leaves are bitter, and they’re not for everyone’s palate. However, they can be really delicious if you pick them young; before the plant produces flowers.

You probably wouldn’t eat an entire dish made of dandelion leaves. But they’re great as an accent to a mixed leaf salad – a little like adding rocket to a salad for peppery high notes.

Alternatively, you could add the leaves to a soup to add a subtle, pleasant bitterness.

The flowers are perfect bases for wine and jellies. Dandelion wine might sound like something that Tom and Barbara would cringe through in The Good Life (and Margot might well pour down the sink), but it makes a very palatable dessert wine. Try this recipe.

You can also use the flowers in a range of cooked dishes, from omelettes to risottos. Or use them as an attractive garnish.

Pick the flower buds before they’ve opened, and pickle them – they make a great alternative to capers.

The roots and stems are full of a milky liquid known as latex. Don’t worry – it’s not the latex you find in washing-up gloves.

Stinging Nettles: can I eat them?

Stinging nettles

Stinging nettles get a bad rap because they’re a bit – well, stingy. And who wants to put THAT in your mouth?!

But, prepared correctly, stinging nettles (or urtica dioica) are delicious and have been used in herbal medicines since the Ancient Egyptians discovered that they effectively treat arthritis and back pain.

And:

Roman troops rubbed nettles over their skin to keep warm. Well, I suppose that’s one way of doing it…?

But, like dandelions, nettles would be considered a superfood if Waitrose stocked them because they contain:

  • A, C, and K vitamins
  • Several B vitamins
  • Fats, including linoleic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid
  • All of the essential amino acids
  • Polyphenols and pigments
  • Tons of antioxidant

Nettles are believed to help:

  • Reduce inflammation
  • Treat the symptoms of enlarged prostate
  • Treat hayfever
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Control blood sugar
  • Minimised bleeding and speed up healing
  • Optimise liver health

However, avoid nettles if you’re pregnant as the natural compounds could trigger uterine contractions, possibly resulting in miscarriage.

How do I eat stinging nettles?

Firstly, think about how you might pick them. We all know that they sting, so we recommend wearing rubber gloves to avoid direct skin contact. Or you shouldn’t get stung if you pinch the leaves hard. But once cooked, stinging nettles lose their sting and are safe to eat.

The whole plant is edible, but the young leaves at the tips of the plant are the nicest to eat. When cooked, the leaves taste similar to spinach.

Add the dried leaves and flowers to hot water for a delicious herbal tea. Or try making a homemade nettle pesto! Alternatively, add the leaves, stem, and root for soups, stews, smoothies, and stir-fries – creamy nettle and potato soup is particularly scrummy.

Avoid eating raw leaves as the barbed hairs could cause throat irritation or a rash.

You can buy dried or freeze-dried leaves or find nettles added to creams, capsules, and tinctures.

But, it’s entirely possible to eat the stingers growing in your garden. It’s advisable to speak to your doctor if you use: blood thinners, blood pressure medication, diuretics, medication for diabetes, or lithium. The nettles can interact with those medications.

How do I de-sting stinging nettle leaves?

De-sting the leaves by blanching them in boiling water and rinsing them thoroughly. Squeeze out the water before adding to your favourite recipes.

Other weeds I can eat

The following common garden weeds are also great for the kitchen table:

Chickweed,,stellaria,Media.,Young,Taste,Very,Gently,With,Flavor,Of

Chickweed – add young, fresh leaves to salads dressed in olive oil and lemon, or blend the leaves into a pesto to liven up chicken or fish.

Hairy,Bittercress,,Cardamine,Hirsuta,,Growing,On,Meadows,Of,Galicia,,Spain

Hairy bittercress – the whole plant is edible, but the leaves and flowers offer a hot peppery flavour to salads, soups, or pesto.

Goosegrass

Goosegrass – picked when the leaves and shoots are young, goosegrass can be eaten like any green vegetable or as an ingredient in soups, stews, and pies. The hardened seeds are a good coffee substitute.

Goosegrass is often known colloquially as Cleavers or Sticky Willy. It’s the stuff that gets stuck to your cat’s fur, and they drag around the house!

Ground elder

Ground elder – with a similar flavour to parsley, ground elder is an excellent complement to fish dishes. Or eat it like cooked spinach with pasta. It contains lots of vitamin C and has been used to treat arthritis and rheumatism.

Ground elder is very invasive, so it’s not really recommended that you encourage too much growth. It’s easily confused with hemlock, which is poisonous, so approach ground elder with extreme caution.

Ready to get gardening?

Remember, never eat anything if you’re not entirely sure it’s safe. If you have any questions about this article or about how to control weeds in your lawn, then get in touch.

We’re always happy to help!

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Leafmould: How to Turn Fallen Leaves into Gardener’s Gold

Have you felt that sudden, distinct change in the air? That crispness that only begins to appear as October moves into November? Maybe you notice that the lush green of your shrubs and trees transform into the most vibrant reds, browns, and yellows. It’s leafmould season.

Sure, autumn is a sign that the summer is over. But there’s definitely a pay-off as the nights draw in and the temperature drops: the colours of autumn are a sight to behold.

However, leaves on your lawn is a BIG no-no. If you leave them to decompose over the winter, you’ll find that most of your grass will have died come spring.

So, dust off that trusty rake, and gather the leaves. But don’t instantly chuck them in the compost heap. Leafmould is a valuable mulch and an excellent soil improver. This article explains how to make it and what to do with it once you’ve created that lovely, crumbly, nutritious soil.

What is mulch?

Mulch around a new seedling

Mulch is a layer you place over the surface of your soil. It can be organic matter, such as fallen leaves, leafmould, or chipped barked. Or your can buy manufactured “fleece” or plastic lining that keeps the earth warm.

Mulching minimises weeds – for precisely the reason you DON’T want to leave leaves on your lawn (there’s a tongue twister for you!). The mulch layer creates a barrier between the sunlight and the soil, which can suffocate your lawn.

But a mulch layer is excellent for your flowerbeds, with a variety of benefits:

  • Conserves soil moisture
  • Improves fertility and soil health
  • Minimises weed growth
  • Keeps the soil warmer during the winter (and cooler in the spring)
  • Protects your plants from frost
  • Enhances visual appeal around your plants and shrubs

You can just rake any fallen leaves into your flowerbeds, and it will happily decompose over time while protecting and feeding your plants. But it can look a little scruffy, so you could – alternatively – gather your leaves together and create Leafmould.

What is Leafmould?

Leafmould

Leafmould (aka leafmold) is often referred to as “Gardener’s Gold”. Dug into your veg patch or flowerbed, it improves soil structure; spread over your soil, it makes a nutrient-rich mulch; or you can even use it in the spring as potting soil mix.

Leafmould forms from decomposed leaves and acts as an excellent soil conditioner. If your earth is on the heavier side, leafmould lightens it up and adds drainage. But if your soil is sandy and fine, leafmould adds structure, helping the soil retain its moisture.

Leafmould is made from the leaves of deciduous trees – in other words, trees that drop their leaves in the autumn. Most evergreen leaves aren’t suitable for leafmould (but are good for the compost heap).

Fallen autumn leaves have a low nitrogen content and are generally fairly dry, meaning that it takes longer for them to break down than standard compost. This nutritious compound comes about as a result of slow, bacterial decomposition, making a wonderful growing medium for young plants, a great soil conditioner, and excellent mulch.

How to create your own Leafmould

Firstly, rake up your leaves and gather them together in a cage (see “How to Build A Leafmould Cage” below). You can use a traditional garden rake or a leaf blower (on mulch mode) which sucks rather than blows (and gathers the leaves into a bag attachment).

Any fallen leaves are suitable for Leafmould, although thicker leaves (i.e., horse-chestnut) take longer to break down. Tougher, evergreen leaves are more suited to the compost heap. Pine needles make an excellent acidic leafmould, suitable for placing around ericaceous plants, such as rhododendrons and blueberries.

Avoid leaves from the following trees and shrubs, as they contain the wrong chemical composition for Leafmould:

  • Walnut
  • Eucalyptus
  • Camphor and cherry laurel
  • Leylandii

Gather your leaves for leafmould

Garden rake

Of course, rake your leaves from your lawn, but you can also collect them from wherever they land in your garden. Don’t forget paths and guttering; you really don’t want leaves to collect in your gutters!

Avoid leaves from the street, however, as there’s a chance they may have been polluted from passing traffic.

TOP TIP: Run your lawn mower at its highest setting, and let it suck up the leaves. The blades will chop them up, and they will decompose more quickly!

How to Build a Leafmould Cage

Leaves will break down more quickly in a ventilated cage. It’s easy to make one for yourself:

  1. Hammer four small posts into the ground.
  2. Attach chicken wire around the four posts, creating a small enclosure.
  3. Fill with your leaves!

Simple!

If the leaves are dry, give them a brief watering, and check every few months for dry areas. Turn the leaves over with a garden fork now and then to keep them moist.

Alternatively, an even easier way to create a little leafmould factory is to gather your leaves in sturdy black plastic bags:

  1. Gather your leaves, and press them down, so the bags are well filled,
  2. Tie up the ends of the bag.
  3. Use your garden fork to create several air holes in the plastic (to stop the leaves from turning into a revolting, stinky soup!).
  4. And leave them somewhere in your garden, where they’re unlikely to be disturbed.

How long does it take to make Leafmould?

Leafmould takes longer than composting because it relies on fungal decomposition. It generally takes around two-three years for the best outcomes.

Avoid topping up your leafmould cage as you’ll disturb the decomposition. Some people have two leafmould cages for rotation. Once you’re going, you’ll have Leafmould every year for your flowerbeds and veg patch.

How do I know my Leafmould is ready?

Leafmould should have a lovely, crumbly consistency. It will look like stone-free standard earth but will be a little darker in tone.

As mentioned, it should be ready in two years. But it’s even better after three, so if you have the patience, it’s worth the wait.

If there are lumps and stones in your Leafmould, you could sieve it, leaving a lovely, fine potting soil. It makes a wonderfully nutritious growing compound for seeds and young potted plants when mixed with weed-free garden soil.

What do I do with leafmould?

Leaf mould is excellent for improving the structure of your soil. If you have heavy clay soil, Leafmould helps “lighten” the heaviness, improving the drainage. If you have sandy soil, Leafmould adds structure that helps maintain moisture.

Lay a thick layer of the Leafmould over the top of your soil and dig it in.

If you can’t wait for complete decomposition, you can use young Leafmould as mulch, helping suppress weeds in your flowerbeds and around your veg. Add between 3-5cm on the top layer of the soil, around the base of your plants – don’t dig it in.

Ready to mulch?

So next time you ask yourself “what do I do with autumn leaves?” give a thought to starting your very own leafmould factory.

And if you have any questions about leadmould (or about anything lawn and garden-related), we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch, and we’ll be happy to help.

Thanks for reading!

Dogs Eating Grass: Why do they do it?

Without being unduly harsh, dogs aren’t generally known for their vast intelligence. Most dog owners will agree. Dogs eating grass is a common occurrence because – let’s face it: sometimes, it seems they’ll eat absolutely anything.

From stones to – well, let’s just say they’re happy when they’ve been running through a field populated by cows – dogs will eat most things if given the opportunity.

Dogs eat grass. It’s almost as certain as bears doing their business in the woods.

But why do they do it? Is it bad for them? And should you be doing anything to prevent them from munching on your beautiful lawn?

This article is all about dogs eating grass and how you might stop them if they’re ruining your prized lawn.

Is eating grass bad for a dog?

Little dog eating grass

It’s commonly believed that dogs eating grass is a sign of illness. Some people think that they eat grass to consciously make themselves sick due to an upset stomach. After all, dogs aren’t always particularly discerning when it comes to diet.

And while there is an element of truth in that theory, less than 10% of grass-chomping canines are sick before eating grass. And fewer than 25% of dogs will vomit AFTER a graze on the green stuff.

Grass in its natural state is not usually bad for your dog. They most likely eat it because they like the taste. However, if your dog is continuously vomiting up grass and has gone off their food, then it’s a surer sign that something’s up, and we advise you to consult your vet.

However, your dog can pick up some nasty parasites from eating grass. Ensure that they’re protected from lungworm, passed on from eating grass-dwelling larvae in infected snails, frogs, and slugs. Most standard worm or flea treatments available from pet shops don’t protect against lungworm.

Check your fertiliser packet

I mentioned earlier that grass in its natural state isn’t usually bad for your dog. But, it can depend on the chemicals you apply to your lawn.

We spend a lot of time caring for and nurturing the perfect lawn, and sometimes, we use harsh chemicals. All of MOOWY’s fertilisers are pet-friendly, but always read the label before you use a new product.

Having said that, our fertilisers are pet-friendly; it’s probably still a good idea to discourage your dog from nibbling on your lawn directly after application.

So, always check the packet, especially if you’re using weed- or moss killer.

How do I stop my dog from eating grass?

Dog thinking about eating grass

One of the likely reasons for dogs eating grass is boredom, which is easily remedied.

Make sure your furry friend gets plenty of exercise – just letting them burn off energy by running around the garden may not be enough. Take them for long walks if you can (or get someone else to do it if you don’t have the time).

Providing toys for your dog to play with inside will help them burn energy and keep them engaged. You could even provide them with food puzzles that keep your dog occupied while rewarding them with treats.

Dogs eating grass: it could be dietary

Alternatively, your dog may be eating grass because of a dietary deficiency. They may be instinctively treating intestinal worms or improving their digestion. Or they may need fibre, provided perfectly by your prized lawn.

One particular study suggests that the need for fibre is a strong argument. A miniature poodle had been eating and vomiting grass every day for seven years. They were put on a high-fibre diet, and within three days, they stopped eating grass altogether.

So, you could try checking the fibre content of their regular meals and swapping it for a higher fibre alternative.

The Health benefits of grass (for dogs!)

We don’t really associate dogs as plant eaters, but dogs are – in practice – “facultative omnivores”, meaning that they derive nutrition from plant-based foods (but they are NOT vegans!).

Plants and grasses supplement your dog’s meaty diet with fibre (as mentioned), vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and antioxidants!

For example:

  • Vitamins: wheatgrass contains B, C, E, and K vitamins.
  • Minerals: wheatgrass contains trace elements of copper, selenium, iron, magnesium, sulfur.
  • Amino acids: again, wheatgrass contains 17 amino acids – the building blocks of protein. 7 out of those 17 are essential for optimal canine health
  • Enzymes: helping your dog gain maximum nutrition from their food,
  • Antioxidants: compounds that slow or prevent cellular damage.

Do you want more information?

We hope that you’ve got everything you’ll ever need to know about dogs eating grass from our little blog here. But if you have any questions related to grass and lawn health, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

We’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!