Chickweed. . . To kill or not to kill

This post started with my delight at the opportunity to share my successes of eliminating Stellaria media (chickweed) from my garden. I heard frustrated gardeners curse chickweed long before I experienced it for myself. Due to stories of monstrous chickweed invasions, this summer I was completely horrified to discover it near my garden, and fearful of an impending takeover. Faced with a pest, I turned to the internet where, it turns out, there are a variety of ways to confront chickweed. I will share with you my personal success, but also the variety of alternatives I discovered along the way.

Plant

Chickweed is an invasive species from Europe that plagues lawn owners and gardeners alike. It is a tenacious plant that can go from flowering to seed in as few as five weeks. Chickweed can also produce roots from nodes on the stem. One single plant can produce as many as 30,400 seeds. While chickweed’s shallow roots make it easy to pull by hand, this voracious plant can prove prolific under moist, nitrogen rich soils.

Remedies

Personally, I was immediately set on eradicating chickweed, and it turns out there are several strategies to doing so. I decided on direct attack with a vinegar solution. I sprayed the plant twice on warm, sunny days. Early on it was evident the plant didn’t stand a chance as evidenced by the quick browning of leaves. Much to my delight, plant death soon followed.   Be warned though, one must be careful during the application, as a vinegar solution will also damage other plants.

Alternatively, if you can leave an area fallow for a period of time as the soil starts to warm, then cover the area with plastic for several weeks. Solarized heat treating the soil can kill other weeds as well.  Of course, hand pulling chickweed is also a solution. This is best done when the plants are very small.

Food

While some gardeners (myself included) may be disappointed by the presence of chickweed, it turns out you can indeed make lemonade out of the chickweed lemon. In fact, an article in the Daily News Miner reports of a resident intentionally growing dedicated garden beds full of chickweed. It turns out chickweed has nutritious culinary uses. Recipes range from pesto to sautéed greens and pakoras— all of which sound delicious.  Chickweed is high in both vitamin A and vitamin C, and is also rich in iron and phosphorus. Additional medicinal purposes include healing salves for various skin diseases. If you’re interested in making your own salve.  

So, whether or not you are delighted by the existence of chickweed, you now have several options for dealing with it.  There are a variety of solutions.  Maybe, just maybe, you’ll decide to foster the presence of the plant and enjoy its culinary delights.  Enjoy!

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