I know that most gardeners moan at the sight of even a single weed, and rip them all out as soon as they appear. But my garden has lots of weeds – and I love them. Yes, even in the vegetable beds. While not all weeds, of course, are desirable, there are plenty of weeds that are great – and chickweed, Stellaria media, is one of my absolute favourites.
Reasons to allow chickweed to grow in your garden:
- Chickweed is an edible plant – though it contains saponins, it can be great in small quantities in salads. And also tastes pretty much like spinach when cooked. Cooking destroys the saponins, and we happily eat in and enjoy it quite regularly.
- It also has a long history of use in herbal medicine.
- As the name suggests chickens love it too.
- And since this is a plant that self-seeds – prolifically – there is plenty to go around.
- Chickweed is often called a ‘dynamic accumulator’, and while the science is lagging behind, there is at least anecdotal evidence to suggest that it can be beneficial when chopped and dropped, used as mulch or added to a composting system.
- It can also be used as a living mulch as, with shallow and fibrous roots, it will not compete too much with deeper rooted plants. I use it as a companion plant in my polytunnel alongside and between some annual crops.
- It spreads well (and quickly) to create good ground cover and protect the soil.
- The flowers are very pretty, though small. They attract beneficial insects, and even give clues about the weather. (Flowers close during set-in depressions, as well as in dull conditions.)
Another reason why you want chickweed in your garden is that it tends to love fertile soil. So seeing it popping up in your garden and growing lushly can be a sign that you are doing something right in your permaculture garden, and that your soil is rich and healthy.