Sunday, August 21, 2016

Tolerated Weeds

One of our shortcomings as a gardeners is to be too inclined to leave attractive weeds to prosper. Some years we am more strict, others more lax, depending on the situation.

This year, for instance, many of the vegetables that were planted are not going to produce much. Many had to be replanted several times after having been dug up by raccoons early in the season.

Only one cucumber plant and one zucchini plant eventually grew.   Only a quarter of the pole beans planted survived the raccoon onslaught. They are growing and we have started eating them.

However they are being invaded by Morning Glories which we decided to let grow. There might not be many beans, but at least the poles are not naked.

You might wonder what variety these Morning Glory are.

They are what Morning Glory ends up looking like when you let it self seed. Varieties like "Heavenly Blue" revert to the basic type which is either blue or pink.

Below is the pink version. These volunteer Morning glories that sprout early in the spring produce much sturdier plants than the seed you buy, probably because they are fresher.

 This year, not only are Morning Glories growing among the pole beans, but we also let a volunteer squash settle in.

Again, it is a question of circumstances. The raccoons have left no winter  squash and a single zucchini, so we decided the let this squash grow and see what happens.

I must point out that you could not do this if you have grown decorative gourds, because your volunteer squash might be an hybrid of a squash and a decorative gourd. These gourds are poisonous, and so might be your hybrid. The danger is not that great, however, as these gourds are far too bitter to eat and so would probably be the hybrid.

Another weed we do not interfere with is the milk thistle (Silybum marianum).

It has been my experience that if you collect the thistle seeds and plant them, they rarely do as well as the self-seeded plants. So we usually let one or two grow. Anyhow, not many more than two or three plants appear every spring. They are not prolific in this garden.

I also let a few biennial Rudbeckia  ("Gloriosa daisies") settle in for blooms next year. On the left are the plants I have not removed and on the right what it will produce next summer.

Contrarily to the milk thistle, however, these Rudbeckias are quite prolific in this garden. They are beautiful, but in this garden a weed nonetheless. We remove thirty for every one that is kept.

A last example of tolerated weeds - annual coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria) growing through the tomatoes. These annuals are not much of a competition for the tomatoes, and  they are useful as cut flowers.

What the American garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence says about her garden applies to ours: "In my garden everything grows on everything else, and I let them fight it out".


  1. I think you are brave, letting morning glory grow. How do you ever get rid of the roots?

  2. Sounds like our garden! Maria likes to let volunteers grow, but it's getting to the stage when we're going to have to get ruthless. Everything gets so mixed together, some of the plants we like get smothered under luxurious extra volunteers!

  3. I've just noticed 'Grand Pa Ott' my annual Morning glory making his move in the garden …again . I've had it for quite a few years now . Some years I pull more out than others, not sure about this yet.

  4. The only wild ones I let grow are fireweed. Well, I guess a few dandelions too!

  5. We have self own motning glory in the pot grew thm in last year. Ours are Grandpa Ott and have kept their colour. I never dig up seedlings that
    I don't recognise which is how we ended up with a lovely self sown daphne.

  6. Here, Grandpa Ott has self sown and is blooming profusely on the deck post. It is amazing how vigorous a plant comes from such a small bit of seed.

  7. I can't imagine Morning Glory to be a weed in your climate Alain although it is where my son lives near Sorrento! But a glorious one
    Our hedgerows are full of white bindweed at the moment - a very mixed blessing!

  8. My neighbour have morning glories that have taken over her front garden. I watched her pull out great chains that were swamping her petunias.
    I have many self-seeders, but the one I struggle with is a very prolific geranium. It creates many, many babies. I have grown tired of weeding out the seedlings, so now I am restricting the number of mother plants.

  9. They say that a weed is just a plant in the wrong place! I must admit that if I like the look of it - it stays!! BTW I have grown Morning Glory from seed this year, and it is nowhere near as floriferous as your self-seeded ones! Mine are a;; leaf!

  10. Sounds like raccoons are more evil than rabbits. I think Fennel and Borage are garden plants with a weedy disposition. I pull most but let a few grow.

    1. Raccoons are not usually interested in the plants but realize that the soil has been disturbed and out of curiosity, they dig where you planted something and kill the plant in the process.
      I have borage too but no longer have fennel.

  11. Alain, fortunately Morning Glory doesn't survive winter and milk thistle is used here as a medicine for bad skin. Milk thistle isn't a weed here too, at least in my garden. I'm sorry you lost your crop because of raccoons, it seems to me they are very harmful animals!

  12. Hello Alain, Morning Glories are have gorgeous flowers but we don't bother growing them as they're annuals here. There is a very similar-looking white version, but this is Convolvulus or "Bindweed", which is quite happy smothering small trees and definitely is not welcome in most places.


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