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Conquering Chickweed

If you can’t kill this prolific weed, you can eat it

If chickweed is a problem in your yard, you are not heeding my advice. Follow my two precepts — have your soil tested and cut your grass tall while letting it fall — and you will eventually conquer chickweed.
    Chickweed is a winter annual weed, meaning that the seeds start germinating in September, and the seedlings grow slowly all winter. By the first day of spring, the foliage is bright green. The plants grow no taller than an inch or two, producing a carpet of growth clinging to the ground.
    Common chickweed has white flowers. Mouse-eared chickweed has blue flowers, as well as leaves similar in appearance to the ears of mice. As soon as the weather turns hot, chickweed plants will turn brown and die. However, they will leave behind an abundance of seeds for next year’s crops.
    Chickweed can easily be controlled by spraying with almost any broadleaf weed killer. If you are as concerned about the health of the Bay as I am, however, you will choose the culture method over the chemical method of controlling chickweed.
    My preferred method of controlling is easier and chemical-free: Cut the grass tall, (three and a half to four inches) all season long and let the clippings fall in place. In addition, maintain the pH of the soil between 6.2 and 6.8, maximizing soil productivity. Feed your lawn according to soil test recommendations.
    You can also eat chickweed, but not likely to extinction as it is so prolific. Common chickweed has a very mild flavor, and can be added to salad greens with an oil and vinegar dressing and a pinch of salt. Mouse-eared chickweed tends to be a little bitter and the stems tend to be stringy, especially when it is in flower.
    By cutting your grass tall and maintaining strong healthy turf, you give chickweed no opportunity to establish roots and grow. I promise you you’ll have plenty to eat as you work toward that goal.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.