Monday, July 1, 2013
Companion Weed - Red Root Pigweed
I learned a valuable lesson last year during the extreme drought. One that has helped me immensely this year as well and one that I will be using from now on I imagine.
Having pigweed (or Amaranthus retroflexus) In your garden is NOT a bad thing. Of course the reality is that until last Summer the chances of me actually eliminating this weed from my garden have always been slim to none. The Small-Hold seems to be a magnet for this weed even more so than the dreaded bindweeds.
The Red Root Pigweed is actually edible and used all over the world for food. I have known this since I was a boy although I have never eaten it myself, I know my grandparents did so it has never really made my total eradication list like some other weeds. Supposedly all parts of the plant or edible and I have been told like most wild greens you want to harvest them young and prepare them much like spinach. Prolly another reason I have not been eager to try one.
This isn't about the edible or survival properties of Pigweed however. Pigweed has another valuable trait that I discovered to my horror last year. It keeps a multitude of very bad bugs off my other plants. The drought we had last year reduced the growth of many of the weeds that attempt to take over my garden each year and this Pigweed was no exception. In fact it was so reduced in numbers that for the first time ever I actually saw a chance to have a totally weed free garden. By the first part of June last year I had removed almost all the Pigweed and then witnessed the mass bug migration into my tomato plants. At one point there was a ground swarm of blister beetles decimating all the low hanging tomato growth they could reach.
By mid June 2012 I thought all my tomatoes were going to die off and I actually resorted to spraying a pesticide for the first time ever.
Well my tomatoes survived and came back and I actually had a very good crop last year but only because of constant watering but as I said I learned a valuable lesson and now I make it a point to allow the pigweed to grow some. I have now began a bit of a rotation in the garden area which allows me to leave a portion fallow more or less. I plant some very wide rows of Sunflowers and then dump cured manure and old hay into the open space between them. I also allow the pigweed to grow a bit and make sure I rotate the tilling in of these areas so there is always sufficient pigweed available.
I have found this keeps a large percentage of pests off of my other plants and happily chewing on the Pigweed, especially the small yellow cucumber beetles and now the green Chinese Beetles but also the Blister bugs and other pests. While it doesn't help against the really specialized pests like squash bugs, hornworms and the like it does make a big difference in many ways and almost eliminates the chewing bugs off my pole beans and cucumbers.
I do attempt to yank the pigweed before it goes to seed though and it also has a bad habit of sheltering a very similar looking weed that has some nasty thorns I have to be careful of.
As I see it this weed is beneficial enough that I want to make sure I always keep it around.
Hell the way things are going we may in fact need to test the edible properties before too long as well.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!