The weeds you want: a gardening strategy for the lazy

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raised vegetable bedBeginning Memorial Day weekend, there’s been some serious gardening action going on around our house. We finally bought our raised bed kit, a lovely two-tiered 4 x 8 foot cedar ensemble. Also, tool-less assemblage, which was key for we of little tools.

The raised bed is part of our ongoing plan for a potager. Or more simply put, a kitchen garden. We have a nice collection of herbs, as well as some lettuce in a pot. With the raised bed, we’ve been able to add tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and zucchini to that mix. Or we will be able to add those when our plants start producing (sound of impatient foot tapping).

The beauty of the kitchen garden, as opposed to the garden at a distance, is that you can check on your plants as often as you like. For me, this is every couple of hours. Things happen quickly in the plant world–you have to pay close attention or you might miss something.

The kitchen garden extends to the front of the house and the small strip of dirt between our sidewalk and the street. Having finished digging up all the pathetic-looking grass that was planted there, we’ve been gradually replacing it with my favorite kind of plants–the weeds you want.

What is a weed you want? It’s a weed, only for some arbitrary reason you’ve decided it’s desirable. And that makes it not a weed. It’s a weed you want.

Earlier in the spring, my husband took a trial run at weeding in the back yard. There were some casualties. A couple star of Bethlehem plants (to be fair, they look a lot like grass) and black-eyed susans. “How do you know when something’s a weed?” he asked. Oh, what a question! One that takes several lifetimes to answer.

At any rate, the weediest of the weeds you want is mint. It’s so weedy that some people no longer want it. It becomes merely a weed. This is not a problem in our household, because you know what will never happen? We will never run out of mint for mojito’s. We may run out of rum. We may run out of tonic. We may run out of limes. In fact, all of those things have happened. But by god, we will never run out of mint.

Among the varieties of mint we have around the house are Kentucky Colonel mint (the best for mint juleps, which we never actually drink, but should the need arise…), orange mint and chocolate mint. I can report that all of these are weeds you want. Which is to say, they spread like mad. In case you’re interested in pursuing my gardening strategy of planting weeds, here are some other good weedish plants: bee balm, coneflower, black-eyed susans (assuming your husband doesn’t pull them up), spiderwort, yarrow, obedient plant, and Japanese anenome.

orange mint tisane

orange mint tisane

What do you do with so many weeds? Obviously, you use them in mixed drinks. If you want to go the non-alcoholic route, there’s always tisanes. A tisane is basically an herbal tea, though technically, if it doesn’t involve the leaves of the tea plant, it’s not a tea. It’s a tisane.

Tisanes have been used medicinally, and they might be very good for you. Probably not as good for you as a mojito, but you have to do something with the rest of the mint.

Here’s how I make a tisane. Go outside and cut the hell out of any variety of mint or lemon balm or lavender or whatever herb strikes your fancy. You can use a teapot with a strainer, or tie the herbs up in cheesecloth to make your own tea bag, or just boil the leaves in the water and strain them out with a colander. Whatever works for you. I add a little honey and drink mine iced. My husband says it smells like drinking perfume, but I ignore him, because drinking tisane makes me feel resourceful and virtuous.

Do you remember when you were a little kid and you would pretend to make soup out of grass? It’s kind of like that.

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