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Goosegrass: get out there now!

  • Goosegrass: get out there now!

It's that time of year - nature's velcro, the Goosegrass (Gallium aparine if you are into weeds wildflowers, or Cleavers, or Sticky Willies if you are not) is scrambling through the borders, but it has not yet flowered.

This means it's the perfect time to get out there and pull it up.

This job is definitely best done before it flowers, sets seeds and spreads everywhere: we've all heard that phrase about “one year's seed, seven years' weed” haven't we? There is a lot of truth in it, and by dealing with Goosegrass now, you can massively reduce how much of it you will have to deal with next year.

Not only that, but if you leave the Goosegrass to grow, it will tie all the perennials together, which not only spoils their appearance, but means that when you eventually try to pull out the Goosegrass, it will damage their stems. Worse, by taking away their support, you may find that the perennials have grown lax, and unable to stand up by themselves.

Best of all, if you do it now, before it flowers, you can still put it on the compost, thus putting all that lovely green material to good use!

It's really easy to get out - just keep pulling and pulling, and wind it round itself into bundles. It's also really easy to find it - just thrust a hand into the greenery, and if you wear gloves, it will stick to you like, well, like velcro, and if your hands are bare, you can't miss the harsh scratchy feel of the stalks.

You don't need to get the whole root out: as it's an annual, it doesn't re-grow from the root, so don't waste time trying to painstakingly dig out every skinny little stalk, just pull off the top growth. I have been known, when faced with really bad infestations, to twirl my border fork, spaghetti-eating-style, in order to wind it in by the bucketful.

How will you know if you've left it too late? If you find you have small fuzzy brown balls sticking to your clothing, then those are the seeds, and you have left it too late to compost it: it will have to go on the bonfire heap, or into the council green-waste bin. There is no point composting it once the seeds have been set, as you will simply end up with new plants wherever you use the compost.

So get out there now!

Comments (4)

  1. Grower

    Jenny Jones

    Hello did you know that in ye olden days they used to use it as deodorant?!

  2. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    No, really? (speedy typing sounds as I google it) Well, so it was! In case anyone is interested, the recipe is:

    "Deodorant: Make a strong tea with a large handful of cleaver stalks, leaves, and a pint of water. Gently simmer for fifteen minutes, strain, and bottle. Keep in a cool place, out of direct sunlight, and apply to armpits with a cotton ball as needed. This “cleavers deodorant” will keep for about a week."

    Please note that I don't recommend this, have never tried it myself, and don't intend to!

    Apparently it has also been used to treat just about every ailment under the sun, including being used as cleansing tonic, a cooling drink for feverish conditions, as a wash for burns, scrapes, abrasions, ulcers, dandruff, itchy scalp, and other skin problems: as a tea, for relieving stress, kidney and bladder problems, asthma and tonsillitis, and prostate disorders: as a was for a variety of skin ailments, light wounds and burns. As a pulp, to relieve poisonous bites and stings; as a poultice, and - for comic relief - as a laxative.

    Apparently they can also be eaten, raw or cooked, but it appears that eating them as part of a salad is not advised, as they tend to bind all the ingredients together!

  3. Grower

    Ray Mitchell

    Hi Rachel,
    I have tried eating it cooked and raw but not impressed, I guess in olden times, when food was scarce, it was OK. My favourite way of composting it is to pull it and give it to my geese, they love it and eventually anoint their straw with it adding all the goodness back to the soil. This year, because of health problems, I was a bit late sorting the nettles and the cleavers, getting stung a bit in the process but I'm told nettle stings are good for rheumatism. Dragging the long strands from every where is quite theraputic and seems like a lot of garden has been cleared.

  4. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Hi Ray,

    Ok, so you ate it and survived! As you say, they were a lot less fussy in olden times and I guess any sort of food would do, if you were hungry. Apparently nettles are edible too: the trick is to get them past your tongue and lips without getting stung.


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