Garden Blogging in Ocean Beach and San Diego: Learning Our Weeds

by on April 13, 2020 · 11 comments

in Ocean Beach

Little mallow.

This article was originally posted on the OB Rag on October 3, 2012

by Jill Richardson/ La Vida Locavore

With my big front yard swale project out of the way, I’m getting started on the backyard. The backyard intimidates me. It’s huge, full of bermudagrass, and parts of it are covered in chips of paint from the construction that’s gone on here over the past year or so. I’ve been having conversations in bad Spanglish with Jorge the painter about why we don’t want paint in our soil.

Today I decided to take on a mini-project: getting the smallest bed ready for garlic planting. I’m not ready to plant garlic yet, but the garlic’s ready – so I don’t have much choice. As I set out to check out the soil in the bed I wanted to use, I discovered a new weed – and a really unpleasant one at that. I posted about it on Facebook, and that led to a very interesting conversation about local weeds and how to identify them…

Since I’ve gardened in California, I’ve encountered the same weeds over and over again. So it seems about time to figure out what they are called and if there are any good uses for them.

Here are some of my old friends:

 Bermudagrass: This stuff is The Enemy. Details here. I’ve already set to work on the insurmountable task of removing it from the yard of my new place. Of course, that’s about as pointless as Sisyphus pushing his big rock up the hill, because the stupid thing has its roots far under the patio where I can’t remove them. All I can do is keep this one at bay. And the chickens don’t even really like to eat it.

 Common Mallow and Little Mallow: Details here: Common Mallow and Little Mallow. Turns out it’s edible! I don’t know which species I always find in my yard but it appears that you can eat both of them. As a gardener trying to get these guys out of my garden, I try to remove them when they are small because their roots get big and hard to pull as the plant matures.

 Stinging Nettles: Details here. I hate these guys because they HURT when you run into them accidentally in the yard… but they taste great cooked. I treat them like spinach but take good care not to touch them when they are raw. I use various garden tools to touch them or else I wear oven mitts. Stinging nettles don’t sting anymore once cooked.

 Filaree: Details here. Apparently the leaves have a lovely parsley flavor.

 Wood Sorrel a.k.a. Sourgrass: This one’s edible too, but I try to get rid of it from the yard if I see it. Details here. The little stinkers reproduces by growing a bunch of bulbs on their roots underground. That means that just pulling up a plant doesn’t work – you need to find and remove all of the bulbs too.

 Spotted Spurge: The weed that looks like purslane but isn’t. Details here. It always made me very sad that the garden at my old place was entirely infested with this stuff… but not purslane!

 Nettleleaf Goosefoot: Details here and here. I’m not 100% sure this is the weed I’ve been seeing in the yard, but I’ll take a closer look now that it’s edible.

 Foxtail: Another one I’ve been pulling out of the yard forever. Details here.

And here’s the new f***er I found today:   Nutsedge: Details here.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

richard October 3, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Stinging Nettle is actually a native plant….But it does irritate for sure. The Mallow you have pictured is also called cheese weed, a major hassle in OB. Have you visited the Point Loma Native Plant Garden at Greene and Mendocino off of Voltaire at Collier Park?


HerbMany March 29, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Stinging Nettle benifits: h


HerbMany March 29, 2013 at 3:55 pm



Julie March 1, 2017 at 11:38 am

Thanks! Moved from San Francisco last summer and as I’m trying to get my backyard into shape, this has been very helpful for identifying the different weeds.


Jonathan in Encanto April 14, 2020 at 10:42 am

I love this article. I love that you decided to get to know the weeds. I do the same thing. I figure, I spend so much time trying to kill these guys, I should at least know their names. Add one to your list: Veldt grass. It’s a common weed grass, . But, so invasive. I will tell you what it’s good for, though: If you have pet small birds, like finches or parakeets, they positively adore fresh veldt grass seeds, especially if they are raising young.


Scott April 20, 2020 at 7:36 pm

All weeds in context,…. they’re not enemies in the right context, even Bermuda. For example, many fruit trees and grapevines roots will grow deeper than Bermuda grass root competition, and thus Bermuda Grass can make a nice cover crop around them, after a couple years of establishment. Know yer habitat dynamics.


Scott April 20, 2020 at 7:39 pm

All weeds can make good covercrops, in context, as appropriate, right up to the trunks, especially after a couple years of establishment of the planted intended plant. And control the weeds/volunteers a bit on occasion, maybe, by cutting and some pulling, and there you’ve got mulch, plus the cover crop.


Randy Arthur Arthur May 25, 2020 at 11:16 am

It a great article in the weeds. Thank you


Josh July 15, 2021 at 8:46 am

really great article thanks.


Mandy July 15, 2021 at 8:47 am

This is a great article i must say.


Frank Gormlie July 15, 2021 at 9:53 am

Yeah, presidents and mayors change, but the weeds remain the same.


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