Top 5 – Edibles with invasive qualities.

I am currently to establish a mint bed in an area of the garden which is overshadowed by two large Eucalypts.  I have chosen mints (and lemon balm) for the bed as I am hoping that their invasive qualities will allow them to successfully compete for water and nutrients with the Eucalypt roots.  Planting this bed got me thinking about the most  invasive kitchen garden plants.  This is what I think they are in my micro climate.  I would love to know what goes wild for you.

Horseradish – A few years ago I planted horseradish in the ground and its still coming up.  Horseradish self propagates from its roots so when you harvest it you invariably break a number of its roots in the process – all these broken bits grow and very quickly the whole area is filled with little horseradish plants which if left unchecked have the potential to take over the garden.

Mint – This is a much from reputation as experience, my mint generally grows well (the occasional bit of rust aside) but hasn’t really taken over per se.  Having said that until now I have generally grown it in pots so it will be interesting to see if it lives up to its reputation in the ground.

Lemon Balm – Since I planted out the mint bed the one plant that has already started taking over the world is the lemon balm.  I reckon it has quadrupled in size at least, while the mints have doubled at most.  I now suspect this will become a lemon balm bed unless I keep a close eye on it.  Since planting it out I keep noticing huge patches of lemon balm in random places, most recently at Melbourne Zoo where the whole floor of the fairly large Orang U Tan enclosure is covered with the stuff.

Fennel – In Australia fennel is classified as a weed and people are generally encouraged not to let it go to seed.  It is classified as a weed because of the ease of self seeding and that it forms dense infestations crowding out other plants.

Pumpkin – Whilst pumpkin plants are relatively easy to maintain they still have the potential to take over a small suburban garden in the blink of an eye.  One minute you’re happily eyeing off your slowly forming pumpkins, the next they have smothered all the other veg in the bed and are making their way across the lawn, down the side drive and up the street.

And that is my Top 5 for this week.  Head over to the New Good Life to see what hers is this week.

Finally for all those affected by Hurricane Sandy, my thoughts are with you and I hope that you and your friends and family are safe and well and that your gardens emerge relatively unscathed.

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23 Responses to Top 5 – Edibles with invasive qualities.

  1. Pingback: Tuesday’s Top Five – Fad Vegetables | The New Good Life

  2. Barbara Good says:

    Wow, is that your pumpkin vine! I’m not sure if that’s impressive or scary? For me it’s parsley, silverbeet, nasturtiums and marigolds that seem to just come up everywhere. The first two have a tendency to escape the garden beds and take up home in the pebbles between the beds and sprawl all over the paths. The naturtiums pop up in all sorts of places and can become quite sprawling, but are easily enough tamed or transplanted to a better spot, add some colour and bring in the bees. The marigolds I just leave, they’re small, pretty and good for the garden.

    • Liz says:

      I grew that pumpkin the year before last and it just took over everything. I particularly like the idea of marigolds self seeding – I shall have to let mine go to seed this year.

  3. Jo says:

    There was mint on my allotment when I took it over four years ago, and though I’ve tried my best to get rid of it, it’s still there. It smells lovely though when it gets stepped on.

  4. Daphne says:

    I’ve always grown mint in containers because of their invasiveness. I have proof of that in neighbor’s yards where it just takes over. I have lemon balm in my yard, but I find that it is only invasive really by self seeding. It self seeds like crazy and comes up all over. I don’t find the original plant that bad even though it is in the mint family. Mints seem worse that way. My mints might be grown in pots, but they have so many times tried to escape by sending out long runners.

    The worst self seeder in my garden is dill. It gets everywhere. It is even growing outside the garden right now.

    Here I’d add Jerusalem artichokes. They are pretty common in weird spots as they are hard to kill.

  5. Our mint is in a bed surrounded by grass paths so any straying is mown giving a mouthwatering smell.

    I agree totally with the list you have described and would add to that Jerusalem artichokes. We no longer grow these but when we did we ended up with a thicket!

  6. Michelle says:

    Mint, fennel, and lemon balm are all volunteering around my garden. They haven’t been really invasive but they certainly are persistent. I can add wild arugula (silvatica) to the list, it volunteers readily from seed and it also has persistent roots. It has been growing in my garden paths and even though I trample it and cut it down frequently it keeps growing back. And I find thyme plants volunteering all over the place, but they are easy to control so I don’t suppose those really qualify.

  7. I’ve started to grow mint under my plum tree this year for the same reasons as you. I haven’t tried lemon balm yet. I Aldo have marigolds self seeding everywhere which I like. I wish I had dill self seeding like Daphne – mine always dies.

  8. Tracey says:

    I would add cutting celery (Apium graveolens var. secalinum) as an invasive self-seeder, even more so than fennel or parsely. I let some go to seed the first year mainly because the flowers are great for nectar feeding beneficials, although I did collect some seeds. But I never expect to have to use them because volunteers have come up *everywhere*! Since the seedlings are very distinctive it’s no trouble to remove the unwanted ones, but if I was living near bushland I would have to think twice about growing this, which would be a pity.

  9. Katie says:

    Yes, yes and yes to your first three!
    Horseradish… disaster! First year it barely grew and I didn’t even know it was invasive. Second year, OMG! Like the Day of the Triffids! I have pulled and pulled and pulled and I think I’m going to end up resorting to Glyphosate because it’s made it’s way into my vegie garden. GAH!*slightly* less vigorous than the introduced version).
    Lemon balm, dill and coriander have all self seeded freely but I don’t find them uncontrollable as yet. Ditto to nasturtiums. They do pop up everywhere and I regret planting them to begin with, but at least they’re easy to pull out.
    And the saddest part is that I am personally responsible for the appearance of every single one of these buggers in my garden :S

    • Liz says:

      I tried spraying my horseradish with some very unorganic weed killer and guess what – complete failure, it just seemed to respond by sending up more shoots. Pulling them out eventually worked for me.

  10. Katie says:

    Oops, I accidently deleted part of my comment and posted without proof-reading and now it makes no sense!
    This part: “slightly* less vigorous than the introduced version,” was a comment about common mint vs native mint, and that both are garden terrorists but the native mint slightly less so.

  11. Hmm I do have mint in one garden bed and a pot but don’t find it a problem in fact sometimes I just don’t have enough! The artichokes are quite a pain. But really my biggest problem is onion weed (and you can’t even eat it!). I did have a bit of run away raspberry but not so bad. Good to know about horseradish.

  12. Ian says:

    Definitely wild arugula is one. Have it as a border in part of my front yard, and it comes up all over – even found it in the nature strip (verge) of the house over the road and one door up. It has even come up in my vege beds this year – which are out the back of the house!

    Horseradish – grew it in an old rubbish bin last year, and it got out of the holes in the bottom and found the crack in the concrete tiles under it.

    Another one – not sure if it is a kitchen plant, but raspberries. Planted last year and been fighting all spring the suckers. Thinking if puting in iron all around the raspberry bed to a depth of 30 cm!

    • Liz says:

      I’m really enjoying my wild rocket at the moment so I kind of hope it does get a bit wild. So far mine has self seeded very close to the original plant, I would prefer it came up in more locations then I could select the most convenient ones to keep. My parents are about the plant some raspberries so I will let them know about their potential to sucker – hope you get yours under control.

  13. Nina says:

    Nothing too invasive in my garden at the moment thought the rocket does seed well and ditto the parsley. And I suppose the oregano is too though it’s mainly contained in that little strip of soil between the concrete strips of the drive out back but I’ve noticed a few popping up in odd places.

    Watch out for that basil mint, Liz. I did warn you! I’ve ripped out the escapees from my pot but I expect it won’t be long before they pop up again.

    By all accounts, horseradish is scary! I might give it a miss.

    • Liz says:

      Horseradish works well in a pot so if you enjoy eating it that might be worth a go. As for the basil mint it is growing slowly but surely – i expecting it to break out at any moment.

  14. Louise says:

    Agree with you on the mint – mine has its own special bed with strong boarders! I have been tempted by lemon balm cause I love the smell but remember in a past life its tendencies to spread. Intrigued by your horseradish – do you use it often? Nothing much is rampant at present in my patch. I am scaling down now in order to move things.

    • Liz says:

      I like the lemon balm and its useful to fill a gap where little else will grow but it is growing far far faster than I can use it.

    • Liz says:

      I use horseradish a bit – on steaks and in dressing for beetroot mainly. I don’t eat large amounts of red meat so i don’t use it as often as some but I find it worth growing for a change of flavour from mustard.

  15. I hadn’t realized fennel was considered an invasive, however, judging by how it’s tenaciously self-propagating from roots left in the ground, I’ll have to keep a closer watch on it!

    • Liz says:

      It may only be invasive in our climate – not sure really – here it forms large clumps that smother other smaller growing native plants.

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