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Garden, Home and Garden

The Beneficial Weeds You Want In Your Garden

Put that spade and pair of secateurs down! Before you do any weeding at all, have a read about the beneficial weeds you want in your garden that help the environment, and help support wildlife. You can even eat some of them too.

It’s time we changed how we look at gardening. With the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) no longer classing slugs and snails as pests – instead urging people to consider these creatures as an important part of the garden ecosystem – it’s high time we did the same with weeds.

It was Ian Emberson who wrote the words “a weed is a flower in the wrong place, a flower is a weed in the right place”. Instead of waging war on the flowers in the wrong place, let’s change how we look at them. Many weeds after all are beneficial to the environment, our gardens, and to wildlife. And surprisingly, many weeds are edible too.

The Beneficial Weeds You Want In Your Garden

A garden planter with a blue text box that says the beneficial weeds you want in your garden.

In the UK, our collective private gardens cover an area of land that is bigger than all of the country’s nature reserves combined. That’s a huge area and means our gardens have great potential to provide vital space for wildlife.

We can start to make positive changes, just by changing how we view weeds.

Here are just some of the beneficial weeds you want in your garden, that all help to support our native wildlife. Many of these weeds are also beneficial when it comes to growing fruit and vegetables, and many are also edible. Of course, do consult a book on foraging or an app if you have any doubts about identifying edible types of weeds before you eat them.

Nettles

patch of nettles

Top of the list is nettles. Nettles are an amazing beneficial weed because these stinging plants support an array of wildlife. Butterflies, such as the Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell, and moths lay their eggs on nettles. Meanwhile caterpillars and aphids and other insects all eat nettles. In fact, nettles can support over 40 types of insects.

However, it’s not just insects that benefit from the presence of nettles. A host of other wildlife is attracted to nettles because they like to eat the insects that gorge on nettles. Ladybirds, parasitic wasps, hedgehogs, frogs, toads, shrews, and birds such as blue tits, all visit to feast on these insects and aphids. It’s a veritable feeding frenzy!

In the autumn, nettles provide a further feast. Small birds, including the sparrow, chaffinch, and bullfinch come to feast on the seeds which each nettle plant produces.

Companion Planting With Nettles

If you grow your own fruit and vegetables, then nettles make for great companion plants. This is because growing clumps of nettles between crops help to attract beneficial predators, such as ladybirds. These will help to control pests naturally, without the use of harmful pesticides.

Eating Nettles

You can also eat nettles. In spring you can make delicious wild nettle pesto with the tips of the spring shoots. A word of warning though – don’t pick nettle leaves after they have started flowering – usually around late May. Once nettles start flowering, a chemical in the leaves can upset your urinary tract.  Consider nettles a springtime treat, and for the rest of the year leave them for wildlife to enjoy.

Sorrel As A Beneficial Weed

Sorrel plant

You might class sorrel as an annoyance that pops up on your lawn, but it’s actually a pretty beneficial weed to have in your garden.

Sorrel is beloved by slugs, snails and aphids, and some species of butterfly and moth larvae also feed on the leaves too. This in turn attracts other wildlife, which then eat these creatures.

Companion Planting With Sorrel

Sorrel also makes a great companion plant when growing strawberries, cabbages or tomatoes. This simple but clever technique works by creating a diversion and drawing pests away from the main fruit and vegetable plants you are trying to protect.

Eating Sorrel

Most types of sorrel are also edible. Young sorrel leaves can be used as a herb, or as a salad leaf. Sorrel has a very fresh and zingy flavour, that is reminiscent of that of the zest of a lemon. This flavour really lifts a dish naturally. Because of this, sorrel has become one of my favourite things to grow in my garden. Eat the leaves when they are young though – I find that the larger they get, the leaves take on more of a woody texture which isn’t so tasty.

With so many beneficial properties, I promise, you’ll soon view sorrel as a plant, rather than a weed.

Dandelions

Dandelions - beneficial weeds you want in your garden.

Dandelions have long been a scourge of gardeners. Those long taproots that are difficult to remove from the ground mean that dandelions just keep popping up when you don’t want them. However, dandelions do make for an incredibly beneficial weed.

Dandelions provide food to many different pollinators. This includes bumblebees, solitary bees, hoverflies, butterflies and some species of moths and beetles. As one of the first plants to flower in spring, and the last to flower in autumn, dandelions are incredibly important to our pollinators. They are particularly important in early spring when some of these species emerge hungry from hibernation.

Other species in turn eat these insects, whilst later on in the year, birds such as goldfinches and house sparrows munch the dandelion seeds.

Companion Planting With Dandelions

Whilst you may think you don’t want dandelions growing in your vegetable garden, then I encourage you to think again. Far from being just weeds, dandelions make a fantastic beneficial companion plant to have in your garden.

As well as attracting pollinating insects to your vegetable patch, the dandelion’s long taproots help to break apart hard soils. These roots are also said to bring up nutrients from deep down in the soil to the surface. This helps to nourish other plants growing in close proximity.

Interestingly, dandelions also release ethylene gas. If grown near fruit or tomatoes, this gas that they give off can help speed up the ripening process.

Eating Dandelions

It’s a little know fact that dandelions are edible. The petals can be eaten raw in salads, or you can boil them in sugar to make dandelion syrup – also known as vegan honey. The leaves again can be eaten raw in salads or boiled to be eaten as a substitute for spinach. Some people even bake the roots and ground that down to use as a coffee substitute.

Wild Carrot As A Beneficial Weed

wild carrot plant

Whilst wild carrot has historically been classed as a weed, this beautiful plant is beneficial to a host of insects, such as bees, beetles and hoverflies. Its ferny foliage and white flowers mean it looks great growing in your garden borders too.

Companion Planting With Wild Carrot

Planting wild carrots helps to attract hoverflies to your garden. Hoverflies are a great garden guest to have, as they eat the aphids that like to feast on your prize vegetables. Hoverflies have short tongues so they need accessible flowers where they can drink nectar. Wild carrot is an accessible flower for hoverflies, so you can naturally reduce your aphid populations without resorting to pesticides.

Eating Wild Carrot

Whilst the young roots of wild carrots are edible, as well as the flowers, I prefer to give them a wide berth. This is because wild carrot is very similar in appearance to other members of the same family, such as the highly poisonous hemlock plant and the poisonous hemlock water-dropwort plant. Personally, I would reserve wild carrot as a beneficial weed for the wildlife to enjoy.

So let’s put down the weedkiller, put down that spade, and embrace the weeds to make your garden an insect and animal friendly oasis. Of course, you don’t have to turn your whole garden over to weeds – simply allowing one small patch or a couple of tubs to grow wild can make a huge difference to our native wildlife. If you are worried about being overrun by dandelions, simply cut the flower heads off before they go to seed.

Home and Garden, Natural Cleaning

How To Remove Labels From Glass Jars & Bottles Eleven Ways

Make reusing old jars a cinch, with this guide on how to remove labels from glass jars. Here are eleven easy ways to easily remove sticky labels, without fuss.

Some people have a weakness for shoes or bags. My weakness? Jars and bottles. It’s hard for me to pass by a nice jar or bottle and not think of a way that it could be repurposed. From holding cleaning products, to storing food, to using a jar in place of plastic Tupperware, to storing health and beauty products, to housing homemade preserves, and more, there are endless uses for glass jars.

Nothing beats the high that is when the label on the jar or bottle peels off in one go. On the flip side, there’s nothing quite like that low that sets in when you have a jar where the label just does not budge. I’ve been obsessed with bottles and jars for years now, so when this happens I have some tricks up my sleeve.

How To Remove Sticky Labels From Glass Jars and Bottles

Image of glass pantry jars, with a blue box that says how to remove labels from glass jars and bottles eleven different ways.

Whilst glass is endlessly recyclable, ultimately it’s better to reuse than recycle. If you have a glass jar or bottle that you want to reuse but the label won’t come off, then here are my top techniques to remove the labels, adhesives and glues that are getting between you and your storage dreams:

1. Sodium Percarbonate and Hot Water

If you have some sodium percarbonate (aka laundry bleach) to hand, then this makes for an excellent technique to remove sticky labels. If you don’t have any sodium percarbonate, then do rush to buy it, because it’s actually magic.

To remove labels, simply fill your sink with hot water, and add a generous scoop of sodium percarbonate to the water. Give it a good stir to help the sodium percarbonate dissolve, and then place your jars in the water. Make sure to fill the jars with water so that they sit under the water, rather than floating on top. Then leave your jars to soak for about an hour.

After an hour, you should find that as if by magic your labels should be floating on the water. No residue should remain on your jars, but if it does, rub the glue with a cloth and it should rub right off.

2. The Hot Water Technique

If you don’t have any sodium percarbonate to hand, then another really easy way to remove sticky labels from glass jars and bottles is to fill the empty vessels with hot water.  Simply pop your jars in your sink, and fill them with hot water.  The hot water helps to melt the glue/adhesive.  After one hour, you should be able to peel off your labels in quite a satisfying manner.

3. Remove Labels From Jars With The Soapy Water Method

If the previous two techniques haven’t done the trick, then the soapy water method is the next one to try in your arsenal of techniques.  We won’t be beaten by a pesky label! 

Fill your sink with warm soapy water.  Whilst the sink is filling, use a sharp knife, and carefully score the label in one or two places.  Don’t score too many times, as the label will frustratingly peel off in tiny sections.  This is something you do not want!

Once you’re done scoring, pop your jars in to soak in their lovely bubble bath.  Leave them for at least an hour, and then try peeling the labels off.  

If after an hour the label doesn’t peel off easily, you’ll need to bring out the big guns.  In this case, a scourer, a scrubbing brush, or a cloth.  Scrub the jars or bottles vigorously with your scrubbing tool of choice, to remove as much of the label and/or glue as possible. 

4. Pop Your Jar In The Freezer

Another technique to remove stubborn labels from glass jars and bottles is to turn to your freezer.  Dampening the offending label with some water, and then popping your jar or bottle in your freezer, without the lid on them, for at least three hours can work wonders in removing a persistent label.

Once the time has passed, simply carefully remove the bottle or jar from the freezer and place it on a tea towel.  Don’t place it directly onto your worktop, in case it cracks. Leave your jar to sit for around 45 minutes, to warm up a little, and then the label should peel off.

5. The Olive Oil and Bicarbonate of Soda Method

glass jars of food

I tend to turn to the olive oil and bicarbonate of soda (aka baking soda) method if all my other efforts at label removal have failed.  This is because it does tend to leave your jar or bottle feeling oily, and it can take a good few washes to fully remove this oiliness. 

If you need to resort to this method, simply rub a mixture of equal amounts of bicarbonate of soda and olive oil (or whatever type of cooking oil you have to hand) over the label or glue. 

I find I can just rub the mixture in with a dry cloth for a few minutes before it lifts off the sticky adhesive. However, if the residue is particularly sticky, then try leaving it for around half an hour, before trying to scrub it off.

6. Peanut Butter

Not just for spreading on bread, peanut butter can work wonders at removing labels and price tags from glass.  It’s both the fat content and oil in peanut butter that works wonders in dissolving label adhesive.

For maximum effectiveness, try to remove as much of the label as possible, and then smear a thick layer of peanut butter over what is left on the jar. Let it sit for around 10 minutes, and then scrub it off with a cloth or scrubbing brush. Finally, wash your jar.

Similar to the bicarbonate of soda and olive oil method, it can leave your jar feeling a little oily for a few washes.

7. Eucalyptus Essential Oil

It’s a little known fact that eucalyptus oil works wonders in removing stains from clothing, and removing labels from glass. Simply add three drops of eucalyptus essential oil onto a cloth, and rub the label or adhesive. The essential oil should dissolve the label and/or the glue.

8. Remove Labels From Glass Jars With White Vinegar

As well as being an amazing natural cleaning, white vinegar is also a solvent.  This means it is capable of dissolving other chemicals, including adhesives and greases.  This is good news when it comes to removing labels from glass.  Simply soak a cloth in some vinegar, and then get rubbing. This should hopefully shift even the most stubborn of adhesives.

9. Bust Out The Nail Polish Remover

Nail polish remover works similarly to vinegar. Beautify your jars by popping some nail polish remover onto a cloth, and then rubbing vigorously until the sticky goo shifts. This isn’t my favourite technique, as I’m not the biggest fan of nail polish remover, and I don’t find it as effective as some of the other techniques. However, if you have some to hand, and the other techniques have failed you, then it is always worth a try.

10. Use The Oven To Remove Labels From Glass

You can use an oven to help shift labels from glass jars and bottles. From an energy-saving perspective, if you have one jar then it’s pretty energy-intensive to heat up your oven to remove one label. Save this technique if you have a LOT of jars, or your oven is already on for something else.

If you do choose to use this method, then here’s the full how-to. To help shift stubborn labels, place your glass jar or bottle in a 180°C / 350°F oven for five minutes. Whatever you do, do not leave the jar or bottle in the oven for any longer than five minutes – no matter how stubborn the label has been. And do keep an ear out for the sound of cracking. If you hear this terrible sound, then switch off the oven. Using an oven glove, carefully remove the bottle or glass, and place it on a tea towel. Do not place it straight onto a cold surface otherwise, it could shatter.

If all is well, after five minutes, carefully remove your jar and bottle, and with a cloth try rubbing the residue. Hopefully, the heat from the oven should have sufficiently melted the glue, making it easy to remove.

11. A Razor

Finally, if the jar company has used some kind of super-strength adhesive that feels like only some sort of radioactive substance could remove it, then all is not lost. Whilst you might have tried all of the above methods, I do have one last final trick up my sleeve. You can use a razor to scrape that pesky glue right off.

Taking a razor blade or utility knife, take great care to use a smooth motion to scrape the residue off of your jar. Take great care not to slice the glass or your hand!

Which technique have you had the most success with?

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11 different ways to remove labels from glass jars and bottles