This is the eighth in a series of blogs, shared with permission, about weeds in the garden. Each blog will discuss a common and specific weed found in Maine, its history, uses, what story it tells about the soil it grows in, and how to get rid of it. The original blogs, along with other gardening related blogs, can be found here.
Plantain is a wonderful weed. Heaven knows why you would want to be rid of it. The most commonly found plantain near me is the Broadleaf Plantain, and so this is the one I am discussing today. Plantain is useful as a remedy for minor itches and insect bites – take the leaves, chew them and place them on the affected area for relief. It is considered throughout history as a cure-all; Pliny thought it would knit the flesh of dead things together, and it is found in Lacnunga as a sacred herb. Indeed – everyone from Chaucer to Shakespeare seemed fond of this little, now-hated plant.
Plantain thrives where the soil is best, and they prefer places where the soil is hard and moisture is nearby. Cattle eat it, and in England, says Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, it is grown hand in hand with clover. It is well suited to use in walkways as it survives regular tramping. Furthermore, because it, like many of our garden annuals, likes healthy soil, it is quite nutritious. The leaves have iron as well as vitamins A, C and K.
What does it mean?
According to Jay L. McCaman , this means that the soil is likely high in the following minerals: calcium, phosphate, potash, manganese, iron, zinc and selenium. The soil is also likely high in boron and chlorine. In sum, your soil is in nearly fantastic shape.
The best way to deal with an excess of plantain is to loosen up the soil, both through tilling the area and also through the addition of turned in mulch and extra earthworms. However, always remember to consider all of the weeds in an area before deciding how to deal with it.
Want to learn more?
If you would like to learn more about weeds, why they grow, and what that means about your garden, consider the following texts:
Weeds and Why they Grow, by Jay L. McCaman
Weeds and What They Tell Us, by Ehrenfried E. Pfeiffer