It is the bane of our flagship garden, The Urban Farmstead, and it has likely touched your life in similar ways. Bad ways. Insurmountably difficult ways. Or perhaps you have surmounted, but I do not hyperbolize, because I, your urban farmer with all the answers guy, find oxalis absolutely impossible to beat.
Oxalis, also known as wood sorrel, somewhat resembles clover, in that above ground it is three leaves atop a thin stalk, usually in a clump with hundreds of thousands of like creatures. It is easy to pick out because the leaves are more triangular than rounded. Usually oxalis is green, but purple varieties are out there in the world as well, and are often available for purchase at garden centers. You are probably nodding your head in recognition about now. If not, then you may as well skip the rest of this writing, as you live a life blissfully ignorant of oxalis’ trespasses.
To clarify, I have no solutions for you today. This is more of a support group style entry. I just want you to know that if oxalis has taken over your lawn or garden, you are not alone, I am here with you, though we’re far apart, you’re always in my heart.
Just kidding, I probably don’t even know you. I just want to grant you the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, and oxalis is one of them. You can’t change it, but you sure can eat it!
That’s right, it turns out this noxious and indestructible weed is not only edible, but downright delicious. They taste like lemony grapes and are a wonderful addition to any salad. Southbound Gardens sells our purple oxalis to restaurants for primo dolares because it’s that delicious and fetching. Apparently you can make a pretty tasty tea reminiscent of lemonade with the leaves as well.
When life gives you oxalis, make a drink reminiscent of lemonade.
There are some out there who would have you believe oxalis is a nitrogen fixer and thus a boon to your garden. I am sorry to say it is not so. Firstly oxalis is not a nitrogen fixer, it just takes takes takes. Nextly, just because a plant is a nitrogen fixer doesn’t mean you want it growing alongside all the other plants you are trying to grow. Nitrogen fixers still steal nutrients from the plants you always wanted to grow.
Weeding oxalis is near impossible; the tiny nut-like nodules that constitute oxalis roots pretty much never come up with the rest of the plant when you tug at them, and if you do not pull up that little guy when you pull up the leafy bits, more leafy bits will come.
Fear not, there is light somewhere in this tunnel. Oxalis doesn’t hang out all year long. It tends to pop up in the autumn and disappear in the spring, just in time to be replaced with all sorts of other horrible weeds. Also, if we luck into a freeze, all of the oxalis will shrivel up and die immediately, never to be seen again, for eight months or so.
I began writing this 4 days ago and then got preoccupied, but in the days since we have been blessed with the very freeze I have mentioned. I spent the morning at the Farmstead fumbling about a harvest with chilly wet fingers, delighting in the limp state of the sea of oxalis around me, though admittedly slightly nervous for the wellbeing of some of our more desirable plants.
We’ll find out tomorrow if I am hyperbolizing the power frost holds over oxalis. Even if it remains, fear not, for again, oxalis if an ethereal sort of weed. It will not remain forever, but it will come again.
We at Southbound Gardens resort to our flame thrower, or to professional horticulturists our ‘weed torch’, when things get too out of hand. It is a winning substitute for broadleaf herbicides, which you should never ever ever use for any reason other than that you wish only ill will towards the universe and all the creatures therein.
I hope this has helped, or at least comfortably resigned you to the present state of affairs in your food garden. If you are burdened with the weight of oxalis, you do not bear the weight alone. Stand tall and persevere like the kale pictured below.
Ian writes these. Fearlessly.