How to Plant and Use This Beneficial “Weed”

I used to think that goosegrass was an annoying weed that stuck to my socks whenever I went out. It grows anywhere from paths and gardens to disturbed areas and lawns. It returns every year without fail and is covered in Velcro-like hooks that make it impossible to escape.

seriously. The stem and leaves cling to everything—including pets, children, and clothing—earning it quite a bad reputation.

Like most people, I picked the gooseberry out of the ground because I didn’t know you could use it for medicinal purposes, cooking, and health. But this “weed” actually has a lot going for it.

What is Goosegrass?

goosegrass (gallium aparin) is a weed native to Europe, Africa and Asia. It is widely known in New Zealand and Australia and has become naturalized in North and South America.

Known by a variety of names, goosegrass is also called cleaver, grip grass, catchweed, stickweed, wait-a-minute, sticky jack, and more. Almost all of its names are related to the plant being able to easily hook into fur and clothing.

It’s an annual, but it freely self-seeds, so it comes back every year unless you try to remove it—and that’s what most people do. Because it is considered a noxious weed in some areas, and because it can cause a skin rash caused by prickly thorns on some people, most people try to get rid of it.

But this “weed” has a surprisingly good side. Used medicinally, goosegrass is an effective diuretic and effective for urinary problems. In the past, it was a traditional medicine for gallstones and kidney and bladder issues.

It is high in vitamin C, so it is one way older sailors warded off scurvy and is thought to be beneficial for inflammation as well as many other conditions. Plus, it makes an effective trap crop for aphids.

By the way, do not confuse gooseberry with Indian goosegrass (allucine indica) The latter contains seeds that are edible and used as millet, but that is not the same plant we are talking about here.

how to plant goosegrass

Goosegrass is a weed and can grow in a wide range of environments, but grows best in USDA Growing Zones 3 to 9. It likes full sun with afternoon shade. Partial shade is fine, but full shade can cause the plant to struggle or die, depending on how hot it is in your area.

Most soil is suitable as long as it is moist or slightly dry. Goosegrass does not like soil that is too wet or compacted. Loose soil that drains well will produce better results. A pH of 5.5 to 8.0 is suitable.

Some people say that the appearance of gooseberry indicates loamy soil. When it grows, goosegrass will climb onto existing plants using its hooked bristles. It can grow up to two feet high and spread almost continuously.

Caterpillars love goosegrass, and geese love it too. Farmers used to let their swans go out to cut the grass of the wild goose.

planting seeds

It is one of those weeds that were used extensively in the past that have fallen out of favor, so starters or seeds are difficult to find.

I have seen seeds for sale online. Organic seeds are especially important if you are growing this plant for medicinal purposes.

Always double check as there are some places where gooseberry is considered a noxious weed and you are not allowed to introduce it or even bring seeds to that area.

Collect seeds from existing plants in late summer. Plant immediately so that the seeds get the benefit of cold in winter and the soil warms up by spring. Chilling helps break seed dormancy.

Established gooseberries do not mind frost, but young ones can be a bit frostbitten.

The seeds should be lightly covered in soil as light prevents them from germinating. The ideal germination temperature is at least 60ºF.

An average sized gooseberry plant contains about 300 seeds. On larger plants, it is not uncommon to see around 1000 seeds.

planting saplings

Goosegrass is best sown directly, just as it does naturally. I’ve tried removing it and putting it elsewhere but never succeeded. It has shallow roots that are easily damaged. By all means, try to plant in pots and transplant to your preferred area; Just don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work.

planting in containers

Goosegrass grows well in large containers. Use a good quality potting mix and water thoroughly so the medium doesn’t dry out. This gives you the advantage of controlling any spread.

I keep the container near the kitchen door in a sunny spot. That way I can quickly chop the leaves and add them to dishes.

Goosegrass Care

This is a plant that doesn’t take much care as long as there are a few things it needs. Remember, this plant often pops up and takes care of itself.

Additional nutrients are generally not needed unless the goosegrass is in extremely poor soil. If so, work in some well-rotted compost or general fertilizer.

Goosegrass likes water in well-draining soil. Keep the soil moist and try not to let it dry out for too long. Like all plants, do not water the plant itself. Water around the base, and avoid waterlogging by giving too much at once.

You don’t need to pinch or prune the plant unless there is damage or disease. I just let the goosegrass spread. If it gets too big, by all means cut a few leaves or clip to size.

You do not need to prepare gooseberry for winter. Being an annual, it will die after flowering and is expected to regrow in the same location next year. Check once the plant is dead and cover any seeds sitting on the surface.

You may also find that it spreads to other areas thanks to birds, animals, and your shoes.

Companion Planting for Growing Goosegrass

Remember that as the gooseberry grows, this plant can suppress anything around it. It does not strangle other plants, but it crawls all over them and prevents them from receiving light.

Do not plant with varieties you will remove before the gooseberry dies. You don’t want to disturb the roots. Avoid radishes, beets, potatoes and any other root vegetable. Whatever you plant, be sure to control gooseberries and plant with plenty of space.

Try it with vegetables like:

  • tomatoes
  • legumes
  • Peas
  • chard
  • salad

Plants with herbs such as:

  • sage
  • carom flowers
  • rosemary
  • parsley
  • borage
  • heart
  • nasturtium

Common Problems and Solutions for Growing Goosegrass

Fortunately, goosegrass doesn’t pose too many problems, which makes it a great addition to your garden, especially if you have a medicinal garden.

aphids

Aphids love goosegrass. In fact, you can plant it as a trap crop to ward off aphids from more important crops. I wouldn’t worry about treated aphids, as they won’t really harm this crop. But if you want to know more about how to recognize and deal with them, check out our guide.

powdery mildew

When it comes to goosegrass, powdery mildew is usually because you’ve planted them too close to each other, or watered too much.

Read our detailed article on how to identify and treat powdery mildew here.

downy mildew

Downy mildew hides until it is well advanced. Our article will give you all the information you need about this disease.

yellow leaves

This is usually because something is lacking in the soil or the plants are not getting enough water. I had this once with my goosegrass, so I fed it with epsom salt dissolved in water. I put 1 tbsp in a pint of water and gave it to the plants. Within a day or two they erupted.

Amla harvesting and use

This is where the fun begins. As a gardener, there is nothing more exciting than being able to use a so-called weed as an ingredient of health and wellbeing. Be careful if you are cultivating gooseberry and live in an area where it has been sprayed in the past.

Harvest in spring and summer. If the plant gets too old, bitterness can build up in it.

Use the young, soft growth to steam and then add to dishes such as soups, stews, casseroles, or any vegetable dish.

The flowers and young leaves can be used raw in green smoothies. You can also use the flowers as an edible decoration in baking or salads.

Medicinally, goosegrass is used for:

  • bladder problems
  • kidney problems
  • diarrhea
  • ear ache
  • Psoriasis
  • Pimples in face
  • acne

cleaver tea

Yet there is another reason why people use amla and that is that it can be consumed as a substitute for coffee or tea. This is probably the most common use for goosegrass or cleaver.

  1. 2 tablespoons fresh leaves picked and roughly chopped
  2. Put in a bowl and pour hot water to cover
  3. stand for five to seven minutes
  4. Take tea twice a day before meals

Goosegrass is also used as a poultice for many conditions. As with all herbs, it is necessary to check with a medical professional before using it. This is especially the case if you are on medication.

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