Quickie GSA

GSA: Gardner Service Announcement.

Yes. I just made that sh*! up.

I keep seeing people in my gardening and landscaping forums asking, what is this purple flowered weed that’s taking over my yard and how do I get rid of it?

It’s early April and the grass in our yard is just beginning to grow. There is an abundance of wild onion, clover and chickweed already sprouting as well as a carpet of purple from henbit, several species of violet and dead nettle. This week I’m starting to see the occasional spot of yellow from dandelions.

If your yard is inundated with weeds, the following article might help: https://www.almanac.com/what-weeds-tell-you-about-your-soil

If your yard is full of henbit or dead nettle, be patient. This is what my yard looks like right now:

I’ve seen several articles online claiming that henbit will choke out grass, but I’ve yet to see it happen. All of that purple- that’s henbit, with a little dead nettle and a lot of tiny violets thrown in for good measure. The bees freaking love it, in fact all the emerging pollinators love it and that’s good news for both my currently blooming orchard and my soon to be blooming garden. I want to draw as many native pollinators to our property as possible. If you’re a save the bees kind of person, you’ll want to leave the flowers too. But here’s the good news- dead nettle and henbit aren’t going to destroy your grass. They will carpet the yard for about a month, then go to seed and die back to the ground until next year. The emerging grass will then take over, thicken up and make you spend hours mowing it all summer. Be PATIENT. Your grass is coming, just not yet.

This is henbit close up. My daughter likes to pick the little flowers off and eat them because they are sweet. Henbit can be eaten fresh or cooked as an herb, used in teas, salads, wraps and smoothies. All parts of the plant above ground are edible and high in iron, vitamins and fiber.

This is dead nettle or purple nettle. If you have this ‘weed’ in your yard, rejoice. It is a medicinal herb and can be used as an astringent and diuretic. Applied topically, it’s anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. The leaves and be applied to wounds as a poultice. You can also use the leaves fresh or dried in tea. I use dead nettle to make dead nettle salve, which my family uses to treat everything from bug bites and boils to rashes of all kinds. I even use it as lip balm in winter.

Both of these plants are part of the mint family, which means they may look as if they are just taking over a yard. Don’t freak. By May they will be almost completely gone and your grass will take over until next year. You’ll never even know they were there. You could try and rip them out or catch all the seeds to stop them from coming back. You could use one of those nasty herbicides and then re-seed your yard with grass. Or you could leave them alone. Let the bees have their food, maybe try a bit yourself and have an excuse not to mow for a few more weeks. 🙂


Dead Nettle Salve

Shameless product plug coming in 3, 2, 1…

I decided with all this garden that I have here at the farm that I might as well do as much with it as possible. I can only grow so much vegetable matter before things start to go to waste, so I’ve begun dabbling in herbs as well. It’s not my first foray into herbal preparations, but it’s the first time I’ve actually sold them to the public.
This spring the garden floor was absolutely covered with purple dead nettle. You couldn’t take a step anywhere without crushing some of it. I debated on digging it out or covering it with weed fabric, but the bees were going absolutely nuts over it and with so few other plants flowering at that point in the season, I was reluctant to destroy a good food source for them. I did some reading on what this weed was invading my garden and learned all about nettles.

So let me start by saying that Purple Dead Nettle isn’t really a nettle, it just resembles nettle leaves, so came by that name because it looks like another plant. It is actually in the mint family- easy to spot by their square stems if not strong fragrance on many mints. Purple dead nettle’s scientific name is Lamium purpureum (Greek translation: the devouring purple monster. LMAO!) Good description of what it was doing to my garden though, it pretty much took over every inch of ground space from April into May when it started to die down and make way for the summer weeds and grasses. In warm climates, it can take over entire fields. All plants in the mint family tend to be invasive and this one is no exception.

The flowers are tiny, purple and filled with nectar. My daughter loved picking them off and eating them while I was harvesting the plants for salve. The leaves can be eaten too, but we didn’t find them nearly as palatable as the flowers- though they are in the mint family, they don’t taste like mint. There are no stinging hairs on this plant as there are on regular nettle, so boiling of the leaves to eat them isn’t required.

Purple dead nettle has multiple medicinal purposes. The fresh leaves have styptic properties (slow or control bleeding), so they are useful as a poultice on wounds or cuts. The leaves may also be used steeped as a tea to treat chills and promote kidney discharge (diuretic) and perspiration. The young leaf shoots are harvest-able for use in salads or smoothies, they are very high in Vitamins A and C.

The essential oil in the plant is characterized by high contents or germacrene D, which makes it useful in salves and tinctures as an anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-fungal.


We cut and dried a huge batch of plants when other things started to bloom in the yard for the bees to eat. These we infused into sweet almond oil for several days, then added sweet orange oil, Shea butter and beeswax into the mix to make a salve. I store them in dark colored jars in a room that gets no sunlight, so keep the compounds from breaking down and preserve the plant’s strength and medicinal properties.

Tom had a rash on his legs that we had previously treated with two prescription creams, over the counter hydrocortisone creams and multiple kinds of antifungals… none of it to any avail. A couple of the antifungals helped some, but as soon as we quit doing it every single night, it came back with a vengeance. The doctor wasn’t sure what it was either- maybe some kind of contact dermatitis. Changing soaps or avoiding tight clothing didn’t seem to fix it either.
I decided to smear some of my dead nettle salve on there when we made it. I needed a lab rat and he was handy. I only wish I had thought to take before and after pictures! It never occurred to me that the salve would work as well as it did, since we’d tried everything else imaginable with little to no results. The purple dead nettle salve took the red out of the rash overnight. A couple days later it was half gone. A little over a week later and the rash was completely gone. Now I will tell you that it did come back after he hadn’t put anything on there for a month or so. BUT, using the dead nettle salve cleared it up again, so even though it didn’t CURE it, it is TREATING it, which is more than I can say for anything else we’d tried.

I also use it on my mild eczema, chapped lips, sore heels, cuts, etc. My biggest regret right now is that I didn’t make more! I have two small tins that we kept for personal use. I gave one of the bigger 1oz jars away to a friend. This was a single batch, so I only have 10 of those 1oz. jars left to sell. If you’d like one before they are all gone, visit Cordes Farm on Etsy. I have somewhere in the neighborhood of $9-11 sunk into these for materials and packaging costs- I only priced them at $15. If they go over, I may expand into other salves or tinctures and offer more stuff. I’ve got a recipe in mind for a good insect-bite relief salve.
I wish I’d taken more pictures of the process too, or at least the plants, as I had to stage pictures of the salve with a mint growing on my porch and some purple petunia flowers. All the purple dead nettle I made the salve with is now gone until next spring. Oh well, there’s always next round.

Ely keeps saying she wants a goat. Maybe later we’ll get into making goat’s milk herbal soaps or something… 🙂