Although weeds may seem like a nuisance in many gardens and lawns, certain weeds can be beneficial. (Yes, you read that right!)
Weeds can tell us about nutrient deficiencies, prevent erosion, add nutrients back into the soil, and attract beneficial organisms including worms, microorganisms, and insects. With proper maintenance, you can make some of the greatest garden freeloaders work for you!
Five common edible weeds that both help your garden, attract pollinators, and may even add other nutrients to enrich your soil are:
1. Broad Leaf Plantain
Indicates compacted soil.
Plantain is said to accumulate calcium, sulfur, magnesium, iron and silicon (oh my!)
It is edible and also has medicinal qualities. The leaves brewed into a tea are used to help soothe coughs and bronchitis.
Indicates low soil fertility.
Chickweed accumulates potassium and phosphorus.
It attracts beneficial pollinators searching for nectar.
Chickweed is a folk remedy for asthma and blood disorders, among other things.
The young shoots are edible and can be used as salad greens.
3. Lamb’s quarters
Can indicate high pesticide use in the past.
The roots accumulate nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and manganese while helping to loosen the soil.
The leaves are very nutrias and highly prized by chefs.
Be warned, one plant can set over 75,000 seeds.
4. White clover
Indicates low nitrogen and dry, clay-like soil.
Clover can draw airborne nitrogen into the soil to be used by neighboring crops.
It is also said to accumulate phosphorus.
The flowers are edible.
Dandelions are considered the MOST beneficial of weeds. Their presence indicates hard clay soil in need of aeration.
They attract potassium, phosphorus, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, and silicon while loosing the soil.
Dandelions also attract pollinators looking for nectar.
They have edible leaves, roots, and flowers and are considered to be highly medicinal.
But what if I don’t want weeds, Patti?
I get it. My advice? Bury the weed, leave the roots. By mixing the leaves into the soil, you add organic material and enrich your garden beds. Even though the weeds might regrow a couple times, by leaving the roots which will eventually decay, it breaks up up the soil and gives space for worms and microorganisms to thrive.
But be careful! The weeds listed above are all very prolific, so it is best to cut them back before they produce seeds.
Worried about weeds and want them out? We’ve got a weed pre-emergent for you.
PS: Check back next week to read more about which native plants you DO want in your yard.
A. (2020, March 20). 5 Weeds You Want in your Garden. Retrieved June 30, 2020, from https://www.tenthacrefarm.com/weeds-you-want-in-garden/
Chickweed Uses, Benefits & Dosage – Drugs.com Herbal Database. (2019, September 30). Retrieved July 29, 2020, from https://www.drugs.com/npp/chickweed.html
Dandelion Uses, Benefits & Dosage – Drugs.com Herbal Database. (2020, July 3). Retrieved July 29, 2020, from https://www.drugs.com/npp/dandelion.html
Plantain Uses, Benefits & Side Effects – Drugs.com Herbal Database. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2020, from https://www.drugs.com/npc/plantain.html