Surprising benefits of weeds

You won’t believe it, but there are surprising benefits of weeds growing in your garden. For example, the humble yarrow helps nearby plants resist insects and, when planted with aromatic herbs, increases their oil quality.surprising benefits of weeds

Just like people, plants can have an effect on one another, in a positive way or a negative way. For the purposes of this post we’re going to concentrate on the positive benefits of weeds.

When I was trying to figure out what to write about today, my eye fell on Louise Riotte’s book, Carrots Love Tomatoes. Much of what I’m going to tell you is passed on from her book without directly copying from her work. I love this book and often go to it for advice on companion planting, but it’s so much more than that. One section is all about these weeds I’m going to tell you about. Obviously, I’m just giving you the highlights, she goes into detail about numerous other, so-called, weeds. This book has been around since 1975. Wonderfully anecdotal and still relevant.

Surprising benefits of weeds

It would be easier to have weeds in the garden if they were a little more classy, however, you will be relieved to know that some of them actually do fill a useful role in the garden. All that’s required is letting go of our ideal of perfection.

surprising benefits of weeds

Say goodbye to the perfect lawn! Anyone who has ever tried to pull out a dandelion knows that dandelions have long tap roots that go deep into the soil. Right? Well, it’s this very tap root that is the vehicle that earthworms travel on to get down to the lower levels of your soil to bring up valuable nutrients from below. Along the way, they leave their castings behind which further enrich the soil at the grass’ roots level.

Here’s another cool thing. In the olden days it was common to forage for food in the wild and one of the delicious greens they harvested in abundance were dandelion greens! They’re good in salads or steamed like spinach.

Five more surprising benefits of weeds include:

A  few beneficial weeds should be allowed to stay as:

  • they give shade to the young plants in the garden
  • their roots bring moisture from the lower levels up to the roots of the young plants
  • some increase crop productiveness
  • and some can increase their neighbor’s resistance to insects
  • they can increase aromatic oil production in the aromatic herbs

Deep roots

As gardeners, we are often frustrated by the deep roots of some weeds as we practically put our back out of joint trying to pull the things out. But it turns out that these deep rooted weeds, like lamb’s quarters, dandelions, thistles, and Amaranth bring nutrients to the surface and into their leaves and stalks. You can manage these weeds by waiting until just before they go to seed, chop them down, let them wilt and then till them into the ground to return those nutrients to your soil. It’s fine to throw your weeds into a hot compost pile as it will completely cook the seeds.

Five weeds with excellent benefitssurprising benefits of weeds

  1. Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) is an excellent addition to the compost pile as it acts as an activator. If planted near herbs, they will be even more aromatic. A real bonus for the forager is that they are edible. The young greens should be picked with gloves, not bare hands, because, as I found out once, they really do pack a sting! If you touch the plant you will develop a nice little rash that can be relieved from the juice of the same plant. What a wonderful plant! They will take over if given half a chance, so restrict them to a corner of the lot that you can confine them to.
  2. Lamb’s Quarters (Chenepodium album) has a stimulating effect on potatoes. Let a few plants hang around for that purpose alone. It’s also good for the melon, pumpkin and cucumber crops. It is also an edible green. You can toss the young greens into a salad to enjoy.surprising benefits of weeds
  3. Horsetail (Equisetum arvensa) is one of those weeds that have numerous benefits. Isn’t it wonderful that there’s so much of it??! If you’re wondering what it looks like, it’s the first dandelion-like flower to emerge in the spring and dot the roadsides and gravel pits. It emerges before the leaves and spreads by spores, not seeds. It’s main claim to fame is that it has a very high silica content. A tea can be made from boiling two to three teaspoons of dried herb in one cup of water for 20 minutes. Spray it on powdery mildew or other fungi on roses, veggies and other crops. You can also use it as an insecticide or to scrub your pots.surprising benefits of weeds
  4. Caper Spurge (Euphorbia lathyris) will deter moles, mice and rats. It’s seeds look just like capers, which is where it derived it’s name.surprising benefits of weeds
  5. Angel’s Trumpet (Datura stramonium) is sometimes grown as an annual in colder climates, but in warmer reaches of it’s habitat, as a weed, it can be helpful to grow with pumpkins and to protect against Japanese Beetles.

I could write about so many more. I bet you didn’t know that Lupines, considered a noxious weed, are actually a help to corn and most other crops. How did they get such a bad reputation?

One last surprising benefit of weeds

Have you ever wondered what kind of soil you have on your land? Take a look at the weeds that are growing on it. They’ll tell you a true story of your soil type and the condition of your soil. Certain weeds grow on certain types of soil. My advice is get a weed book, take a look at what’s growing on your land and it will give you a good understanding of what your soil is like.

These are just some of the surprising benefits of weeds…how have you found them to be beneficial to you or your garden?

Please let us know in the comments!

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