Ever wonder what weeds are good for?
Most people don’t associate great things with the word “weeds”—usually, you think of something unsightly, unhelpful, and easily tossed away. But don’t go scouring your garden for problem plants to yank away just yet; some of those so-called weeds can actually do you a world of good. Find out which weeds you can sometimes use to your growing advantage.
We’ve brought up chickweed in the past as a weed to avoid, but the truth is that this growth is frequently more of a symptom of a failing garden than a cause. Chickweed most often indicates that a garden has a low fertility rate, and if it’s left to grow and perish on its own time, it can actually help to replenish your soil. It helps to spread potassium and phosphorus, which are both great for your earth and can attract needed pollinator insects in the springtime. If your garden is in a downward spiral, letting some chickweed make a home in it can help it find its way back.
As we mentioned above, weeds aren’t always the reason that soil isn’t doing well: much of the time, they’re simply the bearer of bad news. The presence of lambsquarters can mean that your soil’s phosphorus has been depleted thanks to an overuse of fertilizers; however, it can also be useful for regrowing and retaining needed nutrients over time. Lambsquarters’ (pigweed) roots loosen and relax the soil, and they can provide a huge number of needed chemicals for your soil, from the aforementioned phosphorus to magnesium, calcium, and more. Letting these particular “weeds” grow can actually be a big help to your garden in the long run.
Maybe the most notable and visible of all weeds, the dreaded dandelion has sent many an agriculturalist running for their lawn and garden supplies at the drop of a hat. But despite their troublesome reputation, dandelions can do a lot of good for your earth if utilized correctly. Like lambsquarters, their roots loosen the soil and impart a large number of nutrients to it in return, and like chickweed, it can attract ladybugs and other pollinators that are good for your garden in the spring and summer. Don’t fret if you see those white seedlings blowing in the wind: they might end up doing your land some unexpected good!
Sometimes it’s okay to let something grow just because it looks good. While it has a reputation as an invasive species that can wreak havoc on a garden if left unattended, knapweed is also an uncommonly beautiful flower, and since it blooms in an array of colors, it’s been known to show up in many a bouquet. If you monitor their growth and cut them out before they can spread roots too deep into your soil, it might be nice to let a few grow so you can have something pretty to put on your kitchen table or give to your sweetheart.
We’re no strangers to horsetail here at the Gardening Channel. As we’ve previously discussed, horsetail can just as easily be a ruinous presence in your garden as a delightful aesthetic accent depending on how it’s maintained. But horsetail doesn’t only have implications for your garden: it also has a strong medicinal reputation, having been used in home cures and remedies for generations. It’s been known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in its chemical makeup and has been used to treat wounds and urinary tract infections among other ailments. Grow it in a container if you want it to be good for your garden, and keep it in your kitchen if you want it to be good for your body!
There are many different kinds of buckwheat—common, wild, and domesticated being only a few of them—and depending on which kind you find in your garden you might not want to break out the pesticides just yet. We’re sure you’re familiar with the delicious taste of buckwheat pancakes, but this plant isn’t just great for a tasty breakfast: like horsetail, it has also been connected to a number of medicinal uses. It can also be used in dishes of all kinds, from soba noodles to a leaner crust for your lasagna. Keep buckwheat trimmed and orderly in your garden and you might be able to hold onto a healthy resource for years to come.
While one might associate it with an overgrown garden, white clover is also effective at attracting pollinators to your land. It’s so good at this, in fact, that we’ve devoted an entire article to it! White clover is also useful for transferring nitrogen from the air to the soil and can add a number of other healthy chemicals to your earth as well. Let it lay between plants without smothering them and it can be a fantastic boon for your garden.
Are there any helpful weeds that we’ve missed out on? Let us know in the comments below!