Weeds can be the bane of gardening, right? There are definitely ways to reduce their growth like mulching, and no-dig gardening. But don’t get too discouraged when you find common lawn weeds, or garden weeds. There are some great ways to use them, after all.
Eat the Weeds
I’m not saying that every weed is edible, of course, but many common garden weeds are both edible and delicious. And many of them are nutritional powerhouses. Identifying weeds is an important first step; do your homework, and then enjoy!
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In the spring, we always have wild greens from weeds to eat much earlier than our cultivated greens. They provide lots of nourishment and are free to harvest.
Weeds in Home Remedies
As you begin to wet your feet in herbalism and start making your own home remedies, you’ll discover that many very effective healing herbs are common weeds.
Use Weeds as Indicators of Your Soil Condition
Weeds prefer certain growing conditions, and can be used as indicators of your soil’s condition.
For example, both dandelion and wood sorrel indicate soil that is low in calcium. Chickweed and lambsquarter indicate rich soil, high in nitrogen. If you have moss or mullein growing, your soil is acidic.
Lots of plantain? Your soil is compacted.
I have a great little book called Test Your Soil with Plants by John Beeby that is packed with great information on what weeds indicate about your soil. It’s unfortunately out-of-print and used copies can be pricey, but I did find it reasonably priced here.
Compost Your Weeds
Weeds growing in your lawn or garden contain minerals from the soil in which they were grown. So why just discard those weeds? Composting weeds returns those nutrients back to the soil.
Yes, there are some considerations when composting weeds. You want to be careful that you do it in a way that is not spreading those weeds. See my post linked below for great tips on composting weeds.
Use Weeds to Make Fertilizer
One way to use weeds to improve your garden soil is to compost them, as mentioned above.
But weeds can also be used to make a liquid fertilizer. Simply fill a 5 gallon pail with weeds, and then cover with water. Place the lid on the pail and allow to sit for several weeks.
Then simply strain the very smelly liquid and use it as fertilizer for your garden.
Weeds Can Benefit Wildlife
Weeds can be beneficial to wildlife. Many of their flowers are a source of pollen for bees. And their seeds feed many species of birds.
Ragweed seeds, for example, remain on the plant throughout winter providing food during a time when others sources are scarce.
Milkweed, a common weed, is critical to the life cycle of the monarch butterfly.
Smartweed, which produces large amounts of seed in the late summer and fall, is a good source of food for fall migration.
Read Common Beneficial Plants Found in Wildlife Habitat for more information on how weeds benefit wildlife.
Weeds Provide Erosion Control
When soil is disturbed the first plants to sprout are weeds, of course. They play an important role in preventing erosion.
Clover, often thought of as a weed, helps to hold topsoil in place, keeps other weeds at bay, and improves the condition of the soil by adding nitrogen.
Even a weed like ground ivy can provide erosion control on a slope. And it’s both edible and medicinal!
Weeds Can Be Beneficial
Have I convinced you that weeds aren’t always the enemy? The next time you are frustrated with weeds in your grass, stop and ask yourself how you can benefit from those weeds. They may just become friends!
More Than Weeds
Are you interested in foraging, but a bit hesitant because you don’t trust your own abilities? I created a mini eCourse just for you. In More Than Weeds: 5 Common Plants to Forage for Food and Medicine you’ll learn that identifying plants is all in the details.
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