Consider this. Many of those common annoying, ever-present “weeds” that we regularly pull from our gardens or pluck from our lawns (or “gasp” apply weed-killer to) are highly beneficial. And in a multitude of ways.
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, “Of the approximately 250,000 species of plants worldwide, only about three per cent behave as weeds that we don’t want in cultivated areas. These weeds have many traits in common, including: Abundant seed productivity, sometimes tens of thousands of seeds per plant; rapid population establishment and spread; and long-term survival, seeds go dormant but then sprout just as soon as conditions are right.”
So, yes, they’re tenacious. But that may just be a good thing.
Did you know?
Many weeds are either very nutritious and/or highly medicinal
Many are not only nourishing (high levels of minerals and a vast array of antioxidants and polyphenols that can help heal severe immune issues), they can also be detoxifying. Consuming them not only gives us valuable phytonutrients we don’t often get from our foods, but also can cleanse and remove some of the toxins that plague our bodies. Many of these therapeutic “herbs” are even found in the healing elixirs at the local health shop. Check out northernbushcraft.com to learn more about how to identify wild edibles.
They can actually enhance your soil quality
Dandelions and curly dock, for example, have deep roots and can pull up nutrients for shallow-rooted plants. They can also serve as helpers to earthworms as they need help burrowing down into the tougher, deeper layers of earth. Clover, if turned into the soil in your garden, can add beneficial nitrogen. Curiously, excessive weeds can be a sign of deficient soil, so add nutrients such as seaweed, compost, fish fertilizer and worm castings to naturally reduce overgrowth of weeds and improve your soil quality.
Weeds can come to our aid by being an antidote to various stinging things (stinging nettles, bees, wasps and the like)
Ever heard of plantain? It grows in most lawns and disturbed areas. It works like a hot damn if you get an insect sting. And if you happen to come into contact with stinging nettles, you’ll be glad to find some horsetail or dock nearby to crush and place on the sting, and alleviate it almost instantly.
They attract pollinators
Flowering weeds such as dandelions, burdock, clover, chicory, chickweed and many more provide food for bees and other pollinators. If we didn’t have pollinators we wouldn’t have one-third or more of the food we eat. Without bees we wouldn’t have vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, oils and more. Furthermore, bees are responsible for the reproduction of alfalfa and clover, which feed cattle and other grazing animals, so without them we would lose a significant portion of our milk, cheese, butter, yogurt and ice creams. What a bleak world it would be without all those wonderful, nourishing foods.
Perspective is a powerful thing. If we just take a moment to think about the impact we have on our natural environment, and inevitably ourselves, we may actually be able to heal some of the mistakes we’ve made.
So, instead of killing those weeds in your lawn, maybe leave a few for the sake of good measure. After all, everything is interconnected. And the more we disconnect from the natural world, due to habits (they can change), aesthetics (who really cares if your lawn isn’t perfect anyway?), the more we are cut-off from our natural ability to heal.
We can do better. So, stop and smell the weeds instead of destroying them; you may need them one day.
A word of caution:
Do not consume or utilize “weeds” from a treated lawn or garden, or those near train tracks, parks or other typically highly sprayed areas. Weed killers such as Roundup (glyphosate), once thought to be safe, is now proven to be cancer-causing. This is not something you want to be spraying anywhere, let alone your very own yard where you, your neighbours, pets, beneficial insects and microorganisms will be affected.
Lisa Marie Bhattacharya, RHN, is a registered holistic nutritionist, educator, music lover, gardener/forager and mother who works part time at Kelly's Health Shop in Powell River.