News & Updates
September 11, 2015
Wonderful Weeds. Yes!
Are you concerned about the growth of weeds in your garden? Is it a constant challenge to keep them under control? As a Bay Friendly Garden Design Educator, I’m often asked how to stop weeds. But guess what! Weeds can be wonderful! In this article we’ll cover some why’s, wherefores and beneficial approaches to addressing these much misunderstood garden “partners”.
On every plot of land, weeds will grow. Weed seeds come from near or far. They spread by runners or rhizomes, are carried on the wind and in the bellies of birds. Where soil has been badly disturbed and where herbicides have been used, weeds WILL grow. Whichever method one uses to remove them, they will eventually return.
The surprise is that many plants which we typically identify as “weeds” are actually tremendously useful and ecologically necessary. They serve pollinators such as bees, moths and butterflies, while keeping pest insects away. Many common weeds have important medicinal value for humans and other animals. All provide oxygen and absorb CO2.
Plants which nature grows always have a purpose in the living ecosystem of soil. “Weeds” come to HEAL.
Contrary to popular belief, “weeds” help retain soil moisture, bringing needed nutrients and/or removing pollutants, adding organic matter and aerating heavy clay. Covering the ground, they minimize dust and particulate air pollution. Their presence and their health are soil health indicators.
In Bay Friendly Design, we recognize that healthy soil makes for a beautiful, easy care garden, and a safer world, as healthy soil microorganisms also sequester CO2. Thus most weeds are truly our partners, not our enemies.
A Few Soil-Wonderful Weeds (and their soil indications)
- Clover: a legume, it ‘fixes’ (adds) bio-available nitrogen.
- Yellow Dock: long taproot, helps break up and aerate compacted soil.
- Plantain: presence signals low ph/balances sol ph, adds microbial life.
- Black Medick (tiny leaves which get very dark with age, tiny yellow flowers): especially needed now, as it fixes nitrogen while helping to retain moisture.
- Dandelion: indicates soil fertility, taproot helps break up and aerate compacted soil.
- Self Heal: heals disturbed, acidic soil.
- Horsetail: helps remove heavy metals, indicates poor drainage.
- Crabgrass: shows very low levels of calcium and phosphorus, low pH, low humus.
- Oxalis: shows very low levels of calcium and high levels of magnesium.
All of the above plants, except crabgrass, are edible and nutritious in one way or another.
As Easy As Mulch!
If you have an area full of unwanted plants which you’d like to clear to install a new garden, sheet mulching is an easy way to go. This method precludes continued unwanted plant growth while adding microbial life and humus. When inevitably, some unwanted plants return, they’ll be be easy to pluck out by hand. Do let yourself enjoy getting up close and personal with your garden by hand weeding. It can be a calming, satisfying experience! Please never use chemical herbicides of any kind to get rid of weeds. Not only will weeds return, all “cides” destroy pollinators and the microbial life of healthy soil, too.
Planting with Purpose
Choose and place plants so that at maturity they cover and shade the ground and thus preclude most “weed” growth.
Every plant can be beneficial. In a real sense, a weed is simply a plant growing where we think it shouldn’t. When we relax and readjust our focus, we can see the purpose and beauty all around. Next time you see a “weed”, celebrate and ask what blessing it brings!
-Alisa Rose Seidlitz, Bay-Friendly Qualified Professional
Alisa Rose Seidlitz, BFQDP, CGBP, GreenAP, Garden Designer, Educator and DIY Coach for nearly two decades, helps clients make their garden dreams come true. Her expertise in Western Feng Shui brings an additional deeply nourishing, client-supportive level to her work throughout the Bay Area. Visit Loving Garden Designs or Ambiance Eco for more about Alisa Rose’s design work.