The wonders of weeds

If you take the time to learn more about them, some weeds could become great companions in your gardens and landscape beds.

It is often said, “A weed is a plant out of place.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” Weeds are a wonder to most of us, but if you take some time learn more about them, some weeds could become great companions in your gardens and landscape beds.

I have many people comment on my Queen Anne’s Lace that grows near my pool. I simply reply “it is only a weed if I don’t want it there.” Another comment I get is, “You put golden rod in that bouquet,” and I reply, “Yes I did, it is so interesting if I pick it on the road side it is called golden rod, but if I buy it from South America it is called Solidago.”

According to Michigan State University Extension, it is all about perspective. Like most of you, I still do not like my garden being taken over by weeds, but in the right places weeds can be quite beneficial to the soil, pollinating insects and nearby plants as well as to the people who eat them.

Weeds are also a great indicator of soil nutrients, deficiencies, moisture and a great indicator of what garden plants might thrive.

Weeds also help farmers who pasture feed animals to gauge what adjustments need to be made in their pastures to make them as productive as possible to produce high quality nutritious feed.

MSU Extension has put together a list of characteristics of the five common weeds in Michigan gardens.

Amaranth

  • Pumps nutrients from subsoil to more shallow rooted plants
  • Loosens soil for root crops like carrots, radishes and beets
  • Helps potatoes produce in more abundance
  • Tomatoes grown with amaranth are more resistant to insects
  • Higher iron content than all vegetables and herbs except parsley
  • Higher Vitamin C and protein compared to cultivated beets

Dandelion

  • Natural humus producers attracting earthworms
  • Deep root systems bring up nutrients, especially calcium for other plants
  • Aids in digestion and all parts of plant can be eaten

Lamb’s Quarters  

  • Good to grow with pumpkins, muskmelon and watermelon
  • Adds vigor to zinnias, marigolds, peonies and pansies   
  • Richer in vitamin C and vitamin A than spinach
  • A good source of iron, potassium and especially calcium

Purslane

  • High in iron
  • Thought of as a delicacy in many countries
  • Highest in omega-3 of all plants

Stinging Nettles  

  • Makes neighboring plants more insect resistant
  • Strengthens mint and tomatoes
  • Makes aromatic herbs more aromatic
  • Very tasty
  • Added to chicken feed contributes to more eggs per hen
  • Can be used as a green manure to enrich the soil

The next time you see weeds in your garden remember weeds also have virtues and might just be good for you too!

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