Useful Weeds

Most gardeners ruthlessly remove all weeds as soon as they see them. They are often unsightly, compete with ourĀ  cultivated plants for nutrients and water and can harbour pests and diseases. However, some weeds are beneficial, and perhaps you could find a small part of the garden to allow them to grow.

Dandelions are rich in minerals. The young leaves are good to eat in salads and the roots can be used to make a cafeine free coffee. Of course pet rabbits (and wild ones!) and hamsters love the flavour of dandelion leaves as well. They also attract butterflies and bullfinches. Many years ago, Blue Peter cultivated a lawn of Dandeli0ns and whilst I would not adbvocate going that far, a few somewhere in the garden might be useful.

Some weeds can be very attractive, Herb Robert, Poppy and Red Campion come under this catogary. Herb Robert seeds and colonizes very quickly even in poor soils so it gives cover to pest predators and after it dies down (it is an annual) it will provide organic matter, so improving your soil.Be warned, though, you need to keep it under control or it will be everywhere. Red Campion attracts bees which pollinate flowers and butterflies and moths – drawn by the perfume released by the plant at night Butterflies and moths (and their caterpillers) in turn will attract birds. Red Campion is a Lychnis and when cultivated the size of the flowers will increase. Everybody knows the wild red poppy. Butterflies and bees are attracted to the flowers and birds are drawn to the seeds.

Nettles are not all bad. They are an important food source for butterflies. The young leaves can be boiled and eaten as a spinach substutute. Don’t leave them in the ground too long though, their roots get very thick and become very difficult to remove. They spread through their roots, so need to be kept severely under control.

Teasels are an outstanding biennial weed which are often cultivated in the ornamental garden for their striking seed heads. Birds are attracted to the seeds in autumn and the seed heads make great Christmas decorations.

These are only a few of the useful weeds in our gardens. There are a number of others. So before you eradicate all the weeds, think about how much harm they are doing and whether you could benefit from leaving them, or growing them elsewhere in your garden (under hedges are often a good place, since they are less noticable and will be less rampant there.