If you’ve ever kept a garden, or even if you just have a grassy yard, you’ve likely encountered pesky weeds. Sometimes, weeds are unsightly, and they can soak up many of the nutrients you’re trying to give to your flowers, fruits, and vegetables.
But did you know certain types of weeds are beneficial to you, your garden, and the environment? So you may want to think twice before you pick up that weed killer.
Keep reading to learn about the benefits of weeds!
Benefits of Weeds
Benefits of Weeds for Your Soil
Believe it or not, weeds have a lot of benefits for your soil.
First and foremost, bare soil is susceptible to erosion from wind, rain, and other elements. With weeds, however, soil has a layer of protection.
Weeds can also add vital nutrients to soil, especially if it’s been bare for a while. If soil has been disturbed by human activity or weather events like fires or floods, it’s likely missing organic matter and essential nutrients. Weeds are often one of the first things that grow back and begin to make your soil rich and healthy again. Not to mention, they can help the soil retain moisture, too.
Lastly, weeds can be a great indicator of soil health. If you begin to learn about the different types of weeds and how they grow, you’ll be able to learn a lot about your soil just by paying attention. For example, new weed infestations may be able to tell you about pH changes, nutrient deficiencies, whether your soil is moist enough, and more.
Benefits of Weeds for Wildlife
Another benefit of weeds is the role they play with wildlife. Weeds can provide food and cover for insects, worms, and microorganisms in the soil.
And as the cycle of life goes, these creatures replenish nutrients back into the soil and help plants grow, too.
Benefits of Weeds for Pollination
Because weeds have benefits for organisms like insects, they help promote pollination. Many weeds attract pollinators like bees, butterflies, and other insects. These pollinators help other plants grow, and if you have a garden, they can be extremely beneficial.
On the flip side, weed killers and pesticides can harm these pollinators, which are important for our ecosystem.
Want to learn more about pollinators? Visit our blog about The Importance of Pollinators!
Benefits of Weeds for People
Some weeds are even edible and highly nutritious. Many can be added to things like smoothies, teas, and salads. For example, dandelion, chickweed, and daisies are all edible. Some are even used for medicinal purposes in some parts of the world!
However, it’s important to make sure you’ve identified the correct plant, as many weeds have lookalikes that shouldn’t be eaten. Additionally, you should always consult a doctor before using them for medicinal purposes, as some people can experience side effects and allergic reactions to weeds.
Types of Helpful Weeds
So, which types of weeds should you look out for? Below, we’ve listed five common weeds that have benefits for you and your garden.
White clover is a weed that’s commonly found in lawns and gardens. But did you know it has many benefits?
White clover is great for your soil. It produces nutrients like nitrogen, and it’s known to absorb toxic heavy metals from the soil so that they can’t harm other plants or humans. Plus, it’s a great ground cover, filling space to prevent soil erosion.
This weed is also quite resilient, and able to withstand disturbances like harsh weather and mowing. So if you’re enjoying this beneficial weed, you’ll find that you don’t have to worry too much about maintaining it.
Dandelion is a helpful weed with many benefits. As mentioned above, it’s one type of weed you can eat, and it’s good for you, too.
Dandelion roots are packed with fiber, and they’re often roasted and made into tea, or used as a coffee replacement. Their leaves are full of vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium.
In addition to providing nutrients, dandelions may have medicinal properties too. First and foremost, they’re high in antioxidants, which help rid toxins from your body. They’re also believed to promote liver health, low blood pressure, and digestion.
Not only do dandelions offer benefits for the body, but dandelions are beneficial weeds for your garden, too. Their roots promote soil quality by bringing nutrients from deep in the soil to the surface, and their shape helps aerate the soil naturally.
Lastly, dandelion flowers arrive early in spring, providing an early source of pollen for bees and other insects. And of course, because they attract pollinators, they help promote the growth of other plants, too.
Chickweed has been used for its medicinal properties throughout history. Many use it to help fight inflammation, ease cold symptoms, fight germs, and help with digestion.
If you want to give chickweed a try, consider infusing it with an essential oil or brewing it in tea.
As an essential oil, you can use chickweed topically for healing. It can help with conditions like eczema, psoriasis, rashes, and insect bites.
Daisies are another helpful weed that draws pollinators. Their shape, which gives pollinators like bees plenty of room to land, and the center of their flowers, which clusters a lot of pollen in one place, makes them very attractive to these insects.
And like several of the other weeds listed here, they may have medicinal properties, too. Some people make tea with wild daisies to treat coughs, bronchitis, inflammation, and other conditions.
Learn more about this flower from our Daisies Page!
Lemon balm is closely related to mint, and it has similar calming properties. It’s used for relieving stress and anxiety, helping with sleep, improving cognitive function, and helping with indigestion.
Lemon balm can be made into hot tea for those who wish to enjoy its benefits.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Weeds in Your Garden
If you’re ready to embrace the benefits of weeds, here are a few tips that can help you get the most out of them.
Keep an Eye On Your Crops
Even though weeds have many benefits, they may not always be good for the plants you really want to grow, like fruits, vegetables, and flowers.
Sometimes, weeds can absorb important nutrients and sunlight, preventing your other plants from getting everything they need. If you suspect this may be the case, consider pulling the weeds that are growing too close to your garden.
Remove Weeds Thoughtfully
If you do choose to remove harmful weeds, be thoughtful about how you do so.
Even though pulling weeds is more manual and time-consuming than using weed killers, it may be better for your garden and the environment overall. This is because weed killers may affect your other plants, release chemicals into the soil, and harm pollinators that are attracted to the weeds’ flowers.
If you must use a weed killer, consider using natural, non-toxic options. You can even make your own with household ingredients like vinegar, liquid dish soap, and salt.
For more details, check out our How to Kill Weeds With Vinegar guide!
Frequently Asked Questions About the Benefits of Weeds
Which weeds are helpful for your garden?
The beneficial weeds listed above are white clover, dandelion, chickweed, daisy, and lemon balm. But there are many other weeds you may find helpful, too! Lemon balm, motherwort, burdock, stinging nettles, and lambsquarters are a few other types of weeds that you may find useful.
What weeds should you get rid of?
You should eliminate any weeds that seem to be taking nutrients, moisture, or sunlight from your main crop.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has defined a list of noxious weeds that are known to be harmful to other plants, ecosystems, humans, or livestock. Some examples of these weeds include wild oat, devil’s thorn, mesquite, and wild safflower.
Are weeds better than grass?
The answer to this question is: it depends. Grass is often preferred for its uniform look and aesthetic qualities. However, weeds certainly have their benefits. Weeds are low maintenance, cheaper, and offer benefits for the environment, like protecting your soil and supporting wildlife.
So if you’re open to a weedy lawn, it’s often a great option!
Wrapping up the Benefits of Weeds
As you can see, weeds aren’t just a nuisance you should get rid of. There’s a reason that they pop up in your garden, and you may find that they’re quite useful.
The benefits of weeds range from their ability to protect and improve your soil to supporting other wildlife and even offering medicinal properties. The more you know!
Do you still have questions about weeds, or want to learn even more? Visit our Weeds Page to find how-to guides and additional information about types of weeds.