Phil: Hey Guys! It’s Phil from smilinggardener.com and today we are talking about the benefits of weeds and if you haven’t picked up the 15 Vital Lessons For Becoming A Better Organic Gardener, you can do that right on the homepage of smilinggardener.com.
So, do you remember when I had a particularly weedy lawn of a client of mine and I had to get you to come and help me hand weed the lawn?
H: I do. I think I did it for free. No way. You still owe me.
Phil: I just remember that that – like there were – that was a small front lawn but there were more weeds there than grass, right?
H: Yes. Same at the backyard because I ended taking all of that job for you and the – it was just crazy. You could hardly even see the grass.
Phil: So it’s the kind of thing where we knew that we could eventually, over the course of a number of years, improve the soil and help the plant to the point where the grass would win over the weeds but it was just in a short term because the client didn’t like the weeds. We had to hand-pull them, right?
H: Yeah. Exactly. I guess that’s the problem with trying to find the short term solution, right?
Phil: So. Today – I mean today we are just talking about the benefits of weeds which – I don’t know if we ever got that across to hearing that but they are really – there was a reason the weeds were there which is because they were more suited for that soil than the grass.
So usually it means the soil is not in great shape. It’s – it could be any number of nutritional imbalances or water issues or compaction issues. But today we are talking about what the weeds do for the lawn or the garden, right?
H: Yes. We are. We love talking about weeds.
Phil: So why don’t you tell people something that the weeds that’s good?
H: Okay. Well. Weeds bring mineral.
Phil: Don’t lose it.
H: Weeds bring minerals and water up from deep in the soil and they make them available to microbes and neighboring plants.
Phil: Well, how you stress like every third word there.
H: Hey! There is a point to be made.
Phil: Yes. Weeds bring nutrients. I am certain weeds bring up nutrients from really deep in the soil because they have long tap roots. They are also – just a lot of them have extensive root systems. They break up hardpans and break up compaction. They are always dying back and growing, both above and below ground.
So they are adding organic matter to the soil. They are fixing– like the really cool thing is weeds will come in and if you have a calcium deficiency, there is going to weeds to come in and fix that calcium deficiency. Now it may take decades or centuries but sometimes it will be really quick but that’s what they do.
So actually we have a longer list on the Blog of what weeds do that’s good for you. But I guess we just want to tell people to embrace their weeds. We get into it – I mean I get into a lot more in the academy and then probably in 2013, we will actually talk a little bit more about what you can do to improve soil condition like on the Blog, mostly we cannot talk a lot more detail in the academy.
So the question I want to ask today is what weeds are causing you guys problems. Yeah. I just want to hear like what kinds of weeds you have in abundance. So let me know in the comments down below. Is there anything else?
H: I cannot think of anything else particularly or just so about weeds.
Phil: Okay. That’s good for today then.
Yes, weeds can be a bummer, but many gardeners don’t know there are a lot more benefits of weeds than downsides.
Besides, they’re easily controlled in the garden with mulch.
The lawn is definitely trickier. I had one client who’s front lawn had more weeds than grass.
I knew it would take years for me to balance the soil to the point where the grass won the battle, so I was out there every couple of weeks pulling the weeds by hand.
She was a nice client, but I knew she wasn’t thrilled with the weeds, and I don’t blame her at all, but it’s important to understand why the weeds are there.
Weeds are helpful plants for your organic garden because each beneficial weed thrives in a specific imbalanced soil condition and works to bring the soil back into balance.
So if you’ve heard that healthy soil grows weeds just as well as the plants you’re trying to grow, it’s a myth.
If the weeds are doing better than your lawn or garden plants, it’s because the soil isn’t optimally healthy and the weeds have set up shop to fix that.
That’s what was happening with my client’s lawn, so my long-term goal was to help fix the soil in order to speed up the process.
But if time didn’t matter, I could have let the weeds take care of it.
“Mmmm… I love weeds. They’re so pretty and they make the soil better.”
So, what are the benefits of weeds?
- Some lawn and garden weeds bring nutrients and water up from deep in the soil and down from the air, and subsequently make them available to microbes and plants.
- Some weeds break up hardpans and compaction, and control erosion.
- Another benefit of weeds is that they increase the organic matter content of the soil as they continually grow and die. That’s one reason to let them cycle through the lawn.
- Garden weeds also act as our own diagnostic tool by telling us a tremendous amount about the nutritional balance of our soil through their presence and growth habit.
- They also fix nutritional imbalances, vastly improving soils, perhaps in as little as a couple of years, but often decades or centuries.
- One of my favorite benefits of weeds is that they provide homes and food for microbes and animals. (If you get a chance, check out the documentary Microcosms. She will post a link on facebook…it’s a very CLOSE-UP account of insects’ lives on plants in meadows and ponds, beautiful!)
That’s just a few things weeds do in the lawn and garden. Having said this, if you simply can’t live with them in the lawn, which I understand, it is possible to control most of them and still have a happy garden.
That involves creating a healthy, balanced soil with strong turf plants (which I cover in the Academy) so that the weeds can’t thrive.
But you can also see why the benefits of weeds makes them good to keep around. Besides, many of them can be added to salads for a healthy boost.
Do you have any especially persistent weeds? Let us know below…