Benefits of Weeds – 6 Reasons To Keep Some Around

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Phil: Hey Guys! It’s Phil from 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

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 many more benefits of weeds than downsides.

Besides, they’re fairly easily controlled in the garden with a thick 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, 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.

Doggies Knows The Benefits Of Weeds
“Mmmm… I love weeds. They’re so pretty and they make the soil better.”

So, what are the benefits of weeds?

  1. 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.
  2. Some weeds break up hardpans and compaction and control erosion.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. They also fix nutritional imbalances, vastly improving soils, perhaps in as little as a couple of years, but often decades or centuries.
  6. 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. 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 on 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 so that the weeds can’t thrive.

But you can also see why the benefits of weeds make 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…


  1. The scourge of my lawn and life is Creeping Charlie!  Please tell me how to get rid of it for good!

    1. Yes, it’s very hard to get rid of because it creeps along and evades pulling. It’s in the mint family, and a lot of those like to stick around.It usually means you have fairly fertile, moist soil. I notice it doesn’t move too far uphill to dry soil. It can be made into a herbal tea for drinking, and actually has many medicinal uses.

  2. I seem to see a lot of prostrate knotweed in a compacted area of the lawn…  Dandelions used to be more in abundance , but less now.  I don’t consider dandelions a weed… I hope they don’t all disappear.  Burdock and yellow (?) dock are too happy here and bother me the most.  We have much lambs quarter, which we eat in salads. Some kind of cranesbill, garlic mustard, pokeweed… I could go on  ;D

    1. Sure sounds like low calcium to me.

  3. Frank yeo says:

    Thank you Phil for your article. Yes I cant agree more with you that weeds are beneficial to the plants. I cant keep noticing on my plantation, where there are weeds e.g. ferns, my plants are striving much better than areas with grasses. My concern now is not having the weeds overshadow the plants, such that the plants can get optimum sunlight and rainfall, not to mention air flow. Another disadvantage is to the untrained eyes, it looks untidy with weeds around.  

  4. I LOVE weeds !! For years we used to keep our property mowed and weed-suppressed (how un-educated and disconnected we were !!) – but over the past 5 years I have learned soooo much. NOW I welcome weeds, let them grow, only mow areas that are necessary to keep clean and short (because of snakes) … and I have learned to use weeds like gourmet-ingredients for our food (we grow most of our food ourselves). I want to recommend the work of Markus Rothkranz (who is currently writing the BIGGEST book on WILD plants). He has helped me to understand so much more about the big picture and the way to live and eat, be MORE self-sufficient (and we thought we already were :-)) .. and especially: to appreciate WEEDS !!He just sent the latest video clip – and I would like to share it here – it ist MOST BEAUTIFUL and so inspiring !!!With love,Helga

    1. Thanks Helga! Great advice.

  5. Please Do tell me the benefit of Bermuda grass. It is throughout my yard I have no lawn.It is in my vegetable garden.

    1. When I say “benefit,” it’s often more to the soil than to us. For example, bermuda grass is great for erosion control because of its crazy root system, which indeed is a pain to get out.

  6. Chuck Pardy says:

    I have a big problem with plantains. My lawn is just 3 summers old with about 2 inches of topsoil over a hard pan.This year I started the transition to an organic lawn using compost tea and occasionally other organic fertilizers from “The Gardeners Pantry”. I also had a large amount of clover growing naturally in the lawn and after reading some benifits of clover I decided to overseed my entire lawn with it. So far I love it, but the plantains live on.

    1. It may be difficult to establish a weed-free lawn on 2 inches of topsoil, but the plantains will be happy there. Hopefully over the next few years that hardpan will be gradually loosened by microbes and earthworms, allowing the grass to win out. Plaintain used to actually be cultivated in England along with clover.

  7. SahimThe weeds that I have in abundance are purslane, lambs quarters, and dandelion and a few others i can’t name.

  8. Can plantain be spread by lawn mower?  I suspect that is how entire sections have become little else.  We also have lots of ragweed, lamb’s quarters, wild violet, clover, poke weed, henbit, a little chickweed, and things I can’t even identify.  The whole area is regularly “worked” by ducks, chickens, and goats, so it should be quite fertile.Also, I have never seen our chickens eat henbit or chickweed-  I guess no one ever told them they were supposed to love it.

    1. I’m not sure if they spread by the mower, as they usually seem to stay below the blades.

  9. Michelle R. Stone says:

    I let my weeds grow. Since I live in the city, I’m sure I’m the scourge of the neighborhood! I try to keep them out of my actual gardens, but I don’t care if the whole lawn is covered by them. What we mostly have is plantain, dandelions and creeping charley. I don’t know what the Charley might be good for, but the plantain and dandelion have medicinal uses. I’ve also purposely planted red clover in my yard for that reason. You can’t eat grass and it has no medicinal use, so it’s fine with me if it gets crowded out.

    1. Agreed, and creeping charley actually has many medicinal uses.

  10. I should clarify my above comment to add that we “eat the weeds” and use them medicinally around here too, so I’m not actually looking to rid the yard of them.  I’m more curious about what their presence means about my soil.  I’ve noticed that our dandelions have almost entirely disappeared.  

  11. Alice @ Vinyl Garden Sheds says:

    That is just interesting. I usually don’t like weeds in my garden but I am really glad to learn about this informative post. I may leave them since they have a lot of benefits in the garden. Mulching is definitely an option as well. Cool share!

  12. My lawn and garden explodes with wild violet(oxalis?) and clover.The clover, I think, is good so I pull it at the end of season and compost it.The violet just over runs everything-2 or 3 appear for everyone I pull? Do wild violets serve a purpose?

    1. All plants serve a purpose when it comes to improving the soil, but I don’t know much about wild violets other than that they like lots of shade (of course both lawn and vegetable garden prefer full sun). But I don’t know if they do something chemically for the soil.

  13. TP Knotweed says:

    Your experienced made me to love weeds by using them accurately. They do protect from many things which we didn’t  know))

  14. Paranormal Skeptic says:

    A perfect example of “weeds” that people try to get rid of are cattails. What people don’t realize, is that they are generally caused by using too much fertilizer, and the cattails are soaking up the excess from the run off.Meanwhile, the slow water speed, and hold soil in place to stop waterside erosion.

  15. Another benefit of weeds is that they will tell you what is going on with your soil. Weeds are like people, they have different taste. A weed will grow in a certain type of soil environment, which lets you know what your soil needs.

    1. Absolutely – one of the best benefits. I kind of alluded to that in point 4.

  16. SalishSeaSam says:

    Horsetails!!! I don’t mind them anywhere else, but my lovely raised veggie beds are becoming overrun, so much so that seeds have to be started and grown large before being put in the garden to be heavily mulched to control the horsetail. It seems to be counterintuitive… well-drained soil full of organic compost.

    1. You’re right, they do tend to prefer wet, poorly-drained soils. Once they’re established, they’re certainly difficult to get rid of. Apparently they’re very medicinal. Maybe you should sell them to a local herbalist or biodynamic farmer.

  17. What can I say, just thank you at the moment. You have opened a window into an amazing world I had no idea of…

  18. deancross says:

    I don’t know if it is classified as a weed, but what is called “nut grass” locally, has taken over my vegetable garden.

  19. Dear PhilI am getting thistle and lots of ferns in my plantation. How can they tell about the nutritional balance of our soil through their presence and growth habits of ferns and thistles. Will they rob the nutrient from my plants, if so how can I get rid of them? Thank you.

    1. I’ll have to wait until I get back to my trusty weed book in mid-April to give you some ideas on these specific weeds.

  20. PeterGreen12 says:

    Surely one of the best ways to control weeds while helping your garden to grow would be to use lawn weed and feed.

  21. I have 10 acres of primarily nutsedge and other weeds that I would like to have become st. augustine grass and I don’t know how to do that. In this same 10 acres, I planted a garden and used cement blocks to outline it. I layed paper boxes on top of the weeds and I put organic dirt in it. The weeds came through the boxes and I have never had a garden because I don’t know how to get rid of the weeds. Can you help me?

    1. Nutsedge is a difficult one. I don’t know much about it. The tubers are supposed to be quite nutritious though, so maybe you could harvest it as a crop. Perhaps planting a cover crop of cereal rye and something in the mustard family could help keep it at bay.

  22. Canada Thistle is prevalent here in Aurora Colorado. I don’t grow lawn, but it likes my flower beds. What is it telling me about my soil?

  23. We bought a house and had sod put in the back. We have some type of weed with a now blooming yellow flower taking over. Not weed experts so not sure what it is. Glad to see there is some benefit to this new growth, but hate to lose our investment completely. We also are opposed to using anything that will harm the bees or wildlife.

    1. Mary Fiorentino says:

      The stuff with yellow flowers is probably wood sorrel. Very hard to get rid of. I weed whacker it and put grass seed. I hope to crowd it out. I’m OK with weeds.

  24. Rose Kent says:

    This topic really intrigues me! I wonder if you might share which
    weeds you think are most attractive? I know it’s strange but
    in upstate NY I often stumble on pretty flowers only to learn
    they are weeds.

    1. I think most of them are attractive – even the common ones like dandelions and wild daisies 🙂

  25. yvonne yetman says:

    Love your site. We spend eight months of the year at our cottage here in Canada and our entire lawn has a little grass but our dandelions dominate and I have grown to love it. I also use the dandelions for cooking We also have many little critters living on our property so they enjoy the dandelions and the other weeds that we have. I do have some plants and wildflowers for my bees and hummingbirds but only on a small scale. So thumbs up for the dandelions Not sure what the other weeds are but they look lovely

    My question is concerning my wild ferns I am trying to encourage them to spread They are so beautiful Often there are dandelions growing in between them and I am wondering if these dandelions drain my ferns of nutrients I do tend to pick them out since I love the look of these ferns so is it necessary to do this Thanks Yvonne

    1. The dandelions shouldn’t cause much of any problem for the ferns, and may even help, so you certainly don’t have to remove them.

  26. This is interesting because I had a lot of grass and Creeping Charlie and clover growing in my box kitchen garden this year and I decided to leave it in because I am absent-minded and sometimes forget to water, and I noticed that the areas with grass and whatnot stay moister longer. It seemed counterintuitive, but I went with my eye. I think maybe it prevents a lot of evaporation.

    For people who don’t like the look of it, my solution is simply to take a kitchen shears to the grass every week or so and keep it shorn so the box looks tidier and the weeds don’t choke or overshadow the garden plants. But this could be difficult if it were any larger.

    True to what Phil said about Creeping Charlie being a mint, my spearmint and peppermint plants are doing the best of my kitchen plants so the soil seems optimal for that sort of plant. Also, the plants that have wild plants nearby are doing much better than the few that don’t. Next I’ll be looking up the medicinal uses of Creeping Charlie! I’ve also been growing oregano in the shadow of my tomato and cucumber plants to keep pests away, and it seems to be working well.

    I know that for some people a perfectly park-like lawn is a sign of status and lets people know they are doing just fine. For me, simple verdance is all-important. And I think social trends are moving in that direction as well. I like to see heart-shaped violet leaves and frilly ferns in amongst the grass spears. But why, oh, why are dandelion greens so repugnant?

    I hope that someday municipalities will have less stranglehold on people’s property uses, and the kitchen garden behind a front gate will come back. It encourages socialization because stay-at-home parents are working out near the street and end up talking to one another, and can watch over their young children playing outside. It makes neighborhoods safer and friendlier.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to share 🙂

    2. You are great

  27. I thank you for writing about this.

    I specifically did a search on Yahoo:
    What benefits do weeds bring

    Because i am perfectly aware everything in Nature has its place and is beneficial to life and functioning on Earth, and i found myself suddenly curious as to what weeds bring to the table. (In the field, Not counting them being medicinal. I’m already a novice herbalist.)

    I’m sure i would have learned this eventually anyway as i intend to study botany in college, but i was curious NOW.

    Please share your weed book with us, kind sir.

    1. Weeds: Control Without Poisons by Charles Walters

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