Ever since the dawn of modern American gardening and lawn care, weeds of all sorts have become public enemy number 1. God forbid their asymmetries taint our vast fields of flatness and perfectly arranged beds. But suddenly the modern gardener looks up, sees the horizon glowing with the threat of imminent nuclear war, and says ‘why the heck am I using all these herbicides?’
I’m being dramatic of course.
That aside, more and more gardeners now days are coming to the realization that not all ‘weeds’ are created equal. Yes I will continue ruthlessly pull my foxtails, lest they get stuck in every orifice of neighborhood dogs, and my socks. Yes I will yank out those weeds (whatever they’re called) that are destined to grow far above my head, like some heaven searcher. But here is my list of five weeds I won’t pull, and why you might want to consider not pulling them as well.
Clover: This is an easy one, clover often naturally takes root on your lawn, some people hate it for that, wanting only grass and Bentlys parked in the garage. Here’s the thing, clover is hardly noticeable, it’s very short ground cover that gets mowed down with the grass (it’ll get bigger left alone). It comes with pretty white or red flowers. You can even eat these flowers (the red ones can be eaten anywhere, the white ones only in colder climates like Canada). But all that is aside the point. I offer you one word- Bees!!!!! You will never find a clover patch without honeybees, they love this stuff. If you’re a gardener then you know just how important bees are to pollinating your garden, as well as keeping our vast crop industry running. So come on, do your part to save the dying bee population, mow right over that sucker and then go have an ice tea, knowing you just saved the world by doing nothing.
2. Milkweed: © Laura Camp
You may have already heard the call to bring back this plant. Some states do consider it an invasive weed, mostly because it spreads like all heck. Problem is, this is essentially a butterfly party bush! Monarchs love these things! Bees like them too. They’re a very important source of both pollen and nectar. I suggest treating these like any other flower and simply restricting them to your flower beds. With some vigilance you can keep them from over seeding past your desired area. I only suggest this because milkweed can get quite large and cumbersome. Keep in mind that once the flowers die off it takes a little while for the seed pods to grow in, and one plant should be sufficient for re-seeding. You can pull up most of them after they reach the end of their flowering cycle and throw them away, then trim the pods off of the remaining just before they burst, if you want more control yet over seeding. Just wear your gardening gloves, there’s a good reason these are called ‘milkweed’.
∗Check out http://monarchbutterflygarden.net/milkweed-plant-seed-resources/ for more information about monarchs and milkweed.
3. Dandelions: Ah those pretty yellow flowers overtaking your grass, resistant to each and every treatment used to eradicate them. Well I say if you can’t beat them, join them. Here’s the thing about dandelions, they’re very useful. Not only do the leaves make very wonderful salad greens, but there’s even a Martha Stewart recipe for dandelion jelly! So go ahead and collect all those sunshine yellow heads, let your inner two year old out, then make some jelly. Do be careful to only harvest from places that are pesticide free and not likely to be peed on by dogs.
4. Morning glories: These are some of my favorite flowers. They open in the morning with beautiful trumpet flowers. How can something so beautiful be a weed? Because they’ll grown damn near anywhere! They can also overwhelm your garden if you’re not careful, but if you’re willing to do just a little extra work you can limit them just like the milkweed. You won’t be disappointed if you do. The best place to grow these vines is next to your fence. If you use them as ground cover they also tend to create a very nice jungle like ecosystem under their thick canopy of leaves. I suggest not planting these too close to crops, because they’ll come up in a carpet early and can overwhelm your other seedlings. If you know what you’re looking at you can weed them out from around your other plants. These flowers by the way can often be acquired in ‘wild flower’ mixes.
5. Purslane: This is one hardy weed, it grows in rocks and sidewalk cracks, only fitting since it’s a succulent. It’s not very hard in my experience to weed this plant. But why should you grow it? Because it’s edible! This makes a great easy to grow compliment to your other garden plants. It won’t over take anything, because it’s very low growing. It’ll likely stop right where your other plants begin. So consider giving this tasty nutrition packed green a shot!
Any weeds you like to keep in you garden?
All photos except for the featured image (from pexels), and that of the monarch and milkweed, are original and taken by me. So I guess I own them, but do whatever you’d like with them.