Created by Jack Phillpotts
A word in defence of weeds
Weeds have a hard time of things. Weeds are loathed by gardeners, they’re plucked from the very earth they grow in and the television succumbs to weed killer adverts every spring and summer. Gardeners implement many weapons in the war against weeds, such as biological and synthetic control agents, elbow grease and mulching. You daren’t be a dandelion in a perfectionist’s garden.
But I would like to say a few words in defence of weeds. They’re unfairly maligned by your typical gardener, we all like a bit of symmetry and the unexpected herb bennet among the neat rows of Primrose is sure to throw you off balance but this doesn’t mean that weeds are your enemy.
As the title of this post says, weeds are just unwanted wildflowers. Upon discovery they’re removed and they don’t have the time to grow and flourish, but when they do they can really bring results. Take the most notorious garden weed for example, the dandelion in the image/video below. This Red Mason Bee on the image below was taken in the garden recently, and it shows the dandelion’s merit as a good early source of nectar for pollinators as they emerge in spring. For most gardeners pollinators are important and very much loved, this is why I encourage you to give them this early food source.
Small world of wonder
Have you ever filled a planting tray freshly topped up with compost and let it sit idle because you forgot the seeds or heard the doorbell?
I have, many times to the detriment of my lettuce yield. This does not mean that the tray of compost remains unproductive, quite the opposite is true in fact, because through a mix of airborne seeds (and whatever may have been residing within the compost) the tray will promptly burst into life.
In this particular tray of mine there was an outbreak of life, a variety of small flowering plants had emerged, of which I could name but a few. The identity of the plants is beside the point though because in a small square tray within a smaller time frame, life had emerged of its own volition.
The big picture
It isn’t just the invertebrates that benefit from letting the weeds grow, because they indirectly feed a wide ecosystem with insectivorous mammals, birds and amphibians that will look fondly on the bounty of food on your unintended wildflowers.
They aren’t just part of an indirect food chain, plants like teasel may occur, especially if they’re local to your garden. Teasel grows over two seasons so you’re in for a long wait, but when they finally do bloom you can be greeted by striking purple flower heads, these will be a welcome source of nectar for pollinators and over time they will develop into seed heads and these are a wonderful treat for birds, especially Goldfinches. Overall this isn’t a bad track record for plants that while unintentional, you can get for free with little effort.
Everything counts, a summary.
In the above picture you can see the weeds that developed in a plant tray that was once a crate from the local industrial estate. On the top left you can see a young Teasel which germinated last year, in the top centre you can see a cluster of Corncockle (great for pollinators). Many of these plants I recognise from my wildflower patch but they have inevitably made their way into one of my plant trays.
I hope you have read this and it has encouraged you to reconsider your stance on weeds in your garden. I am not saying you should just cover your garden in dandelions, but make a small patch, or just a pot for weeds to grow into. This is great for your garden ecology as these plants are truly wild flowers and it means that the plants you grow are the plants that will naturally occur in your area.
I would also say that you may want to check what is growing of its own volition, as you may find some invasive species in your garden, I would encourage you to remove these, if you have the capability, I would also like to say that in the cases of some invasive plants such as Giant Hogweed you may want to seek professional removal services to due safety reasons.
But when you see a new shoot pop up in a flower bed, an asymmetrical buttercup in your lawn or a teasel in a tray, remember that it may well be a nice little addition for the wildlife in your garden and perhaps they will grow on you too (emotionally of course).