There's no Such Thing as A weed!
As we get ready to bring in a new year, it's often a time for reflection, introspection, and change. Allow me to digress on a topic that I am rather passionate about, and hopefully I can change your opinion on the subject of "weeds".
When a plant appears out of nowhere, the average gardener is all too ready to rip it from the ground or worse, spray it with carcinogenic toxins in an attempt to remove it. I implore you to learn more about a plant before deciding that it has to go. Fact is, that plant may be providing you with amazing benefits and you don't even know it!
True, some plants will spread way too quickly, and so eradicating them is not a bad idea. Unwanted plants are perfect for composting and that is what you should do with every plant you pull from your garden. Even the "invasive" ones. Composting properly will kill off any seeds so there is no harm done. In fact, they may add the exact nutrients your soil needs. With enough care and management, "invasive species" can be a thing of the past. While there are some laws in regards to eradicating certain plants, cultivate a biodiverse ecosystem will naturally control them. In a world of rapid desertification, we should be grateful for any plant that grows with almost no care.
Nothing happens in nature without a just cause. This is extremely true in the case of wild plants. For instance, clover only grows in areas depleted of nitrogen, and in turn it replenishes the nitrogen through its rhizomes. As the soil becomes rich in nitrogen over time, the clover will die off naturally! So when you are pulling or killing clover, you are constantly denying a natural process of soil building. That is much like Einstein's definition of insanity. I actually make a liquid compost from my clover and some other wild plants to fertilize all my gardens naturally.
Now let's look at the most common "weed" for some clarity on this subject. Dandelions. The rap that these amazing plants have received in the last hundred years is completely unfair. Dandelions grow in hard compacted soils, and their roots will aerate the ground, helping water and seeds from other plants to penetrate the surface of even the worst dirt. On top of that, dandelions have some of the greatest health benefits, and they taste great too! Many pollinators survive solely on dandelions early in the spring, and if you spray them with herbicides you are effectively endangering them and all of humanity. Shame on the gardener who prohibits bees from living! Check out the dandelion article for more on these incredible flowers.
Chances are, almost any plant that you dispose of under the guise of "it's a weed" has benefits that you are unaware of. The list of beneficial wild plants goes on, and on, and on. Lamb's quarters, purslane, nettle, wild mustard, horsetail, cornflower, chickweed, thistle and burdock are just a few of the many plants that people eradicate on a daily basis. The plants listed are all edible, and very nutritious. Instead of burning, pulling, or spraying these unwanted plants, try making a salad. Just make sure it is in fact an edible plant first.
There are many other unseen benefits to allowing unwanted plants to grow. "Weeds" are a bonus ground cover, a catch crop, fodder for animals, beneficial companions for other plants, and can be used as mulch. Not to mention the pollinators!
Bees trip over themselves for clover. Since we live in an uncertain world, where pollinators face extinction if we continue on the same trajectory, it is absolutely vital that we change the mass opinion on this terrible term. De-stigmatize the polyculture lawn, fight against the mandated monoculture lawn! Since my permaculture awakening, I have been obsessed with my beautiful lawn and all it's little flowers. You can still cut it, play on it, enjoy an amazing turf of native grasses. However there is no reason short of vanity for not allowing the wildflowers to grow. My lawn requires less watering, less nutrient applications, and makes my heart sing when I see dozens of honeybees buzzing to and fro. Check out this short video from my front yard.
So, with everything mentioned, I truly hope your opinion on "weeds" has shifted even a little bit. If we can learn to live and love wild plants, we have a much brighter future here on this rock we call home. Do yourself a favor, grow more wild plants.