Why I welcome my weeds, and why you should too

Dandelions. The single word that strikes fear in the heart of every suburban homeowner. The yellow spring invaders disturb the sanctity of pristine expanses of green grass in every subdivision from coast to coast. And we respond with pulling, burning, and all-out chemical warfare. How misguided.

I’m here to tell you that rather than a blight, dandelions, and the other frequent lawn invader, clover, are a great blessing. If you’re goal is food production and greater self-sufficiency, these gifts from nature are the way to turn your lawn from a money sink, to a source of nutrition for your garden, and for you.

If you live in a typical suburban neighborhood, and particularly if it has an HOA, lawns are going to be a fact of life. Even if you’d prefer to commit 100% of your property to gardens, and never push another mower in the hot sun ever again, for reasons of regulations, conformity, and not upsetting your neighbors, you will likely need to maintain some portion of your property as lawn.

Plus, lawns are not completely without utility; as access ways, picnicking spots, spaces to play ball with your kids and let the dog run, patches of lawn do have value. But if we drop chemical fertilizers and weed killer on them, they suddenly become expensive to maintain, and potentially toxic to those kids and that dog. And you sure don’t want those chemicals leaching into your gardens.

You can get even more utility out of that lawn as a tremendous source of green mulch if you let nature be. Dandelions and clover are two of the greatest nutrient mining plants you’ll ever find. Dandelions have tap roots that pull valuable nutrients including magnesium, zinc, potassium, iron, and calcium from deep in the soil. Clover mines nitrogen out of the air. By inviting these wonderful agents of fertility into your lawn, you can harvest them to feed your fruits and vegetables. And the great part is “inviting” them takes zero cost and effort. Just don’t spend time and money killing them.

Instead, let them be. Then, every other time you mow your lawn, bag the clippings and spread the as mulch around your plants, or add them to your compost pile. The blend of clover, dandelion, and grass makes for a great, nutrient packed fertilizer that you obtained for free from your yard. How cool is that!

These same helpful plants also fertilize your lawn. Notice my recommendation was to bag ever-other time you mow. On alternate cuttings simply use the mulching setting on your mower and add the clippings back to the yard. If you stay on top of your mowing, you won’t have so many yellow flowers or white puffy heads that it disturbs your neighbors or invites a “helpful” notice on how to control weeds from your HOA. (full disclosure: I got one of these once when a vacation allowed my lawn to get away from me). And we haven’t even touched on the many ways dandelions can be directly consumed. But I’ll save that for another post.

So my advice is become a “weed huger” and embrace natures volunteer plants. You’ll do less work, spend less money, and get more fertility as a reward. Where else are you going to get that kind of deal!

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