Plants

Garden Weeds: The Good & The Bad — What to Keep & What to Get Rid Of

Are all garden weeds good? No, they aren't! But are they all bad? Not at all! This article helps you differentiate the good and the bad to know what to keep or what to get rid of. 
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Weeds are generally considered uninvited guests in your garden. They appear when you expect them the least, in the places you’d want them the least. They could steal the food from your plants, mess with your landscape’s design, and getting rid of them could be a nightmare and a time-consuming activity.

But what if we told you that not all weeds are bad signs in your outdoor space? A handful of weeds can actually be very beneficial to your garden. They could attract pollinators, repel pests, fertilize the soil, and even make a great addition to a salad (but you should pay attention not to consume any weeds that have been treated with chemicals).

Keep reading below to see precisely what garden weeds are, which are good and which are harmful and why.

Garden Weeds Explained

First, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what garden weeds are.

According to the Weed Science Society of America, there are three different types of weeds: weed, noxious weed, and invasive weed. Here’s how each type can be described according to the Weed Science Society of America:

  • Weed – A  weed is described as a plant that can cause economic losses or ecological damages or could create health problems for humans or animals. It is also described simply as a plant that is undesirable where it grows. Crabgrass, giant foxtail, or common lamb’s quarters are just a few examples.
  • Noxious Weed – Noxious weeds are those plants that have been classified as such by federal, state, or local authorities. They are considered noxious weeds as they can be a threat to public health, agriculture, wildlife, or properties. An example of a noxious weed is Field Bindweed.
  • Invasive Weed- as the name suggests, invasive weeds are those plants that establish, persist, and spread very quickly and widely in natural ecosystems outside their native range. The problem with invasive weeds is that when they grow in foreign environments, they don’t have natural enemies that could stop them from growing and spreading. So, invasive weeds often end up overrunning native plants and ecosystems.

So, in other words, weeds are basically wild plants that grow in the wrong places. Most of them are aggressive plants that choke out the garden plants you’ve worked really hard to grow and care for. But, some of them can actually have benefits for your garden and the wildlife that call it home.

Weeds You Want in Your Garden and Why

We’ve already mentioned that some weeds are not bad news for your garden. Now, it is time to let you know what these beneficial weeds are and why you should keep them in your garden.

Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major)

Broadleaf Plantain
Broadleaf Plantain

This weed typically appears in areas where the soil is compacted. It is a beneficial weed because it is a nutrient accumulator. This weed is known to accumulate nutrients like calcium, sulfur, magnesium, iron, and silicon from the soil. Besides that, it is also edible, being high in calcium and vitamins A, C, and K, and has medicinal properties. It can be applied to wounds, stings and sores to reduce pain and prevent infection.

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

This weed will often appear in disturbed soil like garden beds or highly tilled areas. When it pops up, it can be a sign of low fertility of the soil.

Chickweed
Chickweed

This weed, too, is a nutrient accumulator, gathering potassium and phosphorous from the subsoil. It also attracts beneficial insects like pollinators looking for nectar. It too has medicinal uses for affections like constipation, stomach and bowel problems, asthma, and other lung health affections. It is also beneficial for skin conditions like psoriasis, rabies, and itching.

Chickweed is a lettuce-like green plant that can be great additions to your salads.

Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album)

Lamb’s Quarters
Lamb’s Quarters

Lamb’s quarters are beneficial to the soil as its roots accumulate nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, and manganese, which will then fertilize the soil if the weed is left to die back on its own. It is a highly nutritious weed with edible properties.

White Clover (Trifolium repens)

When white clover appears in your garden, it means that your soil is lacking nitrogen. This often happens in gardens where grass clippings are routinely carted away over time which causes the soil to become nitrogen-lacking.

White Clover
White Clover

White clover is considered a nutrient accumulator as it gathers phosphorus from the subsoil and releases it into the topsoil. It is also a beneficial weed because it attracts good garden insects like ladybugs, minute pirate bugs, and pollinators that are looking for nectar. Plus, it also provides shelter for ground beetles, spiders, and parasitoid wasps. Its flowers are edible.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

This is one of the most common beneficial weed that will make its way into all gardens. It typically pops up in hard-pan clay soils.

Dandelion
Dandelion

Its roots accumulate potassium, phosphorous, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, and silicon, which it then uses to fertilize the topsoil. It also attracts beneficial insects like pollinators in search of nectar and ladybugs. Lacewings and parasitoid wasps also find this weed attractive.

Dandelion has plenty of medicinal uses, and many people actually plant it in their gardens to use it as a medicinal plant. This weed may help fight inflammation, reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, promote a healthy liver, stimulate appetite, and help digestion.

Why Keep These Weeds in Your Garden?

Many gardeners get frustrated by weeds until they learn their benefits. And, yes, there are plenty of them that beneficial garden weeds have. Here’s how good garden weeds can help:

Weeds can protect your soil 

One way beneficial weeds help is by spreading and quickly covering bare ground to protect it. The roots of the weeds help hold the soil together and prevent it from eroding away in the wind or rain. In fact, the presence of weeds can be a sign that your soil needs mulch to protect it from eroding.

Weeds fertilize the soil 

Many weeds are known to have the ability to gather nutrients from the subsoil and bring them into their leaves. As the weed leaves die, they cover the topsoil with the nutrients they gathered from the subsoil. The presence of weeds can be a sign that you need to enrich your soil with amendments such as worm casting or compost.

Weeds improve your soil

Overall, beneficial weeds can improve your soil by adding organic matter to it through decaying roots. Besides that, they improve your garden soil by creating tunnels for worms or other beneficial soil microbes to move around your outdoor space.

Weeds attract beneficial insects 

Beneficial weeds also act as magnets for beneficial insects, thanks to their flowering and dense foliage. Beneficial insects looking for habit or nectar may find these garden weeds attractive.

Weeds You Don’t Want in Your Garden

Unfortunately, not all weeds that pop up in your garden are beneficial. Some can actually cause a lot of harm to your soil and garden plants. Here are the weeds you should not allow to grow in your garden:

Crabgrass (Digitaria)

Crabgrass is a very common lawn weed that not only that it has a bad appearance but can also very quickly dominate your lawn.

Crabgrass
Crabgrass

The best way to get rid of this weed is by removing the weedy clumps as soon as you see them before they disperse more seeds.

Bermuda Grass (Cynodon dactylon)

This is one of the most crop-damaging weeds that can appear in your garden. It quickly invades your outdoor space and can infest your other turfgrasses. Its roots give off chemicals that can be harmful to other plants in your garden.

Cynodon dactylon
Cynodon dactylon

Bermuda Grass is pretty difficult to kill. The best way to get rid of it is to mulch heavily and wait for the weed to grow above the mulch so that it is easier for you to pull it.

Bindweed (Convolvulus)

This weed is a real threat to your other garden plants because it can outcompete even large plants like shrubs and small trees. It can take all the nutrients, sunlight, and water only for itself, which is going to harm your plants over time.

Bindweed
Bindweed

To get rid of Bindweed from your garden, you need to fork it out and persistently pull off the stems.

Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea)

Ground Ivy is not good news for your garden and lawn because it can wrap around and basically strangle the plants nearby.

Ground Ivy
Ground Ivy

The best way to get rid of it is to keep pulling it out every time you notice it has found its way into your outdoor space. Luckily, the weed will eventually recede.

Burdock (Arctium)

The common Burdock can become a real problem for your garden if it gets out of control. First of all, find out that the seeds of Burdock have been reported to be poisonous for some birds.

Burdock
Burdock

So, you may really find dead birds in your garden if you don’t get rid of this weed. A good hack to get rid of this weed is to pour vinegar down the stem during hot days.

Why Are These Weeds Bad for Your Garden?

There are plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t allow these weeds to make a home out of your garden. Here are a few:

Bad weeds compete with your garden plants for food 

The worst part about bad weeds is that they can really cut off your plants food supply. If you allow them to grow next to your garden plants, your crops may end up fighting these weeds over water, light, and the necessary nutrients to survive.

Bad weeds hide your garden plants 

Bad garden weeds will most likely outgrow your garden plants. As a result, your plants won’t get enough light, nutrients, and the beneficial pollinators won’t be able to reach them.

Bad weeds attract pests and diseases 

Garden weeds can also make your plants more susceptible to pests and diseases. For example, they can make great shelters for pests like snails and slugs. Besides that, they can also provide food and habitat to pests like aphids.

They make your soil infertile 

By overgrowing your garden plants, these weeds can take full advantage of the nutrients, water, and sunlight, making the zones around their roots infertile for other plants.

They make it difficult for you to harvest other crops 

Imagine trying to harvest low-growing crops that are surrounded by these weeds. This can be an incredibly time-consuming and frustrating task. You may not be able to see your crops because of the weeds. Plus, these weeds can also make it more challenging to pull up the crops as they can damage the root systems of your edible crops, making it more difficult to trim without damaging the entire plant.

They ruin your garden’s appearance 

Last but not least, some weeds simply don’t look good, and they can really mess up your garden’s look and design. If you don’t control these weeds, your garden may end up looking messy and neglected regardless of how hard you worked to plant and care for your other garden plants.

In Conclusion

It’s wrong to think that anything that simply pops in your garden is bad for your plants. However, it’s a common mistake to simply assume that all weeds are beneficial to your soil and other garden plants. The best way to handle weeds is to research them and see whether or not they pose a threat to your garden plants.

You may discover that a certain weed that made its way to your outdoor space is actually beneficial to your soil or attracts good insects. If that’s the case, you should allow the weed to live in your yard next to your other plants. On the flip side, you may find out that the weed is actually affecting your crops, in which case you should get rid of them as soon as possible. Either way, always make sure that you research whether the weed in your garden is good or bad before deciding what to do next.

How are you handling the weed situation in your garden? Share your experience in the comments below!

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Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact miruna@gardenbeast.com

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