I’m making a plea on behalf of lawn weeds. My lawn is full of what most gardeners would consider to be weeds, and immediately run to the shed to get the weed-killer out and spray them out of existence. Weed-killers are toxic chemicals that do untold damage to the environment, affecting not only plants but also insects, animals and humans. One of my pet hates is a bowling green lawn of pure grass kept under control by weed-killers – it is dead, deeply unhappy space to me. My lawn has daisies, clover, buttercups, plantains, dandelions, shepherd’s purse and many other ‘weeds’ that provide a rich environment for the insects, birds and other animals that visit it, as well as providing quite a few benefits for me too.
The bees love the white clover (trifolium repens) which covers my lawn in high summer. White clover was once added to grass seed mixes as it is high in nutrients for grazing animals. It also enriches the soil itself by fixes nitrogen from the air into it.
I am very fond of those hated weeds, dandelions; they cover the grassy areas of my orchard in spring. Not only do the flowers make one of the best country wines, but the young spring leaves can be eaten (they are packed with vitamins and minerals), the roots roasted and made into coffee, and the plant used medicinally for a variety of problems, including arthritis and liver disorders.
Plantains (Plantago lanceolate and Plantago major) are useful little herbs too. Bruised or crushed the leaves can be applied to the skin to treat insect bites and stings, eczema and small wounds or cuts. The leaves and seeds can also be eaten.
Shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) can be applied directly to the skin for nosebleeds, superficial burns and small bleeding wounds. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked.
No lawn is complete without daisies (Bellis perennis) in my humble opinion. Did you know you can eat them? Put the leaves into salads, pop the flowers into soups, stews and salads. In the past, daisies were important medicinal plants, used for migraines, heavy menstrual, as a spring ‘blood cleansing’ tonic and a digestive aid. I make a salve from them to treat bruises and small wounds.
So please, think twice before you get that weed-killer out!
© Anna Franklin 2020