Today’s awesome gardening post is from the lovely Bobbi Peterson. Bobbi loves writing and regularly posts on her blog Living Life Green. She’s also a freelance writer, green living advocate and environmentalist. You can find more from Bobbi on Twitter. Enjoy!

It’s a tale as old as time. Gardeners and farmers alike are locked in a constant battle with the weeds, pulling and hoeing to make sure their precious flowers and vegetables get all the space they need to thrive. Take even a short break from careful monitoring of the situation, and you’re likely to find the weeds have moved in in full force.

Even though many weeds do their best to out-compete your preferred plants for soil nutrients, sunlight and airflow, they can also be beneficial to your garden in a broad sense. In fact, it can pay big dividends to judiciously keep some weeds around. Here’s how weeds can actually help your garden grow.


Weeds Break up Tough Soil

If you’re not blessed with nutrient-rich sandy loam and instead are dealing with soil compacted below the surface, hardy weeds can help aerate and break up hardpan. Weeds with extensive root systems dig deep to push through even the toughest layers of dirt to loosen it.

In fact, many farmers add some tough weeds to their crop rotation plans for this very purpose. They loosen the soil for future plants when they either uproot or turn the weeds at the end of the season.


Weeds Bring up Hidden Nutrients

When your typical garden plants have exhausted the nutrients in your soil, tough weeds can dig down even further to get at the minerals buried down deep in the earth. Weeds with taproots are particularly good at this, as it’s their way of surviving in poor soils.

Dandelions and comfrey are good examples of plants with taproots you can leave in place to do their work. Once they’ve grown, you can either turn them into the soil in place or add them to your compost pile. Either way, you’ll be adding those hidden nutrients to your soil to benefit your favorite garden plants.


Weeds Are Delicacies

Lots of common weeds are edible, and they can even fetch a price at farmers markets and trendy bistros intent on serving locally sourced and foraged foods. Dandelion, purslane, clover and chickweed are just a few examples of weeds you shouldn’t douse with chemicals. Pull them up and add them to a salad or simply snip the leaves for some effortless cultivation that will add some flavor to your next meal.

Bouquet of wild herbs

Weeds Reveal Soil Problems

Because different weeds thrive in particular conditions, you can figure out how best to amend your soil for a future garden just by taking a look at what grows in the space now. For example, if you have a spot with a big patch of oxeye daisies or wild strawberries, these acid-loving plants are telling you that you’ll need to lime the soil to sweeten it before planting a lawn or garden in that spot.

Be sure to keep your eyes open to what your weeds are trying to tell you. They don’t lie about what’s going on beneath the surface.


Still Not Convinced?

If you’re not ready to let your perennial border become a dandelion haven or you can’t live with purslane in your carrot bed, you still have options. Try to avoid chemical solutions like Round-up, which can damage other plants or poison insects and wildlife in your garden. Instead, consider natural weed killers such as vinegar and salt for a more gentle solution.

Of course, some people actually like getting their hands in the dirt and pulling up the weeds. There are also several great tools to make the job easier. For many gardeners like myself, this is a satisfying way to spend time outdoors and communicate with nature. As long as you’re happy with the amount of weeds, or lack thereof, in your garden, that’s all that really matters.

How do you control weeds in your garden?