Let’s Talk About Weeds, Baby! Pt. 1


Let’s Talk About Weeds, Baby! Part 1 by Tomas. So, as the newest actual gardener here at Planting Justice (check out my first foray into real gardening here) I’ve had to learn a lot and quickly. I didn’t really know how much went into gardening I guess.

One of the topics that our Permaculture experts have been discussing with me lately has been weeds. Apparently, they’re important. Honestly, I always thought that anything that I didn’t plant that grew in an area that I was gardening in should be removed.

I could not have been more wrong.

So, I wanted to impart upon you all some information that’s been shared with me about what weeds can mean and also what weeds are edible!

First of all, let’s talk about what a weed even is. Typically, a weed is considered any plant that is growing where it’s not wanted. Obviously this is totally a subjective definition so one person’s weed could be another person’s pleasant surprise. Beyond that most weeds well…to say it bluntly, live their lives hard and fast procreating as much as possible. (Get it weeds!)

Now that that’s out of the way, what are your weeds telling you? Weeds have an amazing ability to tell us a lot about the areas in which they’re growing.


First of all, weeds can indicate a lot about your soil quality and it’s conditions:

  • Acidic Soil: Spurrey, Corn Chamomile, Henbit, Sheep's Sorrel, Wild Radish, Black Bindweed, Mercury, Common Storksbill, Shepherd's Purse
  • Alkali: Mouse-Ear Chickweed, Fumitory, Corn Poppy, Wild Carrot, Hoary Plantain, Night-Flowering Campion
  • Neutral: Forget-Me Not, Coltsfoot, Milk-Thistle, Mayweed, Curled Dock, Creeping Thistle, Goosegrass, Yarrow, Penny Cress, Sun Spurge, Long-Headed Poppy

Weeds even can tell you what’s accumulating in your soil:

  • Nitrogen: 
Bindweed, Dock, Chickweed, Clovers, Creeping Thistle, Dandelion, Fathen, Groundsel, Knotgrass, Purslane, Redshank, Sow Thistle, Nettle, Vetches, White Campion, Yarrow
  • Calcium:  Coltsfoot, Corn Chamomile, Creeping Thistle, Daisy, Dandelion, Fat Hen, Goosegrass, Plantsin, Horsetail, Purslane, Scarlet Pimpernel, Shepherd’s Purse, Silverweed, Nettle
  • Potassium: Dock, Buttercup, Chickweed, Coltsfoot, Couch, Fat Hen, Great Plantain, Purslane, Nettle, Tansy, Thistles, Tufted Vetch, Yarrow
  • Phosphorous:  Dock, Buttercup, Fat Hen, Purslane, Vetch, Yarrow
  • Iron: Buttercup, Chickweed, Chicory, Coltsfoot, Crosswort, Creping Thistle, Dandelion, Fat Hen, Plantain, Ground Ivy, Groundsel, Horsetail, Silverweed, Nettle
  • Copper:  Buttercup, Chickweed, Coltsfoot, Thistles, Dandelion, Plantain, Nettle, Vetch, Yarrow
  • Magnesium: Chicory, Coltsfoot, Daisy, Horsetail, Plantain, Yarrow
  • Boron: Spurges
  • Cobalt: Buttercup, Horsetail, Plantain, Rosebay, Tufted Vetch
  • Manganese: Buttercup, Chickweed
  • Silica: Horsetail, Couch, Plantain, Knotgrass, Nettle
  • Sulfur: Coltsfoot, Fat Hen, Garlic, Purslane

And they can even tell you what types of deficiencies your soil has:

Mineral Deficiency Symptoms Accumulators Sources
Boron Dwarf, Heartrot, Stemcrack Melon, Clover, Vetch Granite
Calcium Blackheart, Tipburn, Endrot Worms, Brassica Bonemeal, Gypsum, Lime
Chlorine Wilting, Stubby roots Greens!!!! Rainwater
Copper Dwarfing, Dieback Dandelion, Spinach, Tobacco Sawdust
Iron Chlorosis, Anemia Greens!!!!! Soil
Magnesium Mottled leaves, Botchy flowers Anything! Dolomite, Lime, Talc
Manganese Stunted growth, Chlorotic, poor leaf color Alfalfa, Carrots Leafmould
Molybdenum Necrosis of leaf-edges Alfalfa, Vetch Phosphate
Sulfur Slow growth, Leaf necrosis Cabbage, Legumes Gypsum
Zinc Poor fruits, dieback Corn, Ragweed, Vetch Manure

So, there you have it. Weeds are awesome. Even if you don’t want them and you want to remove them they can tell you a lot about what’s going on in your garden and in your soil so you should pay attention.

What’s most interesting to me is the fact that weeds (and if you were paying attention to the table above how your plants are growing) tell you a lot about what’s happening, and what you should do to help your soil be better. I hope that you’ll join me and pay attention to what your weeds are telling you.

And, stay tuned for Part 2 of Let’s Talk About Weeds, Baby! Where I’ll be going into edible weeds and how awesome weeds can be in yet another way!

Good luck with your garden and happy planting!

*Many thanks to Mea Allan for the information!