Ditch the Killer, Love The Weeds
We’re at that time of year where every shop seems to be stocked full of pesticides, the TV narrative is “kill all weeds!” and, most people don’t seem to think twice about spraying toxic chemicals in their garden.
Even the word “weeds” seems to make people recoil in horror, likely as a result of the narrative we’ve been sold for years. I remember suggesting to a friend that she could just let them grow and her response was nothing short of horrified!
Anyone would think I was suggesting letting poisonous plants sprout up along her garden pathway, although given what we put down to kill them perhaps the problem is that the plants just aren’t poisonous enough?
So, what is a weed?
“any wild plant that grows in an unwanted place”
Sounds threatening, huh? Weeds really aren’t the scary plants they’ve been made out to be! In most cases the worst thing that is going to happen is a few glances from overly judgmental neighbours, but who needs their approval anyway?
The definition of a weed is simply a wild plant growing where it is not wanted, yet the word seems to evoke a reaction of “KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!” (or, more worryingly, carcinogenic pesticides). Damn you nature, ruining my aesthetic! You know what does sound pretty nasty though? The stuff you’re putting down to deal with those pesky plants. It’s not just you though…
Pesticides in Public Places
Sadly, the council are no better. A couple of weeks ago I looked outside to discover my local council haphazardly spraying weed killer along the street that I live on. When I say haphazardly I mean it, the guy was just waving it around in the air. I’d hate to share a bathroom with him because he had zero concept of aim. I approached them and received a standardised response clarifying what pesticides they use which you can read here (link opens in a new tab).
It didn’t take long for people all over the country to tell me that their council was doing the same. Unfortunately, glyphosate is currently approved, but it is being banned in countries around the world because of the risks associated with its use. Not enough? Read on. I’ve spent hours sorting through misinformation to present you with this list…
8 Reasons to Ditch The Pesticides and Love The Weeds
1. Bees and other insects are in decline
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how vital bees our for our ecosystem. Unlike a lot of blogs, I’m not going to stand here and blame that all on pesticides because it’s just not true, but I do believe that it’s still a contributing factor.
Neonicotinoids, a pesticide used to control aphids and other pests, contain a substance similar to nicotine that has incredibly damaging effects for many insects. A recent study has shown that they can “can serve as inadvertent insect contraceptives” which certainly won’t do any good to help reverse the decline of our most vital insects.
Other problems facing the bees are habitat loss and Varroa mite, which is a major cause of colony collapse. The bees are having a hard enough time as it is… Why make things any harder for them by spraying chemicals when we don’t need to?
2. Popular weed killer Round Up is “probably carcinogenic”
Whilst the European Food Safety Authority have declared Round Up, the most commonly used pesticide, safe, there has been debate over their conclusion. Many scientists have written to EU officials suggesting that they should follow The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) conclusion that it is “probably carcinogenic” instead. Still eager to spray it where your children and pets play?
3. Weeds are good for your soil
Plenty of plants you probably consider to be weeds have a ton of beneficial qualities, ranging from habitat and food for wildlife to soil stabilisation. They provide the soil with essential nutrients as they die back, fertilising the damaged topsoil. The roots of weeds can also help to prevent erosion caused by wet weather by holding the soil together.
The type of weeds in your garden can also tell you a lot about the health of your soil too. Certain weeds such as clover thrive in fertile soil, others such as sorrel indicate acidic soil, and chickweed can be a good indicator of a neutral PH.
4. Beneficial insects love weeds
Weeds attract friendly insects to your garden. I’m not just talking pollinators here (though pollinators are
awesome and you definitely want them around). They can also attract insects that will help you control pests, helping you to further avoid using pesticides.
Gardeners hate pests like aphids (and with good reason), but many insects will feed on them if you attract them into your garden in the first place. Insects don’t care about your perfectly manicured lawns, they want to get wild! Want less pests? Let the weeds flourish a little!
Dandelions are one of the plants most commonly thought of as weeds, but they are hugely important for bees and other insects coming out of hibernation as they are one of the first food sources to grow.
5. Not all pesticides actually reach their target
Some sources even suggest that up to 99.9% of pesticides don’t hit their target! Even if it’s nowhere near that high, it’s still not great. The rest goes into ground they weren’t meant for, water supplies, and into the air. Once there they can adversely effect the ecosystem and your health.
How? Well, they can be inhaled by animals – yes, that includes you, your children, and your pets. Sounds tasty, huh? Once chemical pesticides have contaminated water they can kill aquatic species, either directly or by killing off their food supply.
6. Weeds can be a healthy and tasty addition to your diet
Yep, you read that right! By destroying weeds you’re actually getting rid of a free source of food, and who doesn’t love free food? A ton of plants you call weeds are edible and really good for you too. Dandelions, chickweed, nettles, and more can all be added into your diet and there’s loads of reasons to do so.
I’ll be writing more on that in the future, but in the mean time please remember to exercise common sense and research more about what plants (and parts of the plant) you can eat before actually consuming them!
7. Unlike pesticides which aren’t so tasty, but are in your diet anyway
Worms and insects that have consumed pesticides then become food for birds, who in turn consume pesticide residues still in their lunch. They don’t call it the food chain for no reason. It’s all linked and at one end we’re consumers.
Even if you choose to eat a vegan diet free of any animal products, you’re still going to be consuming pesticides. Eat entirely organic? You might be consuming less, but they are still going to be making their way into your diet through contamination. Yummy!
8. Wild flowers look stunning
I don’t know about you, but I love walking along looking at grassy banks covered in dandelions, daisies, orchids, and more. It’s a far nicer view than the brown desolate wasteland that often remains after extended pesticide use!
Whether we realise it or not wild flowers aka weeds have a propensity to act on our mood. Have you ever considered how a grass verge full of the sunshine heads of dandelions might be cheering you up on a dull spring day, or how the sight of a swathe of daisies brings back happy childhood memories of making daisy chains with friends?
Yep, a lot of weeds are pretty awesome! Nasty chemicals, not so much.