This Is the One Weed You Should Never Pull, Experts Say
The much maligned plant can actually be quite beneficial to your yard and garden.
Any green thumb can tell you that keeping a garden healthy and well-maintained isn't without its difficulties. Besides being sure to fertilize, prune, and water, there's also the constant threat of an infestation of destructive pests or unwanted plants sprouting up and ruining your hard work. But while your gut instinct may be to get rid of any organisms invading your grass or flowerbed, experts say there's one weed that you should never pull. Read on to see which well-known plant may be doing more good for your garden than you realize.
Traditional weed killers can be bad for more than just your garden and the environment.
Dealing with a weed problem in your yard can be a frustrating experience. But when trying to eliminate the vegetal invaders, you may want to hold back from reaching for a bottle of traditional weed killer. According to a 2009 study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, mounting evidence shows that the products can severely negatively impact your garden and your long-term health. And in 2020, German chemical and pharmaceutical company Bayer was forced to pay out $10 billion in a lawsuit after its Roundup weed killer was linked to cancer cases in customers.
Fortunately, experts point out there's a natural method of getting rid of unwanted plants that can offer a safer alternative to harsh chemical products. John La Puma, the designer behind urban-certified organic fruit farm La Puma Farms, recommends filling a spray bottle with horticultural vinegar and adding a tablespoon of dish soap. The mixture will dehydrate the plant while breaking it down more quickly, making it easier to remove without affecting the soil or surrounding vegetation as much.
Regardless, experts recommend letting one common weed grow.
As much as they may spark joy in young children who find them, dandelions are arguably near the top of the list of public enemies for gardeners. The flowering weeds can seem impossible to avoid or entirely remove due to their deep roots and biennial growing cycle. But according to experts, the ubiquitous yellow flowers may not deserve the bad reputation they have.
"Dandelions can actually be beneficial for your yard," Chris Garrett from Evergreen Lawn & Pest Control tells Best Life. "Dandelions attract bees, which are important pollinators. They also attract other beneficial insects, like ladybugs and lacewings. And dandelions are a good source of food for birds."
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Dandelions can benefit other plants and grass growing in your yard.
Contrary to popular belief, the common weeds can actually positively impact your garden or yard by solving an issue you may not have realized you had. "Dandelion roots are known to grow up to 10 to 15 feet into the soil, helping with conditions such as compacted dirt or too much moisture in the ground which can prevent healthy grasses from growing," Jeremy Griffin from Just Right Lawns in Texas tells Best Life. "They essentially aerate the ground naturally and can help with excess water pooling, which can cause root rot in other plants."
In some cases, the maligned yellow flower can even turn difficult patches of dirt into a more lush landscape. "Dandelions are good for your soil. They are tough plants," Trent Ragar, owner of Natural State Pest Control, tells Best Life. "They can survive in almost any type of soil, and they're very drought-tolerant. So if you have a problem with dry, patchy lawn, dandelions might actually be helping to keep it alive!"
It can be easier to slow the spread of dandelions with one simple trick.
Experts also point out that besides providing soil benefits, they can still be an aesthetically pleasing option when all else fails in your yard. "Although it isn't common practice in the world of perfectly manicured lawns, dandelions are sometimes used as an environmentally friendly alternative to filling in bare soil areas," Glenn Phillips from Southern Greens Pest Control in Florida tells Best Life. "They're able to grow in harsh conditions, so they offer a pretty, flowering, fast-growing alternative to bare dirt."
Fortunately, you also don't have to worry about them taking over your yard too quickly if you follow a straightforward tactic. "Dandelions spread only by seed," Erika Johnson, coordinator of Washington State University Clark County Extension's Master Gardener program, tells The Oregonian. "You can leave them around only as long as they haven't set seeds. Since I mow my dandelions before they can set seed, they don't do much in terms of reproducing."