Weeds and What They Tell Us

Oh Dandelion how do I love thee?

Lately, I find myself dreaming of springtime. I yearn for that strong earthy smell that comes with the thawing ground. I crave the sensations that come from having soil between my fingers and toes. Spring is a time of birth and awakening.

The transformation from seed to flower to seed is an incredible thing to behold. I am fortunate to work on the land where I can witness these transformations. Right now everything slumbers beneath deep mounds of snow. Knowing that I’d start longing for spring long before it arrived, I tucked away some springtime cheer including these dandelion seeds. I’ll hold them in my hand to lift my spirit and remind me that this long winter shall pass. When spring finally arrives, I’ll make a wish and let the wind carry these seeds where they will.

Each dandelion seed will grow strong roots and bright flowers which will provide food and protection to the soil and the pollinators. These weeds will also provide us with nourishment and medicine should we choose to acknowledge their worth. Our ancestors knew these plants well. It was not all that long ago that these “weeds” that so many decided to scorn and spray with chemicals were cherished, valued and life saving.

Dandelions and other weeds are able to teach you about the soil conditions of your land. Isn’t that amazing?

Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, a German soil scientist, and biodynamic farmer shared his observations in his book Weeds and What they Tell. By taking the time to get to know the wild plants growing in your garden or on your land, you too can learn a lot about your soil conditions.

In our case, we have an abundance of Dandelion, Mullein, Wood sorrel & Stinging Nettle which indicates that our soil is acidic. Acidic soil can be balanced with limestone and wood ash amendments. We know this to be true though soil testing so it is encouraging to see that this matches. Chickweed & Lambsquarter indicates that our soil is fertile which is also is!

To get started grab yourself some local field guides that will help you identify the wild plants that grow in your area

Once you’ve done that you can read their profiles to determine the soil conditions that they prefer. It is such a worthwhile exercise because you will also be able to learn about which ones are edible, medicinal and when and how to harvest them.

A poor old Widow in her weeds
Sowed her garden with wild-flower seeds;
Not too shallow, and not too deep,
And down came April — drip — drip — drip.
Up shone May, like gold, and soon
Green as an arbour grew leafy June.
And now all summer she sits and sews
Where willow herb, comfrey, bugloss blows,
Teasle and pansy, meadowsweet,
Campion, toadflax, and rough hawksbit;
Brown bee orchis, and Peals of Bells;
Clover, burnet, and thyme she smells;
Like Oberon’s meadows her garden is
Drowsy from dawn to dusk with bees.
Weeps she never, but sometimes sighs,
And peeps at her garden with bright brown eyes;
And all she has is all she needs —
A poor Old Widow in her weeds.”
― Walter de la Mare, Peacock Pie

Helpful Resources

Weeds and What They Tell Us



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