We are Growing Weeds

My partner Mick and I garden. A lot. We try all kinds of stuff and are pretty fond of native plants because we believe they’re better for all the critters that buzz around and nibble on the seeds. We have reduced the size of our lawn a little every year – no love lost between us and grass that needs mowing or watering or fertilizing.

This year, Mick decided to try something different. Well, it was last year, really. He ordered a mix of native grass and flower seeds from one of his favorite places, Prairie Moon Nursery, last summer. After some research, Mick and I pulled up the raised beds we had in our backyard, removed all the old landscape fabric, broke up the soil a bit. Mick added the seed mix to some sand.  In late autumn, he spread that mixture all around where the raised beds had been.

And then we waited.

This spring, an assortment of seedlings emerged. Mick’s research indicated that we should just leave it all alone – don’t step on it, don’t pull anything, let the natives and the weeds from elsewhere battle it out. Eventually, we are supposed to mow the area and let it grow again.

And this is what we have so far:

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Looking into our own backyard

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Looking toward our neighbor’s yard

It doesn’t look like much yet. But today I noticed this thistle that the birds are going to love:

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Can you see the thorny thistle nestled in with other plants?

And I’ve noticed the rabbits around here spend a lot of time in the new garden. Yes, in spite of its weedy unkempt appearance, it is a garden.

We know from having native plants in other spots in our yard that it will take a couple of seasons for these plants to thrive and show us their flowers. We know that this is not most people’s idea of what looks good in a yard right this minute. But we are clear that our backyard experiment might be one small good thing for the environment. I was reminded of this when I came across an article in yesterday’s Star Tribune about farm chemicals and something called soil regeneration. (See: Conventionally farmed land is literally dirt poor. A Vermont couple has set out to change that.)

I’m not comparing our backyard to a farm, nor do I have the education about what it takes to farm to make comments on the article referenced. But it did get me thinking about the simple things we do every day to make our surroundings grow the things we want to grow: fertilizing our lawns, spraying assorted pesticides on flowers or vegetables to keep them from being eaten before their time, planting flowers that do more harm than good to the bees that we all know are in trouble anyway. Do we really need the fertilizers and pesticides? No. And Mick and I are choosing to grow what looks like weeds as one step in making our little piece of earth a healthier place. We are seeing if we can regenerate that one little plot of the backyard.

We have some guests who recently moved in to the spot we made for them a few feet from the weed garden:

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Our mason bee (and other bugs) house – see the bits of mud in some of the holes? That’s an indication that the mason bees have moved in.

Our weed patch is going to bloom into something wonderful. We just need to have the patience to wait for it.

And while we’re waiting, we’ll read up on what’s next for soil regeneration in our own backyard. If we believe the personal is political, then our own backyards are all some kind of ground zero.


10 comments

  1. Interestingly, a number of so called ‘weeds’ are edible, nutritious and delicious! When I started to learn more about this it amazed me that so much time, effort and money is used to poison the earth when she is actually trying to feed us — with wild dandelions, clover and violets, to name a few. Great piece!

  2. Butterflies are going to love you. Can’t wait to see what you’ve done with the backyard! Ours is maintained for the Corgis, of course. (Well, and the grandkids)

  3. I love that you are doing this, Kathleen. A nephew also has a mason bee house and I had no idea what I was viewing. He also has hives and lives on a rural acreage outside Faribault. But you are proving that even those of us who live in town can make a difference with what we plant in our yards.

    I have milkweeds growing here and there and everywhere to entice Monarchs. Last week I spotted one hovering by the milkweed in my backyard. Unfortunately my neighbor mowed off the milkweed in my front yard near the property line. He cuts across our yard to reach his. I was not happy, but I also forgot to “warn him.” Next year I will have to explain that “those plants there are milkweed; please don’t mow them.”

    • Hi Audrey – I’m so sorry you lost your milkweed to the neighbor’s mower! They will surely grow back – they are tenacious once they appear. We get monarchs and swallowtails on our milkweed along with the hummingbird moths which are very cool. Our experiment is going to teach us a lot, I expect!


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