How to Grow Edible Weeds in Your Lawn
Growing edible weeds in your lawn is a great way to get free food and add diversity to your landscape. Here’s how to get started:
Choose the Right Location
When selecting a lawn area to cultivate edible weeds, sun exposure is key. Most edible weeds thrive best in full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day). A southern or western exposure is ideal.
Ideally, choose a part of your yard that you don’t mind looking a bit unruly. Areas along fences or hedges are a good option. You’ll be allowing the weeds to grow rather than continually eliminating them, so expect your edible weed patch to look different than the rest of your manicured lawn.
Decide Which Edible Weeds to Grow
Many common lawn weeds are actually nutritious edibles if you know how to use them. Some good options include:
Dandelions – The young leaves are delicious raw in salads or cooked like spinach. The flowers are used to make dandelion wine.
Purslane – This succulent weed has leaves and stems that are great in salads, stir fries, and soups.
Plantain – The young, tender leaves taste good when sautéed. Medicinally, plantain leaves can help relieve itchy insect bites when rubbed on the skin.
Chickweed – Chickweed leaves, stems, and flowers add texture and green flavor to salads and pesto.
Clover – Both red and white clover flowers are edible with a mildly sweet flavor great for salads or tea.
Wild violets – The flowers and leaves add color and a mild flavor to salads, desserts, and syrups.
Start with just 2 or 3 edible weeds that grow well in your area and that you’re most excited to use. You can always add more later.
Allow the Weeds to Grow
The key to a thriving patch of edible weeds is to stop fighting against them. Skip weeding, mowing, and using herbicides in your designated edible weed area.
Allow the weeds to complete their full life cycle and reseed themselves. Over time, this will encourage more edible weeds to establish themselves.
It’s fine to do some spot weeding of any poisonous or nuisance weeds like thistles. But leave the edible weeds alone to flourish.
Harvest Your Edible Weeds
Once your edible weeds are established, simply harvest them as needed:
Use scissors or pruning shears to cut leaves and stems near the base of the plant. Only harvest up to 30% of each plant at a time to keep it healthy.
Pluck off edible flowers. Be sure to leave some behind for reseeding.
Dig up weed roots like dandelion after the plant flowers. This prevents further spread of the weed.
Clean all harvested weeds thoroughly since they come from an area treated with chemicals.
Enjoy your edible weeds fresh, or preserve them by dehydrating, freezing, or canning. Over time, you’ll get good at identifying the edible weed seedlings and letting them flourish in your lawn.
Consider Overwintering Some Plants
At the end of the growing season, consider leaving a few edible weed plants intact to overwinter. This will give them a headstart the following spring.
Mulch overwintering plants with leaves or straw to help protect them from severe frosts. The dead plant material left standing will also provide habitat for beneficial insects.
Benefits of Growing Edible Weeds
Cultivating a patch of edible weeds in your yard has many benefits:
Free food – No need to purchase salad greens or herbs when you can harvest them fresh from your lawn.
Less work – Allowing weeds to grow means less time and money spent on weed control.
Supports pollinators – Flowers like clover and violets provide food for bees and butterflies.
Sustains wildlife – Birds eat the seeds and use the plants for shelter and nesting.
Improves soil – Deep dandelion roots break up compacted soil and mine nutrients like calcium from deep in the ground.
Adds diversity – A healthy lawn ecosystem includes plants other than just grass.
Growing a few edible weeds makes the most of your yard and puts free, nutritious food right at your fingertips. Give it a try this growing season!