Garden, Home and Garden

The Beneficial Weeds You Want In Your Garden

Put that spade and pair of secateurs down! Before you do any weeding at all, have a read about the beneficial weeds you want in your garden that help the environment, and help support wildlife. You can even eat some of them too.

It’s time we changed how we look at gardening. With the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) no longer classing slugs and snails as pests – instead urging people to consider these creatures as an important part of the garden ecosystem – it’s high time we did the same with weeds.

It was Ian Emberson who wrote the words “a weed is a flower in the wrong place, a flower is a weed in the right place”. Instead of waging war on the flowers in the wrong place, let’s change how we look at them. Many weeds after all are beneficial to the environment, our gardens, and to wildlife. And surprisingly, many weeds are edible too.

The Beneficial Weeds You Want In Your Garden

A garden planter with a blue text box that says the beneficial weeds you want in your garden.

In the UK, our collective private gardens cover an area of land that is bigger than all of the country’s nature reserves combined. That’s a huge area and means our gardens have great potential to provide vital space for wildlife.

We can start to make positive changes, just by changing how we view weeds.

Here are just some of the beneficial weeds you want in your garden, that all help to support our native wildlife. Many of these weeds are also beneficial when it comes to growing fruit and vegetables, and many are also edible. Of course, do consult a book on foraging or an app if you have any doubts about identifying edible types of weeds before you eat them.

Nettles

patch of nettles

Top of the list is nettles. Nettles are an amazing beneficial weed because these stinging plants support an array of wildlife. Butterflies, such as the Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell, and moths lay their eggs on nettles. Meanwhile caterpillars and aphids and other insects all eat nettles. In fact, nettles can support over 40 types of insects.

However, it’s not just insects that benefit from the presence of nettles. A host of other wildlife is attracted to nettles because they like to eat the insects that gorge on nettles. Ladybirds, parasitic wasps, hedgehogs, frogs, toads, shrews, and birds such as blue tits, all visit to feast on these insects and aphids. It’s a veritable feeding frenzy!

In the autumn, nettles provide a further feast. Small birds, including the sparrow, chaffinch, and bullfinch come to feast on the seeds which each nettle plant produces.

Companion Planting With Nettles

If you grow your own fruit and vegetables, then nettles make for great companion plants. This is because growing clumps of nettles between crops help to attract beneficial predators, such as ladybirds. These will help to control pests naturally, without the use of harmful pesticides.

Eating Nettles

You can also eat nettles. In spring you can make delicious wild nettle pesto with the tips of the spring shoots. A word of warning though – don’t pick nettle leaves after they have started flowering – usually around late May. Once nettles start flowering, a chemical in the leaves can upset your urinary tract.  Consider nettles a springtime treat, and for the rest of the year leave them for wildlife to enjoy.

Sorrel As A Beneficial Weed

Sorrel plant

You might class sorrel as an annoyance that pops up on your lawn, but it’s actually a pretty beneficial weed to have in your garden.

Sorrel is beloved by slugs, snails and aphids, and some species of butterfly and moth larvae also feed on the leaves too. This in turn attracts other wildlife, which then eat these creatures.

Companion Planting With Sorrel

Sorrel also makes a great companion plant when growing strawberries, cabbages or tomatoes. This simple but clever technique works by creating a diversion and drawing pests away from the main fruit and vegetable plants you are trying to protect.

Eating Sorrel

Most types of sorrel are also edible. Young sorrel leaves can be used as a herb, or as a salad leaf. Sorrel has a very fresh and zingy flavour, that is reminiscent of that of the zest of a lemon. This flavour really lifts a dish naturally. Because of this, sorrel has become one of my favourite things to grow in my garden. Eat the leaves when they are young though – I find that the larger they get, the leaves take on more of a woody texture which isn’t so tasty.

With so many beneficial properties, I promise, you’ll soon view sorrel as a plant, rather than a weed.

Dandelions

Dandelions - beneficial weeds you want in your garden.

Dandelions have long been a scourge of gardeners. Those long taproots that are difficult to remove from the ground mean that dandelions just keep popping up when you don’t want them. However, dandelions do make for an incredibly beneficial weed.

Dandelions provide food to many different pollinators. This includes bumblebees, solitary bees, hoverflies, butterflies and some species of moths and beetles. As one of the first plants to flower in spring, and the last to flower in autumn, dandelions are incredibly important to our pollinators. They are particularly important in early spring when some of these species emerge hungry from hibernation.

Other species in turn eat these insects, whilst later on in the year, birds such as goldfinches and house sparrows munch the dandelion seeds.

Companion Planting With Dandelions

Whilst you may think you don’t want dandelions growing in your vegetable garden, then I encourage you to think again. Far from being just weeds, dandelions make a fantastic beneficial companion plant to have in your garden.

As well as attracting pollinating insects to your vegetable patch, the dandelion’s long taproots help to break apart hard soils. These roots are also said to bring up nutrients from deep down in the soil to the surface. This helps to nourish other plants growing in close proximity.

Interestingly, dandelions also release ethylene gas. If grown near fruit or tomatoes, this gas that they give off can help speed up the ripening process.

Eating Dandelions

It’s a little know fact that dandelions are edible. The petals can be eaten raw in salads, or you can boil them in sugar to make dandelion syrup – also known as vegan honey. The leaves again can be eaten raw in salads or boiled to be eaten as a substitute for spinach. Some people even bake the roots and ground that down to use as a coffee substitute.

Wild Carrot As A Beneficial Weed

wild carrot plant

Whilst wild carrot has historically been classed as a weed, this beautiful plant is beneficial to a host of insects, such as bees, beetles and hoverflies. Its ferny foliage and white flowers mean it looks great growing in your garden borders too.

Companion Planting With Wild Carrot

Planting wild carrots helps to attract hoverflies to your garden. Hoverflies are a great garden guest to have, as they eat the aphids that like to feast on your prize vegetables. Hoverflies have short tongues so they need accessible flowers where they can drink nectar. Wild carrot is an accessible flower for hoverflies, so you can naturally reduce your aphid populations without resorting to pesticides.

Eating Wild Carrot

Whilst the young roots of wild carrots are edible, as well as the flowers, I prefer to give them a wide berth. This is because wild carrot is very similar in appearance to other members of the same family, such as the highly poisonous hemlock plant and the poisonous hemlock water-dropwort plant. Personally, I would reserve wild carrot as a beneficial weed for the wildlife to enjoy.

So let’s put down the weedkiller, put down that spade, and embrace the weeds to make your garden an insect and animal friendly oasis. Of course, you don’t have to turn your whole garden over to weeds – simply allowing one small patch or a couple of tubs to grow wild can make a huge difference to our native wildlife. If you are worried about being overrun by dandelions, simply cut the flower heads off before they go to seed.

Health & Beauty, Life & Style

The Best Eco-Friendly Shower Gel To Get Squeaky Clean

Green your showering regime, with our guide to the best natural and eco-friendly shower gel. From plastic-free shower gel to refill shower gel and more – here’s how you can get squeaky clean the green way.

To help support the running costs of Moral Fibres, this post contains affiliate links, denoted by *. We may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to readers, on items that have been purchased through those links.

While I’m a fan of using super sustainable bars of soap in the shower, I know that some people are not a fan of soap bars. Even though it has been proven that communal soap bars cannot transmit germs, I know more than a few people who won’t entertain the idea of using a bar of soap in the shower.

If washing yourself with a bar of soap in the shower isn’t your thing then don’t worry, I’m not here to preach or pour shame on you. Instead, let me show you some eco-friendly shower gel options. This includes those in plastic-free packaging, as well as clever refill options so that you can still shower sustainably.

The Best Natural & Eco-Friendly Shower Gel

Natural bathing products, with a blue text box that says the best eco-friendly shower gel to get squeaky clean with.

Here are my top natural and eco-friendly shower gel recommendations:

Beauty Kitchen Vegan Shower Gel

Beauty Kitchen plastic-free organic and vegan shower gel and body wash

Beauty Kitchen’s organic, vegan and plastic-free body* wash ticks a lot of the eco-friendly shower gel boxes.

This B-Corp certified beauty product brand makes its shower gel with all-natural and sustainably sourced ingredients. This includes ingredients such as organic coconut and organic sunflower oils. When it comes to the scent there’s nothing artificial here either – essential oils provide the scent.

Beauty Kitchen’s shower gel is available in a range of scents – from minty fresh to zingy citrus, to a relaxing botanical blend. For sensitive skin, there’s a fragrance-free option too.

Packaged in aluminium bottles, you can reuse this durable packaging yourself at your local refill shop. Beauty Kitchen has thought carefully about the reuse potential of their bottles, so the labels adhere with ultra-low tack adhesive so they can be easily removed.

Alternatively, you can send your bottle back to Beauty Kitchen for free and they will wash and reuse the bottles in their next batch. You can do so by post, or if you have a Holland & Barrett store near you, they can be returned here.

Buy direct from Beauty Kitchen* from £8. You can also get 25% off your first order when you sign up for the Beauty Kitchen mailing list. Other retailers include Big Green Smile*, Planet Organic* and Feel Unique*.


Faith In Nature Refill Body Wash

Faith In Nature offers eco-friendly shower gel that you can refill in zero-waste shops across the country. If you don’t have access to a zero-waste shop near you then you can also buy the 5-litre cartons, to refill your own bottles at home.

Whether you refill at a shop or at home, you can even get a pretty and plastic-free Faith In Nature branded aluminium refill bottle* to help you avoid plastic.

As well as the refill potential, there are lots of reasons to love Faith In Nature’s range of body wash. For a start, it’s made right here in the UK from natural ingredients. This means it contains no parabens or SLS/SLES. Secondly, their entire range is vegetarian and vegan-friendly and free from animal testing. And thirdly, their shower gels are free from artificial colours and fragrances.

With heaps of different fragrance options, there’s something to suit every taste.

Buy Faith In Nature from refill shops across the country. 5L bottles to refill at home can be bought from Ethical Superstore* or Big Green Smile*.


Bower Collective Refillable Body Wash

bower collective refillable shower gel cartons

Bower Collective’s range of own-brand sustainable body washes* are made in the UK using naturally derived, ethically sourced and environmentally responsible ingredients.

Free from ingredients such as SLS and parabens, their eco-friendly shower gel is also vegan and cruelty-free.

Bower Collective’s clever refill and return service help lessen the environmental impact of your shower. Simply decant your pouch into any old shower gel bottle. Once the pouch is empty – you don’t even need to wash it out – simply pop the pouches in the pre-paid returns envelope that comes with your Bower Collective order.

To make the returns process as environmentally friendly as possible, Bower Collective advise collecting around 4 pouches in the returns envelope before sending it back. Once the envelope is ready to send, you just pop it straight into a postbox. Or, if it’s easier for you, you can take it to your nearest Post Office for free return.

Once returned to Bower Collective, it’s then refilled with the same product at their refill centre, ready to be used again. Each pouch can be reused up to 10 times, and at the end of life, it is responsibly recycled with Bower Collective’s specialist partner. 

Buy eco-friendly shower gel directly from Bower Collective*, from £6.99.


Miniml Body Wash

Miniml eco-friendly body wash in a glass bottle

Looking for shower gel in a glass bottle? Miniml’s deliciously scented pink grapefruit and aloe vera shower gel is the one you are looking for.

This richly foaming yet gentle, sulphate free body wash naturally keeps even sensitive skin smooth and moisturised.

As well as being made in the UK, the vegan formulation is cruelty-free. What’s more, it’s free from chlorine bleaches, solvents, lanoline, sulphates, parabens and phosphates.

Refill the glass bottle in refill shops. Or if that isn’t practical for you, you can buy a 5L or even 20L refill carton to refill at home.

Shop Miniml eco-friendly shower gel at Wearth* for £5.50 for 500 ml, or buy a bulk refill carton from £34.95*.


Looking to make your bathing habits even more sustainable? Let me help – I’ve got guides to plastic-free bubble bath, eco-friendly shampoo, and the best shampoo bars.