Leaving some weeds in your garden can be a good thing

Overlooked by many, dandelions are now the dark horse in the realm of salad ingredients...

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and gardening season has arrived across Canada.

From melons and marigolds — gardens are a great way to put homegrown produce on your table and provide a colourful backdrop. And while most store shelves will be cleared of tulips and lilies, it’s the untraditional plants that you may want to consider to set your yard apart from the rest.

First, leave the weeds — those ‘pesky’ yellow ones anyway. Overlooked by many, dandelions are now the dark horse in the realm of salad ingredients.

Packed with calcium, iron and antioxidants, this leafy green is a multipurpose ‘super-food’ growing in popularity among restaurateurs and health nuts. Hot tea, soups, fruit smoothies — even wine — can be improved nutritionally, simply by adding dandelion.

And while you’re enriching your diet, why not do the same for some winged friends?

Milkweed flowers, sought out by butterflies for nourishment, will help your garden achieve a rustic feel and notably add to its fragrance.

Milkweed is a main food source for the monarch butterfly; a species conservationists say is worth planting for. In Canada, monarchs exist primarily wherever milkweed and wildflowers such as goldenrod and asters exist.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada is Canada’s leading land conservation organization. The NCC has developed monarch-friendly seed-planting programs in the prairies to help remedy their habitat loss and improve their concerning population decline.

Planting a garden is a way to relax. It’s a way to experience gift-giving with nature. And it’s a way to explore the seemingly endless boundaries of Canadian ecology.

So this year when you’re choosing what new items to bring to your backyard, ask not what you can do for your garden, but what your garden can do for you — and perhaps what your garden can do for a few friendly visitors!

To learn more about making your garden monarch-friendly, visit www.natureconservancy.ca or www.monarchteacher.ca.

— The Nature Conservancy of Canada

Editor’s note: Monarch butterflies are rarely seen in the Comox Valley, but maybe we can attract a few more.

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