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Carl Wernicke: Make A Space For Weeds In Your Yard


One of the casualties of our evolving lives is that new things often take time from old things. Between traveling in our RV and other events, this year my wife and I have been unable to devote as much time to our garden as normal.

But we are catching up, and in doing so have encountered the age-old nemesis of anyone with a lawn or garden: weeds. The easy definition of a weed is anything we didn’t plant ourselves, and which nature insists on sprouting haphazardly amongst our carefully planned landscape.

Upon resuming our gardening, I found that a particularly abundant and fast-growing weed was well established. Because it is also easy to pull, in the past I have suppressed it effectively. This year it got ahead of me, taking hold in the corners while I worked on the beds and paths. And then one day I noticed that it was blooming, with bunches of pretty pink flowers.

The next thing I noticed was honey bees and bumble bees feeding on the blooms, and I stopped pulling them. And started thinking about weeds.

As a species we have done such a good job of suppressing weeds and planting the biologically barren monocultures we call yards that many other species have become endangered. Today, even insects are threatened, including some we claim to value, such as bees and butterflies.

Meanwhile, we go to great trouble, and expense, to plant things that will attract pollinators and provide food for them … all while nature has been trying to do the job for us, at no cost or labor, if only we would let it.

As it turns out, it’s easy to work with nature on solving this problem. Start by leaving portions of your yard – edges, borders, corners, places you don’t really use – for weeds to proliferate. You likely will be astonished if take some time to observe how much insect life is drawn to these areas. We have a tangled border on one side of the yard marked with a sign that says “Pardon our Weeds, We’re Feeding the Bees.” Hopefully people get the message.

A lot of effort by local groups has gone into planting native plants at Bruce Beach at the edge of downtown Pensacola. My hope is that when the City gets around to fully developing it, the plan will include substantial natural areas where nature will be allowed to paint the palette most pleasing — and nourishing — to its natural inhabitants.

Yes, sometimes we need to interfere and remove invasive species, which we usually have had a hand in bringing, but left to itself nature will almost always, and seamlessly, do the right thing.

Carl Wernicke is a native of Pensacola. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1975 with a degree in journalism. After 33 years as a reporter and editor, he retired from the Pensacola News Journal in April 2012; he spent the last 15 years at the PNJ as editor of the editorial page. He joined the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in 2012 as Senior Writer and Communications Manager, and retired from IHMC in 2015.His hobbies include reading, traveling, gardening, hiking, enjoying nature around his home in Downtown Pensacola, as well as watching baseball and college football, especially the Florida Gators and New York Yankees. His wife, Patti, retired as a senior vice president at Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union and is a Master Gardener. Carl is a regular contributor to WUWF. His commentaries focus on life in and around the Pensacola area and range in subject matter from birding to downtown redevelopment and from preserving our natural heritage to life in local neighborhoods.