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11 Ways to Kill Weeds Without Using Poisonous Roundup
If you are a homeowner with a beautiful, green lawn, then it only makes sense that you and weeds are not the best of friends. Many homeowners believe that Roundup and other chemical weed killers are the best way to go but this would be a mistake. The use of deadly toxic chemicals to kill weeds leech into garden soils and contaminate fruits and vegetables. Add water and rain to the mix and the runoff will trickle down into the ground water, lakes, and streams that we use for drinking water.
Roundup and other toxic chemicals can be quite expensive while being less effective than more natural methods. If you like using those “weed and seed” granular combinations, you should know that they are actually very weak applications of both grass seed and herbicides. If your lawn is heavily infested with weeds, even heavy applications of herbicides won’t help much.
There is good news here. You can prevent weeds before they take over their lawn. First, think again about your expectations for your lawn. Only full time efforts can keep lawns completely weed free, such as the kind of care that golf courses receive, but if you are willing to put up with an occasional weed, you can kill current weeds while preventing new ones from cropping up.
1. Organic herbicides, vinegar, and boiling water
There are plenty of organic herbicides on the market, one that are devoid of toxic chemicals. Look for organic soaps, plant oils, and even some household items can all be used as natural herbicides.
You can try drenching weeds with undiluted vinegar. This is especially effective in sunny areas. You should be aware, however, that vinegar that is splashed on the grass or other plants might also be affected.
For weeds or grass that grows in the cracks of sidewalks or other places where you want nothing to grow, douse with boiling water or salt water. Always remember that when you use salt water that the salt can run off and damage other plants so if you have other plants nearby, it’s best to use plain boiling water. This will kill everything, weeds and grass. You will need to reapply when new weeds grow. Salt water will keep everything from growing for 4-6 months in most cases.
2. Biological controls (animals and insects)
Many gardening centers sell insects that can kill other insects as well as weeds but they are very limited in weed control for the home. Geese are also excellent at weed control; however, you need adequate space. If you live on a half-acre or more, a goose or two should do an excellent job at keeping weeds under control. Goats, too, are another good option for those who live on large pieces of land. Goats are excellent at eating weeds and scrub brush on even the hilliest, hard to reach areas. Again, for many average homeowners, keeping a goose or a goat isn’t practical. However, for those of you with a bit of acreage, those are two good options.
3. Crowd control
When it comes to lawn weeds, often the best defense is a good offense. This means that when your lawn is thick and healthy it crowds out weeds and either denies the seeds access to soil or the seedlings to sunlight. You might also want to consider adding groundcover plants to crowd out weeds in decorative flower beds.
Don’t mow your lawn too short and fertilize it frequently to keep your lawn thick and lush. This alone will control most weed problems. Reseeding your lawn in the fall will also help prevent weeds from growing. Most weeds are dead come late season and by reseeding, you give the grass ample opportunity to grow and crowd out weeds before spring. Look for high quality grass seed. This means read the label and buy the highest germination seed with the purest percentage of grass seed that you can afford to buy.
4. Keep the soil healthy
Once you have desirable ground coverage and a thick lawn that will crowd out those weeds, keep them healthy and strong with fertile, well drained, aerated soil. Many home garden centers offer free testing of your soil. Take a sample of your soil and have it tested. This allows you to create an optimal fertilization plan.
Most weeds don’t need any special requirements other than some open space, some sunshine, and a little water, so although you can’t completely eliminate them simply by applying fertilizer, you can prevent them from growing by having a thick cover of desirable vegetation that crowds them out.
Turning over exposed soil is also helpful for managing weeds. Be warned, however, that sometimes tilling kills some weeds, but it sometimes opens up a whole new world for new weeds.
Be sure to till deeply as many weed seeds live close to the surface and they don’t have the strength to come to the surface if they are too deep underground.
6. Get out that hoe
Not that hoe, the one sitting in your garden shed or garage! Hoeing the top soil can be very effective at removing weeds that have cropped up recently but, like tilling, it has its limitations. You might be removing plants you can see, but you could be burying seeds that will crop up in a few weeks’ time. Don’t hoe too deeply. Simply cut weeds off at the soil level. Be sure that you pickup those weeds after they are out of the ground. Many weeds left lying on top of the dirt will simply send down new roots to grow again, so hoe them up and dump them in your compost pile or green waste recycling can.
Mulching flower and vegetable beds is perhaps one of the best ways to control weeds. When you block sunlight to the seeds, they prevent them from sprouting. Almost anything will work, cardboard, newspapers, bark, coconut shells, and decorative rocks, whatever suits your fancy.
Organic mulches are the best choice as they will improve the overall soil structure and add nutrients to the soil while keeping it cool in the summer. Some of the best organic mulches are
- Grass clippings
- Chopped up leaves
- Pine needles
- Shredded wood chips, tree bark, and thick cut sawdust
- Gravel, lava rock, or river rocks
8. Landscape fabric
These are lightweight fabrics with small holes and are very effective at blocking weed growth while still allowing water and air to reach the soil. These can be very effective when used in together with mulch.
These fabrics do allow some light to reach the soil so some weeds will break through, but when used together with mulch, they provide excellent weed control. You can cut the fabric easily to place the plants you want inside the fabric. Be sure the ground is weed free before you put down the fabric to lessen the chance that any weeds will break through.
9. Plastic sheets
If you have an area that you want to keep free of all plants, you can always use solid plastic sheets. The plastic will stop water and sunlight from reaching the soil. In hot, sunny areas, these also are excellent at killing current weeds or grass due to excessive heat.
This is a great way to kill some existing patches of grass before you replace it with a different type of lawn, or plant a vegetable garden in the same location.
Although plastic is good at keeping weeds from germination, it’s not a good idea to use it in places where you plan to grow food as most plastics are made from petroleum products and can leech into the soil.
10. Burn, baby, burn
Another method is to burn weeds. Some people use small, handheld torches or landscape flamers, which are hooked up to propane tanks. This is another method of dealing with weeds in sidewalk cracks and for lawn edging. You don’t have to reduce the weed to ash, however. Just touch it with the flame, and then you can pinch it between your thumb and forefinger. If you leave a fingerprint on the plant, it’s dead.
11. Stop the seeds
It’s virtually impossible to keep every part of your garden and lawn completely weed free. You can, however, keep them from becoming established as well as from spreading. Pulling or removing weeds, using some of the methods described here, before they go to seed is one of the best means of prevention. Many species of weeds grow for several weeks before they flower and then go to seed, this gives you plenty of time to cut their lifespan short.
Dandelions, for example, need to be pulled before the flowers turn into those little puffballs and blow their seeds across your lawn. Just one dandelion plant can make as many as 15,000 seeds every year! Also, each seed can live for as long as 6 years in the soil. So catching them as quickly as possible is very important!
If bending over or getting on your knees to pull those weeds is not your idea of a fun afternoon, or if you have physical problems that might make this difficult, try one of those handheld weed pullers you can use while you are standing. One brand in particular, called Weed Hound, allow you to pull that weed out by using a foot lever.
Pulling weeds before they go to seed will go a long way towards the prevention of weeds in future years. Remember, pulling just one dandelion today will stop as many as 15,000 more from growing in the next few years!