By Doreen Pollack
Herbicides are toxic to most mammals (that means you, your dog and your kids) as well as to the beneficial insects that you want in your garden to keep harmful pests away. Sometimes herbicides seep into the groundwater, causing contamination with unknown long-term effects. In fact, agriculture is the top non-source polluter nationwide. Phasing out the use of chemical herbicides at home can make a positive significant impact on our pollution problem and protect our aquifer.
If you are going to choose to use herbicides, consider non-toxic alternatives. Several companies have come out with more environmentally sound herbicides, including Bioganic by Green Light. Another approach is corn gluten. When spread on bare Earth it been shown to prevent weed growth. Check your local nursery or online for non-toxic products.
Weed Killer Recipes – aka Herbicides
If you want to empty out your pantry, use these recipes to spot-weed the yard. I usually use one part dish soap with two parts vinegar and two parts water. Dish soap makes the vinegar stick to the weeds longer. These home remedies and a couple of days baking in the sun should do the trick!
These recipes are most effective when used on emerging weeds and should be only be used on plants you want to remove. Spray these mixtures directly on pesky weeds in the garden or pour directly into cracks of walks and driveways.
Vinegar Weed Killer
- 1 tablespoon gin
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or regular)
- 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap
- 1 quart hot water
- 1 gallon distilled (or regular) vinegar
- 1 cup salt
- 1 tablespoon liquid dish soap
Vinegar and salt are great for places where you won’t be growing anything in the near future. Spray directly on plants.
Baking soda can also be put directly on weeds – they will turn black and shrivel up.
Boiling water will kill weeds when poured on them.
Pour Coca-Cola in the cracks of the sidewalk to kill weeds. It’s sticky, but within a week the weeds will be dead.
Non-Toxic Preventative Weed Control
Herbicides are marketed as quick and easy solutions to weed problems. However, their use does not fix the problem; it only temporarily stalls weed growth. If they are used as the sole “solution,” they will need to be used again and again – preventive methods are a better solution. Weeds need a certain environment to thrive. If that environment isn’t ideal for weeds, they will be less likely to grow. Working from this simple premise not only saves time and money, it also prevents dangerous chemicals from being released into our environment.
Weed control can be a daunting task. However, with regular maintenance and a few preventive tools, weeding can be manageable – even easy.
- Get out the tools. During the growing season, make a commitment to weed 20 minutes every week. Grab a hoe and disturb the little guys before they have the opportunity to grow big and tough. Circle hoes and asparagus knives/weeders are great weeding investments.
- Mulch, mulch, mulch! Weed bare earth thoroughly and cover three inches or more with wood chips, grass clippings, straw, and/or leaves. This will also help your plants conserve water and provide them nutrients. For pathways and other unplanted spots, place black landscaping cloth (or newspapers) under the mulch.
- Crowd them out. Plant beds closely and evenly, leaving little room for weeds to grow. As your plants grow, they will crowd weeds out as they drink all water and shade the bare ground.
- Clip em. Do not let weeds set seed. If nothing else, clip weed flowers and seed heads as you see them.
- Cover it. In the off-season, incorporate cover crops or mulch to prevent weed growth.
- Rotate crops from year to year. Weeds hate that, as do pests.
Your weeds make a great addition to a hot compost pile. Remember to regularly maintained [turned and watered] your compost pile to keep out seeds and invasive weed roots out.
Doreen Pollack is the Garden Goddess and owner of Down 2 Earth Gardens, where she provides garden consultations and coaching. Visit ww.down2earthgardens.com for information about her gardening workshops around the Valley.
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