Natural Weed Control: Battle the Hassle and Banish the Herbicides



Dandelionflower Weeds! Don’t you hate em?

And no wonder.

Weeds are like those prank candles people put on top of a beautifully decorated birthday cake. You go to make your birthday wish –only to have it thrown back in your face when the candles refuse to blow out. No matter how often you blow, the flame reappears. Then, just when you think you’ve finally won, you realize you’ve sprayed wax all over the cake, leaving you both defeated and wishless.

Although the scenario is an obvious exaggeration, it highlights the challenge you face every time you try to control weeds. They keep coming back. And if your only solution is to use chemicals to control them, well, it’s a lot like spraying wax all over your delicious cake.

There are some environmentally friendly herbal and biodegradable sprays you can use to control unwanted plants. But before you take that step, try these practical, eco, and cheap cultivation techniques.

Go back to the beginning. The key to safe, environmental weed control lies in creating great growing conditions for your desired plants. Weed seeds exist in every garden, but healthy soil will discourage them from growing . What can you do? Aerate your lawn to keep the soil loose and fertile. Water foundation plants so they’ll stay healthy and grow to the appropriate size. Add compost and sunlight to build a nourishing environment for the plants you want to thrive. 

Play around with your planting.  Space your plants closer together. As the plants reach maturity their leaves will touch and help block out light to the ground below, making it more difficult for weeds to survive. You can also try competitive planting, such as putting some bushes or fast-growing annual plants in your bed to prevent  weed seeds from germinating. To avoid buying expensive nursery plants,  save money by swapping plants with friends and neighbors instead. 

Mulch heavily. A thick layer of mulch keeps the light from reaching the weeds. Bonus? Organic mulch such as straw, grass clippings, leaves and shredded bark will nourish your soil as they decompose.

Reuse old newspapers, flattened cardboard boxes, or Kraft paper (paper used to make grocery bags). Put any of these materials on top of the ground, then mulch on top of them.  A University of Vermont  study  found that applying a 6-inch layer of newspaper at the beginning of one season controlled weeds for two seasons thereafter, without needing  a new layer of mulch. The study also concluded that the thickest cover  (cardboard, Kraft) results in the least weed growth. 

Weed regularly. I spend about an hour a week weeding my garden. I always have weeds, but they’re usually never out of control. Honestly, I welcome the time alone digging around in the soil and reconnecting to Nature.

Plant a native ground cover. Choose a plant that will spread nicely and squeeze out weeds without overrunning your foundation plants. A native ground cover will help restore biodiversity to your yard while thriving in the water, soil, and sunlight conditions your space offers.

Concoct your own non-toxic herbicide. Researchers have found acetic acid (vinegar) to be a successful non-toxic herbicide. To make your own natural weed killer the USDA suggests slightly higher concentrations of vinegar as opposed to the five percent concentrations found in ordinary households – though be careful: stronger concentrations should be handled with caution. Additionally, make sure to pour or spray the vinegar directly on the weed  or you could possibly destroy the plants you desire to keep in good health. To purchase stronger concentrations online visit Morgan County Seeds.

Maybe most importantly, learn to live with a few weeds. Remember that weeds contribute to the biodiversity of your yard. Almost any kind of plant helps  protect soil from erosion  and improves drainage for surrounding roots that are still growing.

Want to learn more? This excellent article highlights the toxic ingredients in many commercial weed killers and shows why it’s important to read the label on any weed killer you buy. 

For even more information and easy organic gardening tips, check out the Garden/Landscape pages of Big Green Purse. The Green Moms Carnival, hosted by Anna over at Green Talk, offers lots of great ideas, too.

, , , , , , , ,

12 Responses to Natural Weed Control: Battle the Hassle and Banish the Herbicides

  1. Kathy J, Washington Gardener Mag August 25, 2009 at 4:13 pm #

    I do the vinegar in a spray bottle thing but I also add a bit of dish soap to it to give it more “stickiness” — I also use boiling water on weeds in cracks and hard to pull places.

  2. Diane MacEachern August 26, 2009 at 5:53 am #

    Good idea about the dish soap. I’ll have to try the boiling water. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Kim September 12, 2009 at 2:54 pm #

    Vinegar works great, just spray it on during the heat of the day on a sunny day, otherwise it’s not as effective.
    20% Horticultural Vinegar is fabulous for hard to kill stuff. I buy mine online, since it’s hard to find, but it’s four times as powerful as the kitchen stuff!

  4. Green Fundraising September 13, 2009 at 6:20 pm #

    This I am trying – ” found that applying a 6-inch layer of newspaper at the beginning of one season controlled weeds for two seasons thereafter, without needing a new layer of mulch. The study also concluded that the thickest cover (cardboard, Kraft) results in the least weed growth.”
    If this really works, it is brilliant! Controls weeds in such an inexpensive, easy way compared to the mainstream weed killers!
    Jeanne

  5. GetGreenBeWell September 15, 2009 at 2:21 pm #

    Jeanne,
    The newspaper idea really does work, but I’m not sure about the 6 inches! I used just three or four sheets under mulch in one season, and it had barely just decomposed over the course of a year. Maybe try 8-10 sheets in thickness, but not 6 inches!

  6. Zach September 17, 2009 at 3:40 pm #

    Hey these are some great ideas to stop the weeds before using the chemicals. I had no idea grass clippings fertilize the soil. However it seems no matter what I do weeds always find their way through the mulch.

  7. Diane MacEachern September 26, 2009 at 1:30 pm #

    I live with a weedy lawn and don’t worry about it. Weeds are always green, even in a drought. They cover the ground, don’t require fertilizer, are easy to mow…and do their part absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere. I don’t like ‘em in my flower beds, but as part of the lawn, they’re fine by me! :-)

  8. Anna@Green Talk April 12, 2010 at 6:00 am #

    I use newspaper all the time. Actually steal it from my neighbors at recycling time. It does work. Cardboard paper does work. I use it to kill grass when I am making a garden bed.
    As for living ground cover, I have one but it takes awhile to establish and you are still weeding in the living cover. It just makes it harder.
    I would not space my plants closer than reccommended. I see the advantage to this but I follow the guidelines on the plant tag. Plants need a certain space to grow; otherwise you are moving them.

  9. Lynn from OrganicMania.com April 14, 2010 at 1:41 pm #

    Diane, this post made me want to visit your garden! Such great tips – you sound like quite the gardener!
    We bought our home from a master gardener, and as we dug up and moved things, we found newspaper and even plastic laid down to prevent weeds…I guess it’s better than throwing it out, eh? (I’m SURE he was re-using it…he was just that kind of man!)
    Thanks for this great contribution to the Green Moms Carnival!

  10. AmberS April 15, 2010 at 9:01 pm #

    I am learning to weed regularly. I used to hate it, but now that I have a couple of kids getting some time to myself in my yard really is lovely. And I get an immense sense of satisfaction when I manage to extract a really big one, root intact.

  11. Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green April 18, 2010 at 10:50 am #

    We use vinegar for weeds. I also put cardboard in my food garden when I closed it up for the winter.

  12. Fantastic Gardening Pro March 26, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    In my personal experience weeds sometimes prove useful. If you heard about fireweed, I can say that it has quite some helpful uses in the garden. As a gardener I wrote an article about firweed. You can check it out below.
    http://phoenity.org/how-to-grow-fireweed/

Leave a Reply

Go Green. Save Money. Guaranteed!

Save $5,070 THIS YEAR With Our FREE Go Green, Save Money Guide

Don't worry! We protect your privacy.

Close this popup

  • Get the Greener, Cleaner, Healthier Life You Want & Save $$$ Doing It - Guaranteed!