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.