Organic Weed Control
Obviously weeds are all relative, “one mans junk is another mans treasure” is a perfect analogy for the weed. Weeds are simply plants that are in an unwanted environment. For example, in my early gardening days here in Texas I spent countless hours each year removing these pesky weeds I could not identify from my rose garden, while cursing them with each tug. Try as I might, I could not reign these little terrors in until finally I said to hell with it and waited to see what they were…Primroses…yeah, I had wild flower Primroses growing in my Rose bed. Turns out I really liked them there, so it helps to know how to identify weeds and wildflowers in their early stages. Birds and wind will bring you many treasures and some grief as well, so it helps to know what you’re dealing with. There are many books that assist in identification and Google is your friend here.
However, much like pest control, an ounce of prevention goes a long way and if you have looked up the specimen and feel sure it is an unwelcome plant then good old-fashioned elbow grease is the way to handle it before it goes to seed and becomes a bigger problem. Then at least you can give em “what for” while you’re at it! Here are some helpful tips to beat the weeds before they beat you…
*Mulch, mulch, mulch!: You need to keep a thick layer of mulch at least 3″ deep. Any type of mulch will do, but the depth will help you keep weed seeds from having a chance to germinate.
*Plant close together: leaving too much open space in your beds allows room for Mother Nature to fill it in with something of her own. Prevent sun from reaching empty space in your beds by filling them in with plant material.
*Pull the weeds as soon as you see them: Prevent weeds from going to seed and becoming out of control. 10 minutes a week pulling weeds will save you hours and headaches later. If you do not have a few minutes to be in your garden each week, you probably need more time in your garden anyway! It is especially beneficial to pull weeds right after a rain or a watering. You can get the whole root much more easily when the soil is wet. Some weeds have very deep root systems, once you are more familiar with who they are, be sure you use a shovel or weeding tool to remove the entire root system so you can be sure the weed will not return.
*Corn Gluten as a preventative: Corn Gluten can be found at big box stores and is super easy to use. Just tear off the bottom of the bag and shake the perforated opening onto the lawn each Spring and Fall. The Corn Gluten needs to be applied while it is cool outside, so once we are in the 80’s it is too late. Do not use Weed and Feed products. The time to weed is late Winter, early Spring is when you fertilize. For more information on why chemical fertilizers and weed control is so harmful to the environment, please read this article.
*Maintain a healthy lawn: Contrary to popular belief, you do not get a healthy lawn from chemicals fertilizers and weed control, you get it from healthy soil. Compost is your friend. I guarantee you that if get rid of the chemicals and compost your lawn to the depth of 1/4-1/2″ each Spring, that within 3 years, your lawn will be spectacularly healthy and weed free. If you begin with a weed free lawn and use this practice, your lawn will use less water and stay green in the heat. If you have a weedy yard to begin with, you need to begin with a manual weeding (pull, pull, pull), remove the larger weed infested areas and re-sod, or use a landscape Vinegar solution (sold at big box stores) to zero in on weeds and burn them away. A healthy soil makes for healthy plants and chemical applications kill the “healthy” bacteria and myccorhizal fungus that your lawn needs to thrive. (read more here about the benefits of compost)
*Never let weeds flower or seed: For every weed that flowers or seeds, you can have dozens or hundreds of new ones. If I am in a hurry and catch one that crept up on me, I will kick the top off on my way to the car. I may not have “gotten to the root” of the matter, but I will have stopped it from procreation until I can get back to it. (makes me feel a little better too 😉
*Cover it with painters plastic: Finally, if you have a weed bed that is determined to take over the world, cover it! Buy some 4mm painters plastic and some landscape pins and cover the entire area with plastic for several weeks until the sun has burned and suffocated the area. The heat from the plastic will kill the weeds and the weed seed. once the bed has been reclaimed, mulch heavily and get planting!
Garden Strength Vinegar: 20% acid vinegar can be purchased at most big box and local landscape stores. You simply buy a dedicated sprayer bottle, fill with solution, and spray. This works for most tender leaved weeds and when you mix the mixture in a one gallon sprayer with a tsp of strong dish soap, it works even better.
Now go get your “weed free” garden on!
“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”
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