In the growing season, there’s nothing more irritating than a particularly resilient weed – or a whole patch of them – sprouting around your more attractive greenery. Depending on the kind of weed, the level of difficulty killing them increases. It can get such a hassle that even some of the most environmentally-conscious gardeners resort to chemical-based weed killers.
And as worrisome as some of those chemicals may make you, they do get the job done. Besides, even some of the natural methods of weed-killing still present risks to both animals and people, so you’re always working with something potentially toxic.
But you may not know there are ways of dealing with the weeds in your lawn without any chemicals whatsoever. Since these methods are desirable to those with pets or concerns about the effects of chemicals on the environment, it seems as good a place to start as any.
Methods of Killing Weeds in Soil
If you’re really dedicated to the old ways, you can take care of weeds simply by yanking them out of the ground. Be sure you have a good pair of gardening gloves, as the process is hard on your hands.
Having quality gardening tools on hand is imperative, as they’ll help you loosen the soil around the weed before pulling. When it comes time to pull, be sure to get it completely by the root so it won’t return.
No one wants to spend an afternoon on their knees in the summer heat yanking every weed by hand, but few know of this much easier method. Corn gluten meal is like the Pill for weeds, killing them before they can germinate. Sprinkle it around your garden wherever weeds grow.
While it certainly stops them from sprouting, it has the same effect on other plant life. So you’ll want to wait until any plants or vegetables you’re encouraging are already established before using.
Cover planting areas with mulch stops weed seeds from getting in the soil in the first place. As for the seeds already there, the mulch stops sunlight from reaching them. Additionally, it will retain moisture in the soil, enriching it.
Using vinegar in a spray bottle, pump or brush kills weeds, but there’s something of an art to it. Natural herbicides are great, except for the fact that they aren’t capable of differentiating between healthy, beautiful plants and weeds. Just spraying it everywhere is the gardening equivalent of napalming your lawn.
To safely apply vinegar, do it early in the morning to prevent heavy wind from letting it spread to other plants. The active killing ingredient in vinegar is activated by sunlight, so it’s ideal to spray it on a relatively cloudless day. And most importantly, spray directly on the weeds you intend to kill.
Hoarders, you are useful in the fight against weeds. Simply smothering weeds, similar to how mulch does, kills them and prevents new weeds from sprouting. Just laying a thick layer of old newspapers will prevent sunlight from reaching weeds.
Hose the soil down first, getting it nice and wet, lay the newspaper down, then wet it again. Finally, spread a layer of mulch over the newspaper. This not only kills weeds, but you’re also doing your part to recycle. Additionally, newspaper prevents earthworms from invading.
Old Shower Curtains and Carpets
If you’re really into recycling, this is a great way to get one last use out of otherwise useless items taking up space in your home. They should be used the same way newspapers are, and covered with mulch.
Anyone who’s ever taken a shot of vodka knows it’s pretty dehydrating, which is exactly the kind of product you want when dealing with weeds. Mix one ounce of vodka – not the good stuff, no need to waste – with two cups of water and just a few drops of dish soap. This will dry out the weeds.
What to kill weeds? Scald them like a 16th-century settler accused of witchcraft. After the water starts boiling on your stove, carry it over (oven mitts, please) and slowly pour a steady stream of piping hot water over the unwanted weeds.
Resilient, perennial weeds might take more than one application, but over time, they’ll stop returning every season. While oven mitts are the obvious precaution, it’s wise not to pour with open-toed shoes or shorts.
You’d be surprised how effective table salt – an everyday household product – is at killing weeds. Just a pinch at the base of each weed will knock them out over time. But salt also makes the soil uninhabitable for a few months, so you must be very deliberative just how much salt and where you apply it. Of course, you want to avoid getting it on any desirable plants.
Create your own herbicide with simple, household ingredients. Mix equal parts water, dish soap, and vinegar and pour it in a spray bottle. Once again, being discerning about where you spray it is key to preventing hurting your plants, but it’s an easy, cost-effective weed eliminator.
Frankenstein was half-right. Fire’s bad when it spreads, but even firefighters start controlled fires in the forest to clear out dead trees that will likely burn on their own in a much more dangerous way later.
Using fire with a weed torch heats the water within the cells of the weed. When the water turns into steam, the cells explode, killing the plant. There’s no need to charbroil the weeds, simply getting them to wilt should do the trick. A weed torch takes practice, and should always be used with the utmost care, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll see how effective it is.
There is, however, a catch. A weed torch should never be used on poison plants such as ivy, as the poison oils within the plant will release into the air. Ultimately, this can have negative effects on both your eyes and lungs.
Soil Solarization To Kill Weeds
Soil solarization is a preventative method of killing weeds and stopping them from sprouting that is also organic, but the process is a little more involved. If you’re looking to start a fresh garden with clean soil, solarization is a great way to avoid dealing with a lot of weeds later on.
Since solarization involves getting to the root of your weed problem, there’s a lot of prep work to be done. First, hack down any tall vegetation in your lawn with a sickle, power trimmer, or whatever you prefer to use. The ground needs to be smooth and flat before you solarize, so you can’t leave any stumps around.
Run a lawn mower over the ground to further smoothen it. All the weeds should be at ground level now. You’ll then need to rent or purchase a large tiller to pull all of the weeds completely out of the ground.
The last bit of preparation just involves raking the land that was recently tilled, pulling out any seeds lying there. After going over the ground with the precision of a fine-toothed comb, moisten the soil with a hose.
Cover the raked area with plastic. Use cinder blocks to weigh the plastic down at the edges. Plastic can be anywhere from one to six millimeters in thickness. Leave the plastic over the soil for up to two months. In that time, the sun kills the weeds for you by cooking them.
Now your lawn truly has a fresh start and a chance to grow beautiful plants and grass uninterrupted.
There are plenty of other methods involving chemicals, but these natural ways can be just as effective and far less harmful. Whatever you decide, it’s up to you how you maintain a beautiful, clear lawn.