It seems that weeds just appear out of nowhere. One day, the garden space is gleamed of all plant life that has gone into winter slumber. The next day, you look out and find a jungle where your rose garden used to be. When this day comes along, do not reach for a chemical solution, but instead try some of these time-tested techniques for organic weed control.
Natural Preemergant Herbicide
Treating your space before the weed seeds germinate is one technique that can be used to control weeds. These seeds could have been disturbed by existing weeds in the garden or blown in from the surrounding area. Regardless of where they came from the simple solution to this problem is the application of corn gluten meal.
Corn gluten meal is a by-product of corn processing and is normally used as feed for numerous animals. It was only discovered by chance that it controlled weed seeds by preventing them from germinating.
While corn gluten works wonders in the garden when it is applied very early in the season, it does nothing after the seeds start to sprout. Also, if you plan to plant any seeds in the garden space, do not apply corn gluten meal. This product cannot distinguish between weed seeds that you want to get rid of and those seeds you want to germinate.
To apply corn gluten is no more difficult than broadcasting fertilizer or grass seed. Simply sprinkle it over the soil’s surface early in the season.
Cover the Area
Covering the ground with a thick layer prevents weed seeds from germinating from the soil layer. This cover can be a mulch, such as wood chips, rubber or even glass, straw, or grass clippings.
But when using this technique always remember to cover the soil layer with newspaper, cardboard and/or landscape cloth. This will block out the sunlight while allowing the soil to breathe and water to percolate down through the soil.
Another type of mulch that is a great weed preventer is a living mulch. This type of mulch can be planted in the fall and spring. Rye is normally broadcast over a garden after the season is over. This protects the soil’s surface from erosion and prevents weed seeds from germinating due to competition.
Buckwheat and creeping thyme are planted in the spring as a means of controlling weeds and reducing soil erosion due to the spring rains.
Most living mulches are also used as a green manure and are tilled into the soil before planting.
Kitchen Essential to Weed Control
Many kitchen staples can be used to control weeds, especially those in the cracks of sidewalks and driveways. The first item that can be used as a weed control is hot water. Simply pouring a teakettle of hot water on a weed is enough to kill it instantly.
Straight lemon juice is another kitchen staple that works well when it comes to killing weeds. Another item that is found in every kitchen is white vinegar. Not only does it make a create salad dressing, but it also makes an efficient weed killer. Just place the white vinegar in a spray bottle and apply to the weed. Several applications may be required before the complete weed is dead.
While household vinegar works well, stronger solutions exist. When it comes to killing weeds anything between 5 and 20 percent is fine to use as an herbicide.
Tools Designed for Killing Weeds
Weeds can be killed in two ways. The first way consists of destroying or damaging the vegetation to a point where the plant cannot make food. These methods have been described above. On the other hand, manual removal is the second way, but before you go out to the garden to yank on some weeds let’s cover some tools that will make your life easier.
Oudora sells several tools that are excellent at removing weeds the first time. This includes a weeding hoe called the Telescoping Digger and Hoe. When you use this tool make sure to not dig to deep into the soil. Instead, only cultivate down a few inches. This will prevent one from turning up additional weed seeds.
While the weeding hoe is an excellent tool for annuals what do you do about weeds with taproots? The answer is simple and requires one to understand how these weeds grow. Dandelions and thistles have long taproots that even if pulled partially up will continue to grow and reproduce. To prevent from breaking off the taproot, one must use leverage and this is where the proper tool comes in handy.
Both The DeWit Spring Dandelion Weeder and the Rosewood Ball Weeder are excellent tools to use for deep-rooted weeds. Both of these tools allow you to get around the weed and lift it up and out with little effort.
Weeds can be a challenge for the most experienced gardener but this year, give some of the above techniques a try. You may find that using a combination of approaches allow one to have a beautiful garden and the spare time to enjoy it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mindy McIntosh-Shetter has been an Agricultural Science educator, and is a horticulture and/or environmental blogger who earned a degree from Purdue University in Agriculture Education with a minor in biology, and natural resources. Presently she is finishing up her Masters in Environmental Education and Urban Planning for the University of Louisville while working on her own agriculture/environmental blog.