Weeds are one of the most troubling elements of gardening that gardeners face. A gardener’s definition of a a weed is simply a plant you don’t want in a place you don’t want it! Which means that even desirable plants can become a weed pest in the wrong place. Gardener’s want simple and easy ways to remove weeds from the garden and there are a few methods to deal with weed effectively.
The Natural Approach
I believe that the best approach with any garden is to kill weeds naturally if at all possible. What does killing weed naturally mean? No synthetic chemicals. Which even after you eliminate all the store bought chemicals the gardener still has a variety of methods available. The number one method for effectively removing weeds is to do so mechanically. Pulling the weeds roots and all prevents them from coming back. Sometimes that is easier said than done since the tap root can extend deep into the soil. If you leave any of the tap root behind you can bet on having to deal with that weed again in the future. To help with deep taproots try watering the weed before removing it! Yes it may sound weird to give the weed something that would help it but the water loosens the soil and makes pulling it much easier.
|Boiling Water to Remove Weeds Between Paving Stones|
For deep taproots and to kill weeds between rock or stepping stones I like to use boiling water. A tea kettle on the stove will heat up the water and makes an effective method of weed killing. I use this method on a patio and for weeds in the yard that have deep taproots I may not want to take a lot of time to kill.
Some gardeners use weed torches. Weed torches are just a torch on a pole attached to a gas tank. The heat produced by the flame weeder ruptures cells in weeds (or any desirable plant near the flame) and eventually kills them. Flame weeders are effective at killing weeds but the weeds may come back. The key is to continue treatment enough times that the plant expends its energy on regrowth and eventually dies when it has no more energy to grow. Flame weeders need to be used with extreme caution! (Weed Torches from Amazon)
An easy method to eliminate most weeds naturally is to mulch in the fall. Why in the fall? Weed seeds fly through the wind and get carried by birds or other creatures. Weed seeds can remain viable for years in the soil. To prevent their germination you can cover them with a 2 inch layer of mulch to block out light which can trigger germination. Be sure to mulch properly (no volcanoes around trees). You can use weed fabrics or newspaper to help create an additional barrier. I prefer newspaper since it is biodegradable, cheap, and if a weed does implant itself into the mulch it is easier to remove than the landscape fabric. I think biodegradable mulches are the best to use since they feed the soil as they decompose.
Sometimes you can effectively kill weeds with vinegar. Vinegar in high concentrations can be very effective with weeds. It is only mildly effective against the worst types of weeds though. It is also non-selective – it will damage anything. I have seen recipes for vinegar and salt solutions that are effective but I am hesitant to add salt to my soil since it isn’t good for plant growth. (1 gallon vinegar, 1/2 cup salt, and a tsp of dish detergent is the typical recipe floating around the internet.) If you are planning on killing your weeds naturally with vinegar I recommend looking for the horticulture grade which has a higher concentration than the grocery store types.
A note on the weeds:
Weeds are not necessarily bad for your garden. Many create diversity in the insect population as host plants or pollen plants. Many of the weeds we have today in the yard are actually beneficial like clover. It’s a legume that adds nitrogen back into the soil. Dandelions are edible powerhouses of nutrition for people or plants. I gather dandelions and make a tea for watering plants to transfer the nutrients from the dandelion to the plants I want to encourage. I’ll even through clover in the tea too!
For more on weeds read this post: 6 Common Garden Weeds and How to Deal with Them.