Weeds: the bane of a gardener’s existence. If you want a beautiful lawn, healthy vegetables or flourishing fruit, you need weeds to stop taking up valuable space. Chemical weed killers may be effective, but they can be toxic to the environment. Luckily, you’ve got options to get rid of weeds in eco-friendly ways.
1. Form a Blockade
Covering a garden bed with mulch stops weeds from growing because it blocks sunlight. Use bark and decorative mulch from a gardening or home care store. If you’re interested in recycling, use dried leaves, newspaper or cardboard.
2. Go Down a One-Way Street
Landscape fabric lets water and air through but stops weeds from growing. For best results, cover the fabric with mulch.
3. Fire It Up
Use landscape flamers to burn individual weeds that crop up between pavers, through sidewalks and along edging.
4. Fish and Chips and…
Plain old vinegar kills weeds. If you’re resourceful, you can even recycle pickle juice — just pour it directly onto weeds.
5. Make It a Competition
Competition is an important part of nature. If a lot of organisms vie for the same space, some won’t survive. All plants need sunlight, water and nutrients. If you’re raising copious amounts of grass, ground cover, flowers, vegetables or fruits, there are fewer resources for weeds. They’ll get crowded out.
Have your soil tested, and make adjustments necessary for whatever you want to grow. Weeds can flourish in almost anything, but you’ll at least give your favored plants a better chance.
6. Wall ‘Em Out
Barriers keep weeds from spreading from bed to bed. Surround your garden completely with stone or wood walls or lawn edging.
7. Season Them
Rock salt or plain table salt kills plants. Remember the old stories of “salting the earth” and destroying cities so nothing will ever grow again? That ancient curse really works. Don’t put salt anywhere you want to raise plants, though, because nothing’s sprouting there for a long time. Sprinkle salt carefully — you don’t want to destroy healthy plants. Salt also breaks down concrete in sidewalks or driveways, so save it for edges and garden paths.
8. Make Lasagna
This method doesn’t involve pasta. Lasagna gardening uses layers that promote plant growth but discourage weeds. The bottom layer is dampened corrugated cardboard or sheets of newspaper. This kills plants, including weeds. Leaves or shredded paper — the brown layer — goes next, followed by a layer of vegetable scraps or lawn clippings — the green layer. Repeat these layers until you reach about two feet. Green sections should be about half the depth of the brown tiers.
After a few weeks, your plot has composted, and you can plant as usual. Dig right down into the dirt, breaking through the cardboard if necessary. Mulch the bed when you’re done. From then on, treat your lasagna garden as you would a traditional garden.
9. Boil Them
This method isn’t very precise, so it might be best used in spots that have only weeds, such as next to walkways or between sidewalk cracks. Pour boiling water on weeds. That’s it. They’ll soon die.
10. Yank ‘Em Out
Pulling weeds isn’t complicated, but it’s lots of work if you have lots of weeds. If you’re lucky enough to have a limited invasion, taking them out by hand is simple and earth-friendly. To make the process even easier, do it after it rains or pour water on the dirt. Use a knife or screwdriver to loosen the weed down deep. If you don’t get to the roots, the weed may return. Dandelions are typically the first flower out at the start of the season and are great support for bees. If you do yank them, wait until they’re about to go to seed in the spring at least until other flowers are around for the bees.
11. Enjoy Them
This requires some work, but it both kills weeds and makes good use of them. Some weeds are edible and actually quite tasty. For instance:
- The entire dandelion is edible. Add leaves to salads or soups, steam or stir-fry them. The flowers are good raw or cooked, but they’re best known as the essential ingredient in dandelion wine. Use the roots in any recipe for root vegetables.
- Whether ordinary three-leaf or lucky four-leaf, mix clover leaves and flowers into raw salads. Dried, the flowers make flavorful tea.
- Lamb’s quarters, or goosefoot, makes a great substitute for spinach in raw or cooked recipes.
Whichever method you use to kill weeds, it’s best to start as soon as you see them rearing their pesky little heads. Once weeds are established, it’s a lot harder to get rid of them. Get a few, and you can do battle. Get a lot, and it becomes a war. But it’s winnable if you’re precise, dedicated and patient. Now choose your weapons.