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BONNIE’S GARDEN – Chemical Free Weeding

By Bonnie Pega
Bonnie's Garden

I’ve had a lot of customers looking for a chemical-free way to control weeds. It can be done. Here’s how!

7 Ways to Control Weeds Without Chemicals

The best defense is a good offense

Keep your lawn healthy by fertilizing, watering, and over-seeding in the fall. Mow high—taller grass can shade tiny weed seeds so they don’t get enough sun to germinate. To be really effective, get an analysis of your soil to find out exactly what nutrients, and how much, you need to add.

Dig up weeds

Water well the night before to soften the ground. It makes it easier. This is the safest way to control weeds in flower beds and around shrubs where using a spray could possibly damage nearby plants.

Boiling water on weeds

Boiling water poured around and over some of the toughest weeds will take care of the problem. I talked to a customer this week who says she took care of poison ivy this way.

Don’t give weeds the light of day

Keep areas mulched at least two inches deep. For added protection, you can use newspaper, cardboards, or landscape fabric underneath.

Don’t let weeds go to seed

A single dandelion seed head can produce up to 15,000 seeds in one year. By the way, when pulling up weed seed heads, do not compost. Toss them! A correctly maintained compost pile will eventually kill most seed heads, however, why take the chance.

Corn gluten meal to prevent weeds

There is some evidence that corn gluten used as a pre-emergent might help. Corn gluten doesn’t keep seeds from sprouting but it keeps seeds from developing root hairs to absorb water. It’s also a great source of nitrogen for your lawn. It does not kill weeds that are already there, however. Apply it when the forsythia in your area is blooming.

Change the way you look at weeds

I have a friend who looks on dandelions in her lawn as food. She eats the greens and makes dandelion wine from the flowers.

My Backyard is Filled With Clover

My backyard is mostly clover and wild violets with a few dandelions here and there. They thrive in my moderately damp, shady, acidic soil. I never water, never feed, never mow. I could invest hundreds of dollars and thousands of hours to try to grow grass, but why?

Use Chemicals Carefully – Here’s How

If you do decide to use a chemical weed control, then do read the label carefully—even if you have used the product before. Keep in mind that a broad-leaf weed killer will kill ANYTHING that is not grass—if mist blows onto your azaleas or geraniums, it will, at the very least, cause damage. At worst, it will kill the plant.

Never apply on breezy days. Even an herbicide could possibly harm beneficial insects like butterflies or honeybees if sprayed directly on them, so it’s probably best to spray just before dark so they’ll have already gone home for the day.

Come See Us! We’re Here to Answer Your Questions

Come see us if you have any questions about what to try. That’s why we’re here!

To read more from Bonnie, visit our blog

8 thoughts on “BONNIE’S GARDEN – Chemical Free Weeding

  1. I’ve been trying to grow dwarf red closet to replace the grass in my backyard. It started to take last fall & there were still little patches during the winter. But now there’s very little clover left at all. (At least the grass/crabgrass is dead too.) We also have a larger leafed weed with kinda waxy looking weeds. I should try a weed app, I’ve seen this in the woods too but I don’t know what it is. I’ll try vintage on those. But I really want clover as ground cover. Any advice on that?

  2. Hi Cindy–to grow clover, get your soil checked for pH. Clover prefers slightly alkaline soil so if your soil pH is below 6, you’ll want to add lime. Clover will establish best if it does not have to compete with anything else so keep other weeds out. If you can get a pea/bean inoculant, you’ll have best results–this is a special “booster” for peas, beans and clover. You do need to be able to keep clover watered until it is established. When I did my backyard, I started small and did a patch at a time, so I wouldn’t have to spend hours trying to water it in the evenings when I got home. The one thing you don’t want to do is feed.

  3. If you live in Montgomery County Maryland, it is now illegal to use synthetic herbicides and pesticides in your lawn. “Weed and feed” products are banned, only products that are certified organic by OMRI, exempt from EPA labeling under FIFRA 25(b) or labeled “for organic use” can be employed. All lawn care companies have supposedly been notified and a flyer was sent to every home address but the banned products are still in some stores. Just a word of caution.

  4. Which fertilizer product do not suggest that is NOT a chemical nor dangerous (so that I can eat dandelion leaves). Thank you.

    Oh, and will boiling water kill plants also. I have poison ivy amongst vinca areas.

  5. Unfortunately, boiling water will kill whatever you pour it on so be careful using around ornamental plants.

    As far as fertilizing, what I use is one of the Espoma “Tone” products–Garden-tone, Flower-tone, etc. They are all good organic products that are easy and convenient to use. While we don’t want to eat fertilizer right out of the box, none are toxic when used by a plant. Fertilizers are all a mix of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in varying amounts. I prefer organics because they also contain organic matter and micro-nutrients that a regular fertilizer may not have. I’m glad you appreciate dandelions. I have friend who eats the greens and makes wine out of the flowers.

  6. Hello! My husband and I are having problems with “wire grass” it’s taking over our flower bed. I have pulled and pulled it up. It keeps coming back. Would boiling water work on this? Or, could you advise on what would? Thank you for your time.

  7. Becka, boiling water should work. Do remember that it can kill or damage the roots of any place you pour it on, so be careful using it around ornamentals. You may want to get rid of the grass then try a product like “Preen.” Preen is a pre-emergent weed preventer. It doesn’t kill the weeds that are there but will help prevent weed seeds from germinating and adding to the problem.

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