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11 Ways to Control Weeds Without Chemicals

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11. Vinegar and other organic herbicides

Herbicides aren’t all made of nasty chemicals. Organic soaps, plant oil blends and even common household products are all used as natural herbicides. Concentrated vinegar is perhaps the most common.

Some research suggests vinegar, or acetic acid, is not as effective as some believe. Micheal D. K. Owen, an extension weed management specialist at Iowa State University, said vinegar does not kill root systems or some larger weeds.

However, Lanini said his research shows drenching targeted weeds with vinegar can kill them, without any risk of toxic runoff. It is not selective, meaning it may kill everything it strikes. It also may be dangerous. Avoid eye contact and always follow label directions, even with natural herbicides.

Conclusion

None of these methods will work by themselves, but some vigilance, regular control of undesirable plants and proper care for desirable plants should minimize weed growth without the need for any chemical controls.

Also consider controlling your reaction to weeds. Some homeowners and even experts suggest a live and let live philosophy, so to speak.

“If you look at my lawn, you would think this is my approach. It all depends on the persons wants,” Hartzler said. “My lawn has deep shade from trees, and two labs using it as their playground, so I realize it will be impossible to get a vigorous lawn, so I accept weeds. In my garden I weed enough to eliminate competition between the vegetables and weeds, but I accept a few weeds that emerge later in the season.”

Lanini agrees. He notes that some grasses are technically weeds, but he doesn’t worry about them. Though he hunts down his perennial bindweed, he lets annual angel bluegrass grow every year.

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122 comments

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10:47PM PDT on Apr 4, 2014

Burning some weeds causes them to spread. The most effective method I've found is to put black plastic over the area that has weeds. Water the ground before hand. Hot sunny days will boil the weeds and kill them. In Colorado we have weeds that have root systems 5 or 6 feet down. digging them out is impossible but this method works. I've even used boiling water after I've made sure there are no worms in the area.

I also think we need to change our notion about weeds. We're wiping out Monarch Butterflies because many of us won't tolerate any weeds and even if we're willing the county/state might not be. Monarch Butterflies need Milkweed. We've got 2.5 acres of land and I'm planting milkweed on it. Laws be damned.

10:19PM PDT on Apr 4, 2014

Can u plant grass on top of black weed sheets

5:13AM PDT on Jul 16, 2013

..my kitchen yard is infested...very interesting, thanks!

10:13AM PDT on Jul 14, 2013

Some good ideas, never use Roundup!!!!

1:17PM PDT on Jun 8, 2012

I'm trying to cultivate a moss carpet, but pulling and digging weeds is tedious and unending. Any suggestions?

1:17PM PDT on Jun 8, 2012

I'm trying to cultivate a moss carpet, but pulling and digging weeds is tedious and unending. Any suggestions?

1:17PM PDT on Jun 8, 2012

I'm trying to cultivate a moss carpet, but pulling and digging weeds is tedious and unending. Any suggestions?

3:32PM PDT on Jun 14, 2011

I definitely will try newspaper under my mulch. I have found that a commercial grade of fabric is needed as weeds will still come in any areas where the mullch is thinning. I used black plastic on a slope (what was I thinking??) before wheelbarrowing in rock and a lot of it slipped to the bottom. ;>) Thanks for the article with lot of tips Chaya.

7:32PM PDT on Jun 8, 2011

@Megan Saxbury: your point being? Are you saying that since God condemned man to eat bread in the sweat of his brow, we shouldn't find better or easier ways to garden? I guess we'd better give up the the rototillers...and the long-handled cultivators...and even the hoe, since I'm sure Adam didn't have one.

7:28PM PDT on Jun 8, 2011

@Mike & Janis: with that big a dandelion invasion, you basically have two choices: poison, or learn to live with them. In the latter vein: when my children were small I encouraged them to bring me daily bouquets of dandelions (when they got a bit older I had to pay them a small bounty, but it still got the blossoms into a flower bowl instead of sending seeds all over the neighborhood). In addition, I harvested the leaves for the table. Neither trick will eliminate dandelions, but they'll help control them and keep them from spreading even further.

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