Several methods have been used over the years to control weeds ranging from cultural, biological, mechanical, physical and chemical.
Herbicides which are chemicals used to control or eliminate weeds have been developed but these chemical weed-killers have their disadvantages.
They are expensive, harmful to other plants, animals and children, and most of all, they can leach into our water thereby polluting our water bodies.
Herbicides and pesticides have been discovered to be responsible for the loss of aquatic lives. When these chemicals are used, they seep into the soil and find their way down to the natural groundwater level, where they can get into the household and commercial wells directly, and eventually end up in streams and ponds especially if it rains shortly after usage.
Herbicides kill soil life and non-selective herbicide may also kill some of the desired plants in the process of eliminating the weeds. They also increase the chemical load of local wildlife as these animals tend to feed on these plants that are treated with such chemicals.
There are natural ways to eliminate weeds without the use of chemicals which could harm the ecosystem and have side effects on humans through the plants consumed.
A DIY (do-it-yourself) herbicide is the best solution for those who are concerned about the environment. It is a relatively effective weed killer if you are looking for an affordable and less harmful solution to the rampant growth of weeds in the garden if you are not interested in finding out the usefulness of such weeds.
When mixed correctly, natural herbicides for home gardens can be as effective as commercial chemical weed killers.
You might want to consider trying out one or some of these homemade herbicides listed below instead of the chemical versions:
1. Remove Weeds Before They Seed
Uprooting these weeds when they are young before they mature is one of the most effective natural methods of getting rid of unwanted plants. Do not pull up weeds by the stems, as this leaves the root behind to grow again. Early weed shoots are more tender and easier to pull. This exercise also helps to increase the heart rate.
Mulching is the act of using decaying plants to cover the soil in order to improve the quality of the soil and to prevent the growth of weeds by disrupting the photosynthesis process of the plants as the lack of sunlight will exterminate them. Putting down sections and covering them with mulch can also prevent new ones from sprouting.
Mulch open areas with the weeds uprooted, compost, straw or (non-herbicide) lawn clippings if have plans to plant in them later. Mulching can also be done with sawdust, bark or stone if you just want to walk on them. Plant thick-growing cover crops like clover or buckwheat that can outcompete weeds.
3. Space plants evenly
Space your plants close enough together so that mature plants will fill most or all of the growing space and shade out any competition. Bare soil is an open invitation to weeds which are naturally occurring in most soil thus try to keep it covered. Dig only where you need to plant because opening a portion of the earth creates a new place for these weeds to grow, even if you do not see any around.
4. Other Plants serving as Herbicides
There is a competition for resources among your plants and only the strongest survive and thrive. Plant ground covers, flowers, and garden crops that will naturally beat out weeds for sunlight, water, and nutrients.
5. Landscaping fabric
By placing landscaping fabric on the garden, you choose which plants are allowed through the fabric. This is a delight for those who do not want to pull weeds, but the challenge with landscaping fabric is that it does change your relationship with your garden soil. Soil interacts with the air and the water and the leaves and plants that fall on it. When you place fabric between the air, water, and plants and the soil, you need to step in as the gardener to replace these interactions. Mulch is a little easier since it is permeable and air and water can move through the mulch barrier.
Cloth fabrics and mulches are a more universal weed-suppressing approach Cover low-growing weeds like clover and crabgrass with newspaper and eventually as the paper decomposes, it also feeds the soil, making this a tip no farmer should be without.
5. Boiling water
Boiling water is a high-impact way to kill off unwanted vegetation. Pour it on the plants that you want to get rid of. This does have the potential for killing surrounding plants and soil life, since the water is so hot. The good side? Boiling water simply moves into the soil as it cools, leaving no residue.
6. Weed zappers
Weed zappers are gaining popularity amongst those who covet a technological solution to weedy problems. The zappers heat up a single weed at a time. Target the weed, push it down, and zap it. While they are good for persistent weeds in a lawn or very patient gardeners, weed zappers are not as suitable for large expanses of the weedy garden.
7. Rubbing Alcohol Eco-Friendly Weed Killer
It is affordable and easy to obtain. Rubbing alcohol draws moisture from a plant, and it will kill off the plant and destroy the root system as well. The natural astringent would not hurt the environment, but it is non-selective when attacking plants.
Ensure you only use the rubbing alcohol weed killer mix around plants you definitely do not want to return. For stubborn weeds, increase the amount of rubbing alcohol to 2 tablespoons or more. Stubborn weeds may need a mixture comprising 5 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol to a quart of water to get rid of them for good.
Mix a quart of water with a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol and place it in a spray bottle. It should last about a week.
When using an eco-friendly weed killer, you have to take steps to ensure that the product you make does not end up where you do not want it.
8. Vinegar and table salt or rock salt
Dishwashing detergent mixed with vinegar or water also makes a good household weed-killer that is much gentler on the ecosystem than chemical sprays. Try mixing salt and water together in a spray bottle and spraying on weeds.
Mix 1 cup of vinegar, ¼ cup of salt, and ¼ cup of dish soap. Apply this mixture to the leaves of plants. The vinegar kills the weeds and the salt prevents them from growing again. Be aware that salt, vinegar, and soap can all damage soil life as it sterilizes the soil so use this herbicide sparingly and only when you are not trying to grow anything else.
Some additional information on factors to consider when using homemade herbicides
- Use tarpaulins and tie them down over gardens that are next to where you will be working.
- Do not use the organic weed killer spray when the weather is wet or windy as this may disperse the chemicals.
- Although organic, it can be toxic or harmful if ingested in large amounts by animals or children.
- Eco-friendly weed killers often need to be reapplied and can take weeks to truly eradicate stubborn weed growth.
- Not all organic weed killers are the same. You may have to try different versions before you decide to throw in the towel and go commercial.
- Just because these are “natural” or homemade herbicides, does not mean that they can not harm your soil, your garden, or you as a person. An herbicide is a “substance that is toxic to plants,” which means that your garden plants are just as susceptible to these treatments, they could have a negative effect in the soil if applied in large quantities, and they may cause human injuries if misused.
- You should also check this amazing article Does Vinegar Kill Weeds for Good and How do I Properly use it
A New Perspective
“One man’s weed is another man’s flower.” Many weeds are native plants that Mother Nature intended to grow as they have their usefulness and purpose which could be medicinal, for research, for preservation or even as a source of food, which is why they are so hard to eliminate. Learning to love weeds is just a matter of looking at them in a different light. For example, in Japan, moss is cultivated for landscaping, while in the U.S., it is commonly eradicated with pesticides.