There are more ways to deal with pesky weeds than pulling out the conventional herbicide spray. Here are just a few tips to avoid the synthetic products and control weeds using organic methods.
Use Clean Seeds and Plant Starts
Be careful of the source of what you are putting in your garden. Some starts from neighbors or even from a nursery for example, may have weeds in them. Check before you plant.
Prepare Your Garden With Clean Soil and Amendments
Make sure any soil amendments you add to your garden are weed free. If the compost hasn’t been aged well (135-160 degrees F), it may still have viable weed seeds in it.
Use Organic Herbicides
Yes, there are organic herbicides. No, they are not the herbicides most people are familiar with. Just because an herbicide is organic doesn’t mean less is being used compared to sythetically sourced products. Usually the use of organic herbicides for weed control requires more applications, over a longer period of time. They are usually made with a vinegar or borax base and require the same kind of precaution when being applied as you would other synthetic herbicides.
- Corn Gluten Meal - One of the best, and only, preemergence organic options for weed control. Multiple applications over several years is recommended for the best results. Apply at a rate of 20 lbs per 1,000 square feet (20 ft X 50 ft). A great advantage to using corn gluten meal over time is the amount of nitrogen it includes. While suppressing weeds you can also fertilize your soil. A great option, though it is for sure a long-term investment.
Garlic and Clove Oil
Like other organic methods of control, garlic and clove oils are most effective against weeds that have already emerged. It is even better if these plants are still young. Additional methods will likely be required as this method will not kill the root systems.
Use Groundcovers and Fill Your Space
Using ground covers to cover empty spaces between plants gives the weeds less opportunity to grow. Filling your garden beds will help healthy, strong plants outcompete dormant weed seeds. This is one of the best preventative measures you can take! Empty beds with full sunlight are just waiting to fill themselves with weeds. Add access to water and your problem just became a whole lot harder to manage. To help control large spaces that will likely go without plant coverage are ideal areas to plant cover crops. With a cover crop you can increase the soils productivity when you are ready to plant by organically increasing biomass (organic matter), naturally fertilizing, and improving soil structure. For more info check out this free cover crop guide.
Do Not Let Your Weeds Go to Seed
Don’t ever let a weed go to seed if you can help it. If you don’t have time to weed properly, simply topping the weeds before they go to seed will reduce the number of seeds in your soil. You can do this by mowing, weed whacking, or even pulling off the top of the weed. Then come back for the roots later when you have the time.
Mulch Bare Soil
Add mulch 2-3 inches deep around your plants to suppress weeds from germinating. Be sure to only add mulch to weed free soil if possible; weeds still have the potential to grow through the mulch. This method provides the best results when paired with others such as keeping your planting area full of healthy plants or utilizing dark plastic for those difficult to control weeds and areas.
Flame The Weeds Gone
While this can be an effective organic method of weed control, it should be handled very carefuly by someone who knows what they are doing. Be extremely cautious of using this method in dry areas. You can expect flaming to kill any weed that has already emerged, but there is no guarantee for weeds that spread via their root systems. Additional methods may be required to completely control a weed problem.
Vinegar AKA Acetic Acid
Vinegar is an effective choice to quickly burn down weed tops. However, it doesn’t do a great job of killing the root systems. This is why organic herbicides usually require more applications than their synthetic counterparts.
By using these organic weeding tips together, over time your garden will be weed free. Your soil will thank you for using more sustainable practices to maintain a healthy microbiome. Like we have said before, the key to a great garden is maintaining a healthy soil.