Weeds – they are a gardener’s nemesis! It will always be a challenge to have a vegetable garden totally free of weeds. Sure, there are sprays that you can put on your garden that are effective in controlling weeds, but for many of us avoiding harmful chemicals is one of the reasons that we started gardening in the first place!
Fortunately, there are a number of very safe and effective ways to control weeds naturally.
This is one way to make sure there are no weeds — and stop them before they start to grow. Mulch is a physical barrier that retains the soil’s moisture while preventing weeds. It can be both organic or inorganic.
Organic barriers would be anything that was once living, will nutritionally boost the soil, and will break down eventually. Organic barriers include newspaper, wood chips, compost, straw, bark and shredded leaves. Rocks can also be used, and classified as organic, but they don’t break down.
Inorganic barriers are also effective and you can still make them garden friendly. Some inorganic barrier examples are landscaping cloth and black plastic. They kill weeds by reducing air and sunlight, which the weeds need to grow. Black plastic actually burns the weeds because it heats up. With the black plastic you can poke enough holes in it to let water seep through to the other plants.
Mulch creates the need for less watering and is low cost.
2. Boiling Water
A surprisingly simple way to kill weeds is to pour a large amount of boiling water on the invading weeds. The hot water even reaches the roots. Now, you need to remember this method will kill all plants, so only pour on the unwanted weeds.
You can use regular white vinegar directly on the weeds in a vegetable garden.
You can also mix 4 cups of vinegar, 1 cup of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of liquid soap, and spray directly onto the weeds. Although very effective, it doesn’t always reach the roots of the weeds.
Another mixture of vinegar, one tablespoon of dish detergent and two tablespoons of vegetable oil can be used. Using vinegar works best on newly sprouted or small weeds.
If you have weeds that have been there for a while, you may have to use more vinegar, or a strong vinegar solution from your garden center. Remember to spray directly onto the weeds, as the solution (and vinegar) will kill your plants, too, if they come into contact with it. Try spraying in the morning or on days when the wind isn’t blowing. You can also directly syringe the solution into the weed’s taproots.
4. Manual Weeding
This is the tried-and-true method of weeding and although physical, has some of the best results. “By hand or by hoe” should be the weed removal motto. If you hoe between your vegetable plants each week, you will kill weeds at the beginning of their growth, making less work physically. By using a hoe, especially a diamond hoe, you also prevent the spreading of weed seeds, often the result of the over-eager pulling of weed stems. You also save on the sometimes back-breaking work of continuous stooping and bending.
There is also a tool called a Japanese soil knife. It helps dislodge roots that prove to be stubborn and hard to remove.
This type of weeding works best with young or small weeds, since you can get rid of them before they grow deep roots. By weeding manually, you don’t have to worry about herbicide drift (chemical or organic) or worry about hitting your vegetable plants with a spray. When you get really good at it, you won’t leave any weeds behind!
5. Corn Gluten
Corn gluten works very similar to other organic mulches. You can get it in a fine powder, in pellets or in granules. It is a natural by-product of corn. It doesn’t kill weeds already present, but if you weed, then place corn gluten down; it works very well in preventing the weeds in coming back. Your vegetables will remain unharmed, as long as you apply the right amount. Try not to over-apply.
6. Organic Herbicides
There are herbicides made from fatty acids and citrus acid. You can find these at your common garden center. When using these organic herbicides, however, find out what weed you are trying to get rid of first. This is where reading labels is important. Not only do you want to get the application right, but you don’t want to buy a herbicide that doesn’t kill the weeds you want it to kill.
So if you want to get those weeds out of your vegetable garden but don’t consider harmful sprays to be a very good salad dressing, try one of these more natural ways to keep your garden weed-free.
What are your favorite natural ways to control weeds? Share your tips in the section below: