Weeds! The pesky plants keep gardeners busy from early spring until frost nips the garden in autumn, and in a few months, it all starts over again. If you’re like most gardeners, you’ll never attain a garden completely free of weeds, but you can keep them reigned in without expensive mulch or toxic chemicals.
Here are a couple of suggestions that will prevent major headaches: 1) Don’t cultivate the soil more than necessary because you’ll just give life to a ton of dormant seeds buried deep in the soil, and, 2) Remove weeds when they’re young and the roots are shallow.
If weeds continue to get in your way, try these budget-friendly ideas:
1. Pull ‘em up – When it comes to inexpensive ways to get rid of weeds, you just can’t beat the old-fashioned technique. Attack weeds when the soil is moist, but not saturated. Grab the weed at its base and pull it slowly from the ground. Be careful to not to break the stem; each piece left in the ground will grow a new plant with an even healthier, more complex root system.
2. Get the taproot – At less than $10, a hand weeder (also known as a dandelion digger or fishtail weeder) is a great investment if your weed problem consists of dandelions, thistle or other nasty weeds with long, sturdy taproots. This handy tool has a curved blade with prongs at the end, which provide extra leverage. Once the weed is loose, you can easily pull it from the ground.
3. Remember that mulch is your friend – Mulch blocks light and helps keep weeds in check. Although a layer of bark mulch looks and smells fantastic, bagged mulch can bust your gardening budget in a hurry. Spare your wallet and try chopped leaves (no chopper? Just run over them with your lawnmower); or use dry, cool grass clippings.
4. Smother them – If you have old carpet lying around, use it to cover your weed patch in autumn. By the time you pull up the carpet in spring, the weeds should be long gone. If you don’t have carpet, a large piece of cardboard or old shower curtain serves the same purpose.
5. Block the light – Flowers and vegetables can’t grow without adequate sunlight, and weeds are no different. Pull weeds first, or remove them with a mower or string trimmer. Cover the patch with several layers of newspaper (black and white newsprint only). Camouflage the area with a thin layer of mulch if you’re not crazy about the look of things.
6. Chop off their heads – Removing weeds by cutting is an alternative to pulling or spading, and works well if you don’t want to disturb the soil. Although you can use a string trimmer or mow the weeds on your mower’s lowest setting, an old pair of scissors or pruners allows you to get closer to the surface of the soil, between rows of vegetables. If the weeds haven’t flowered, leave the pulled weeds on the ground and let them compost naturally.
7. Use homemade weed killers – Working with homemade weed killers may take some experimentation, but in time, you’ll find the answer to your weedy problems. Apply homemade solutions carefully and remember that although they are safer than chemical herbicides, homemade weed killers can damage your veggie plants if they come in contact with the leaves, and some may be unhealthy for the soil.
Read on for a few ideas:
- Boiling water — A kettle of boiling water poured over stems and leaves is sometimes all you need to get rid of stubborn weeds — with absolutely no chemical residue left behind.
- White vinegar – This homemade weed killer is available at your local supermarket, usually very inexpensively. Spray the vinegar directly on plants, or add a few drops of liquid dish soap to make a sturdier, stickier solution. Vinegar works best on young plants, but killing weeds effectively may require several applications.
- Vodka – This relatively inexpensive solution works best when the sun is shining, because the alcohol breaks down the weed’s waxy outer covering and the plant quickly becomes dehydrated. As a general rule, an ounce of vodka to two cups of water will do the trick. Again, a few drops of liquid dish soap will help the solution adhere to the leaves.
- Oil – Inexpensive cooking oils like canola or vegetable oil (yes, they do make organic ones) are effective herbicides because they suffocate and dehydrate leaves. Just trickle the oil carefully over the weed. Don’t worry about dribbling a little on the soil; bacteria in the soil will take care of things. You can also add a tiny bit of dish soap or a little vinegar.
What are the budget-friendly ways you get rid of weeds? Share your ideas in the section below: