Although winter is sighing its final frosty breaths a little earlier than usual this year, our flora and fauna are already shaking off their icy coats and awakening for Spring. Here in Texas that means bluebonnets on every side of the highway…and, of course, weeds. Don’t go running off to buy that store-brand chemical pesticide, though — non-toxic, safe, and sustainable weed killers are here to help!
A Necessary Evil
They’re the bane of any yard keeper. The eye sores of any lawn. An enormous, persistent nuisance scattered in between your beautiful, fresh-cut grass. Weeds, be them crabgrass or dandelions or bull thistle, are year-round piggybackers that do not discriminate between gardens, grasses, or even cracks in the sidewalk! While weed removal is an essential part of a healthy lawn or garden, it’s vital to understand not only their ecological purpose, but how to effectively eradicate them without damaging surrounding vegetation.
Weeds were not conjured up in some random, sadistic prank by Mother Nature; in fact, weeds- also known as “forbs” (or “ephemerals” in desert regions) -are the first key step in the lifecycle of an ecosystem! After a major disturbance (ex. a wildfire) interrupts and/or wipes out an area, it’s the hardy and tenacious weed plant that’s the first to take seed and begin to renew the damaged soil. All of the traits that make weeds a hassle to us humans are natural aids in Nature’s self-healing process:
- They produce a large amount of seeds in a short period of time
- Their seeds germinate at an excessively fast pace, and in a variety of conditions
- They develop quickly and can self-pollinate
- They’re able to store an enormous “seed bank” beneath the soil in case of plant death
- They’re able to adapt to harsh environments in order to spread and repopulate
Once forbs have reclaimed and stabilized the affected soil, other vegetation is able to take root as well…and with greater ease of access.
As with any situation involving the outcome of natural plant-life, responsible precautions must be taken for weed eradication. That cheap, synthetic formula you choose to pour or spray onto these weeds will not only splatter onto surrounding vegetation, but seep into the soil, affecting any roots and beneficial bugs below the surface as well as contaminating any water drainage. Synthetic herbicides are riddled with toxins designed for short term customer satisfaction — at the cost of the environment’s well-being for generations to follow.
Luckily safe, organic, and eco-friendly alternatives exist to both combat commercial herbicides and provide immediate results!
Natural Weed Killing Tips
1.Vinegar, Soap, & Salt
Vinegar is an all-natural product usually derived from apples, grain, and grapes, containing an important weed-eliminating ingredient: acetic acid. Antibacterial and anti-fungal, acetic acid is the organic compound that targets moisture in a plant and severely dehydrates it, resulting in plant death.
The Garden Counselor examined several vinegar, soap, and salt recipes here, analyzing the strengths and precautions for each combination!
2. Boiling Water
Have some extra water sloshing around in that kettle? Use it to kill weeds! Boiling water is an inexpensive, easy, and effective weed-killing method that scalds the plant to death. Read Garden Web’s article here about application, and remember to wear close-toed shoes!
3. Dig ‘Em Up
If you have a persistent weed that somehow keeps seeding, grab the spade and yank it up by the root. Be sure to pull up as much of the root as you can manage, and fill in the hole with dirt or mulch when finished.
4. Smother Weeds from Sunlight
Mulch- be it wood chips, pine needles, or straw -is a fantastic tool for weed eradication (as well as weed prevention) according to Fine Gardening. Keeping the weed seeds beneath the soil’s surface choked from water and sunlight is a sure-fire way to eliminate those pesky plants from sprouting in your lawn! Mulching is especially important after digging, since the seeds are freshly exposed.
5. Chop Off Their Heads
Even the Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends this simple method! Grab a pair of scissors (or pruning loppers for mightier plants) and cut off the head of the problem weed. This forces the plant to use up its energy reserves on regrowth, exhausting their ability to produce root buds.
There are countless ways to prevent weeds from running rampant in your beautiful lawn or garden, but remember that weeds have been on this earth centuries before us, and there’s no such thing as a single, cure-all method. Happy weeding!