Weeds will grow where nothing else will and it can be frustrating. They will sprout and grow through cracks in the sidewalk, driveway, house gutters, and especially in the garden. They even have a way of germinating and growing in potting soil that is labeled as ‘100% weed seed-free’.
Weeds will grow and we can’t stop them but we can control them so they won’t starve out the plants we want to grow. Protect your plants and control weeds without harming the environment with these 12 organic weed control methods.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and mulch will help prevent weeds before they get started.
Apply a 4-6 inch (10 – 15 cm) layer of organic mulch, like straw, leaves, nut hulls, or compost, around plants and on top of all exposed garden soil to prevent weed growth.
2. Newspaper and Mulch
This will knock out weeds with a two-fold punch – use black and white print newspaper and organic mulch to naturally control weeds.
Place several layers of newspaper on top of garden soil between plants, then thoroughly wet them with a water hose so they won’t blow away. Top newspaper with 2-4 inches (5 – 10 cm) of organic mulch to prevent weeds and help the soil retain moisture and stay cool.
3. Choke Weeds
Place plants a little closer together than recommended to prevent sunlight from hitting the garden soil and to choke out any weeds that might germinate.
Vining plants and plants with large leaves, like cucumbers and squash, will shade the soil and help control weeds. Less spacing and inter-planting with vining plants will also enable you to grow more food in a smaller space.
4. Hand Pull
Pull up all weeds as soon as they germinate and discard them away from the garden. Hand pulling will get the roots out of the soil and prevent the weed from returning.
5. Solarize Garden Soil
At the end of the garden season (or before you start a garden in a new location) mow the grass, clear off debris from top of soil, and cover the entire area with black plastic sheeting. Secure the edges of the plastic with rocks and let the sun ‘cook’ the soil for 4-6 months.
All weed seeds, diseases, and pests will be cooked during the solarizing process so you can start the garden with clean soil.
You may have seen these at a vegetable farm.
6. Weed Torch
A weed torch will get rid of a large patch of weeds quickly and very few will return. Some stubborn garden weeds, like purslane, will have to be burned to control them.
7. Corn Gluten
Corn gluten is a by-product of corn milling and is a multi-tasking garden product that is an organic pre-emergent weed killer and a high-nitrogen fertilizer. Apply corn gluten to the garden in early spring and again in the late fall/autumn to eliminate weeds before they germinate.
These two applications of corn gluten will also feed the soil a high dose of nitrogen. It will take two years for the corn gluten to eliminate weeds, but in the meantime, the garden soil is being well-fed.
8. White Vinegar
Pour white vinegar into a spray bottle and spray weeds as soon as they appear but be careful not to get the vinegar on surrounding plants.
To direct the vinegar exactly where you want it, cut both ends out of a tin can or the bottom of a half-gallon milk jug and place over the weed, then spray to prevent the vinegar from getting on nearby flowers or vegetable plants.
9. Lemon Juice
Apply lemon juice to weeds and they will die within a couple of days. Mix 12-ounces (354 ml) of water with the juice squeezed from one lemon a spray bottle and spray the weeds.
Lemon juice is an effective way to kill weeds and make sure they don’t come back. Due to its acidity, lemon juice may also affect the surrounding plants so be careful to only apply it to the weed itself.
10. Boiling Water
Pour boiling water onto the weeds and they will almost instantly die. A tea kettle or a funnel will help direct the water onto the targeted weeds and protect surrounding plants.
Salt is a cheap, easy, and organic way to control weeds. When applied to weeds, salt seeps into the soil and dehydrates the roots, thus killing the weeds. Sprinkle a small amount of table salt onto the problem areas and watch weeds wither!
Be careful to apply salt directly to the weed itself because it will dehydrate the roots of all surrounding plants.
12. Spot Kill Weeds
Pour a small amount of your favorite organic liquid weed killer into a shallow bowl. Cut a sponge into 2-inch (5 cm) by 2-inch squares and dip a sponge square into the liquid using tongs. Firmly grasp the saturated sponge with tongs and squeeze out excess liquid, leaving the sponge very damp, but not dripping. Wipe weeds with the sponge, being careful not to touch nearby plants and being sure the grass or weeds won’t flop over on surrounding plants after being wiped down. Re-wet sponge as needed and wipe down each blade and stem of unwanted vegetation in your garden or flower beds.
This sponge method is good to use in garden areas where weeds are growing too close to plants that might be harmed if other weed control methods were used. Use vinegar, lemon juice, or other organic weed control for this application method.