Even for the casual gardener, weeds are a major problem. Plus, getting rid of them can prove to be equally, if not more annoying.
They can sprout out of garden beds and pots or randomly between the cracks of concrete driveways.
With that said, there are countless products on the market dedicated to removing weeds; however, their ingredients can do more damage than good.
Chemical weedkillers can cause harm to your health, not just your lawn. From ingesting spray residue to topical skin irritation, traditional chemical solutions can have serious consequences.
There are, however, safer alternatives. Some of the alternatives to using toxic herbicides are not only simple but better for your health and the environment.
Here’s how to get rid of weeds naturally.
This is the quintessential part of gardening no gardener goes without.
Mulch helps to keep the soil cool and moist, which keeps weeds from receiving much-needed light.
Even better, if you make use of organic mulches, you invite such helpful bugs as crickets and carabid beetles which feed on the seeds by the thousands.
Just be sure to keep replenishing it regularly to keep the soil about 2 inches deep.
2. Essential Oils
Essential oils can stop weeds from ruining your garden or driveway.
Natural oils like winter savory, thyme, peppermint, and anise, when applied, can serve as effective bioherbicides .
These oils inhibit seed germination, so be careful with them around your food crops.
Vinegar is one of the greatest alternative ingredients to harsh chemical products.
It is versatile and has many uses for inside your home but can be used outdoors, too. It is the high acidic content that makes it an effective herbicide.
To eliminate weeds with vinegar, simply combine it with a couple of drops of organic liquid soap in a bottle with a spray nozzle. More detailed instructions are given in that hyper-linked article.
4. Cover Crops
These beneficial plants are otherwise called ‘green manure’.
In reality, it’s the practice of planting a large batch of thick crops that exist to choke the bad guys and steal their nutrients before they can mature.
Alongside this benefit, some cover crops can even kill them through the release of natural chemicals.
These plants can also be plowed or turned under when the time comes to plant other crops.
Such amazing allies include plants like wheat, barley, sorghum, oats, and rye — all fairly easy to grow and maintain.
5. Boiling Water
Pouring scalding hot water on weeds will cause them to dry up and die.
They will wither and change to a yellowed color meaning that they can be removed. This option requires no additional tools or ingredients.
Nearby plants will also be safe as the water is likely to cool down without causing them any damage.
6. Pull Them Out
This is one of the best and cheapest ways to remove weeds organically. But before you just go ripping out the unwanted buds, there are some precautions to take.
Unwanted plants can be notoriously difficult to simply pull up. There is also the risk of damaging the systems of the flowers and plants you want to keep.
To avoid this, it’s best to pull them when the ground still has a good amount of moisture. Pull them out slowly and make sure to protect your hands.
If you’re skilled at weeding, using a machete to dig under the roots while pulling on them makes it a whole lot easier.
7. Newspaper or Cardboard
This non-chemical process is also known as smothering. Because newspaper/cardboard is opaque, it will stop oxygen and sunlight from passing through.
Without these vital sources of energy, these bad apples will be unable to continue growing while also stopping any new ones from springing up.
After laying down the wet newspaper on the weeds, be sure to cover it with a layer or two of mulch to further block sunlight.
As a bonus, as the material erodes, it releases valuable nutrients into the soil, so it’s a two-for-one deal for your vegetable garden.
You really can’t go wrong with this setup. Just be careful not to smother your crops as well.
8. WeedGuard Plus
Similar to landscape fabric, this is an organic alternative that stands an excellent chance of preventing them from attaining the room and light they need to grow.
This special fabric is designed to smother weed seeds before they get a chance to germinate.
It’s 100% biodegradable, fairly easy to apply, and doesn’t tear or stretch on a whim.
9. Set Them on Fire
Fire might seem like an extreme solution but it’s quick, easy, and effective.
Of course, you want to exercise caution when using flammable devices and in this case, less is more.
Using a small blowtorch, spread the flame, being very careful to target only what you want to eradicate. They don’t need to burn.
The excess heat will trigger internal cell damage and cause them to burst and wither.
10. Citrus Juice
This is a great cost-effective method that works relatively quickly and easily.
Simply put some citrus juice into a spray bottle with a little water and begin coating them.
The acidic nature of the juice strips them of valuable protective membranes, causing them to wilt rather quickly.
It shouldn’t be at all hard to get a hold of some citrus juice. You can find lemons and other citrus fruits at any local market or grocery store.
This method works great for smaller infestations that haven’t completely taken over your garden box.
11. Leave No Space
This one requires a bit of foresight and planning.
If you plant your flowers close enough and choose enough types that cover the entire area, you should rarely have weed problems.
For example, the walker’s low catmint is a gorgeous perennial that boasts a range of violet hues.
Because it grows so thickly and widely so that light cannot pass through, there isn’t any room for them to develop.
When corn is processed, corn gluten is one of the natural remnants. This byproduct can help stop seeds from germinating and blossoming.
Your current, live plants will not see any effect from adding cornmeal in your soil.
Your soil will also benefit as it is rich in nitrogen.
13. DIY Herbicidal Spray
Another safe solution for killing them permanently is horticultural vinegar and Epsom salt combo. It doesn’t matter what type or brand of Epsom salt you use.
Mix Epsom salt and vinegar at a 1:6 ratio until the salt has dissolved completely. You can also add a little organic liquid soap.
This is a very potent mixture as horticultural vinegar is much stronger than regular household brands.
Spray this natural herbicide directly on whatever you don’t want, whether on sidewalks, pavers, or in your garden. Reapply a few times to achieve permanent results.
Borax is a naturally-occurring element that can be used for detergents as well as a homemade weed killer.
A spray bottle will help you direct your mixture (at least two gallons of water to 8-10 ounces of borax) to the troublesome areas.
Try to only saturate the leaves and not the actual ground. Besides, this will also help reduce ants.
Maybe your garden could stand to be a little cuter. Enter the classic — the beloved — the ever-hilarious goats.
These guys are lean, mean, weed-munching machines.
They can reach almost any area they want and best of all, they’ll till the soil with their hooves as they move.
It’s probably best to use them before planting, however, lest they mistake your harvest for a tasty treat.
16. Soil Solarization
Not only is solarization environmentally friendly and organic, but it also uses the sun itself to essentially fry unwanted plants and their seeds.
It will destroy any bacteria or fungi that may have gotten a foothold in the soil.
Just be careful when making use of this method, as it’s entirely indiscriminate. You may wind up killing beneficial organisms as well as harmful ones.
Similarly, while it may kill dangerous pests that make their way in, it could easily kill valuable pollinators and predators hunting down the harmful pests, so use with caution and extreme care.
This is a contact herbicide that is made from all-natural ingredients. Avenger is OMRI listed, fast-acting, and an excellent alternative to synthetic weed killers.
You’ll find a ton of different varieties of weeds everywhere you look. Some thrive better in certain areas than others. Regardless of species, they’re all annoying to deal with and they suck up valuable nutrients from your garden.