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Six Ways to Control Weeds Without Chemicals

By Jessica Barber Goldblatt

Weeds are many homeowners’ and gardeners’ biggest enemy. Roundup and other chemicals may seem like a weapon in the arsenal against weeds. However, they can leach into fruits and vegetables. They also run off and trickle down into groundwater. There are better, safer ways to prevent and control weeds before they take over. Here are strategies for preventing weed growth, and methods of controlling unwanted weeds.

  1. Crowd out weeds with thick lawn cover. Keeping the lawn thick and healthy prevents room for weeds to grow. Re-seeding lawns in the fall, when many weeds are already dead, means less competition for space as grass seeds try to take root. Ground cover and thick plantings crowd out weeds in decorative beds.
  2. Keep your plants healthy with fertile, aerated and well-drained soil. Carefully hoeing the topsoil can effectively control some weeds but should consist of short, shallow strokes that simply cut off the weeds at soil level.
  3. Mulching garden beds is the most important factor in preventing weed growth. Nearly any barrier that blocks light works as mulch. Bark, dried leaves, straw, cardboard… Organic mulches improve soil structure, and add nutrients, keep the soil cool and moist.
  4. Cover the ground with landscape fabric. They are typically made of plastic, but may also be sheets of burlap or other natural fibers, or recycled plastics, and are effective at blocking weed growth while allowing water and air into the soil. Use in conjunction with compost and mulch.
  5. Keep an eye on weeds and pull them before they can go to seed to keep them from getting deeply established and spreading. Two years of vigilant pre-flower weeding have long-term advantages.
  6. Vinegar and other organic herbicides that aren’t all made of nasty chemicals. Organic soaps, plant oil blends and even common household products are all used as natural herbicides. While some research suggests vinegar, or acetic acid, is not as effective as some believe, other research shows drenching targeted weeds with vinegar can kill them, without any risk of toxic runoff. It is not selective, so beware that this means that it may kill everything it strikes.

None of these methods will work by itself, but vigilance, regular control of undesirable plants and proper care for desirable plants should minimize weed growth without the need for any chemical controls.

Also consider controlling your reaction to weeds. Some homeowners and even experts suggest a live-and-let-live philosophy.

Jessica Barber Goldblatt is the owner of Interiors Green — the Home and Living Store at 2021 Main Street in Bethlehem, NH.www.interiorsgreen.com.

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