Organic weed care has come a long way. Everyone loves the look of a weed-free yard, but not everyone is in love with the idea of pouring pounds of herbicides on a yard their kids and pets play in. The good news is that there are many options for organic weed care.
Organic Weed Care Products
Now that more people are seeing the good in using organic products and eating organic foods, more products are becoming available for the organic lawn and garden. Professor Scott Nissen of Colorado State University lists the pros and cons of organic weed killer methods. In his paper, he wrote that not only are organic products less toxic, they have few, if any, negative long term effects on the soil.
The most popular way to take care of weeds organically is through the use of an organic fertilizer. Organic fertilizer improves the condition of the soil and supports the growth of beneficial insects and microbes.
Using organic fertilizer makes the grass, vegetables, trees or flowers you are growing stronger, so that they can crowd out the weeds on their own. Having tall grass casts shade on weeds and can kill them, so leave your grass as high as you are willing to.
Organic fertilizer can be applied in the spring before the grass starts growing and again in the fall.
Organic herbicides are commercial products that are usually sprayed on the foliage of the undesirable plant. It is best to do this on a bright, sunny day with no rain in the forecast. Make sure that the foliage is dry when you spray. These products are made from organic substances such as citrus oil. You should be able to find these in most nurseries and garden supply stores. Some to look for are:
- Nature's Avenger
- Weed A-Tak
- Eco Smart
Compost and Mulch
Using compost or mulch on your yard or garden is also helpful for controlling weeds and improving the health of your soil. Compost helps feed the beneficial microbes, which will help keep your yard healthy. These good microbes can destroy the disease-causing microbes, bacteria or fungi that attempt to take hold in your yard or garden.
Compost should be applied in a very thin layer and watered into the soil rather than being allowed to rest on the grass itself. You do not have to apply compost every year, but it is a good addition if your lawn or vegetable patch seems unhealthy.
If you are using compost as a garden mulch, you should add a thick layer around plants that have all ready emerged and are growing. This will keep the moisture in the soil as well as keeping the weeds from being able to grow through the compost.
Some people use vinegar, diluted at 20 percent in water, as an on-the-spot weed killer. Just add the vinegar mixture to a clean spray bottle. Carefully spray the foliage of the plants you'd like to get rid of. You don't want this to get on your other plants or into the ground by the roots because it can kill them right along with your weeds. You may need to spray the weeds more than once for best results.
Texas A & M University has another way to get the vinegar on the weeds by using this homemade weed wiper.
Pre-emergent Weed Care
The closest organic gardening comes to a "weed and feed" type product is an organic corn gluten meal. This compound is not the same as corn meal that you buy at the grocery store.
Studies have shown corn gluten meal to be effective as a pre-emergence herbicide that can cut down on weeds before they have started sprouting in the spring. You can apply corn gluten meal separately from your organic fertilizer or apply them both together in a spreader.
You may be able to find corn gluten meal at a feed store as well as many local garden centers. However, you should read labels carefully. Since corn gluten meal is derived from corn, it can be a GMO product unless it is clearly marked with an organic certification.
Old-Fashioned Weed Care
When most people think of organics, they think of yard and garden care without chemical intervention. To many people, that would mean the only organic way to get rid of weeds is to pull them out by hand.
Weeding by hand can even be kind of fun when you get into the Zen-like state that comes from working on something mindless. Weeding by hand also helps you really see what's going on with your plants. You might be able to catch diseases early if you're spending time looking at the plants on a regular basis while you are weeding. You'll also be able to see when vegetables need to be harvested, which is a very good thing!
Using Organic Weed Care
The main thing to keep in mind when putting in place an organic weed care regimen is to have patience. Organic methods may take longer to work than chemical methods, but they can be highly effective. Walter Reeves, the Georgia Gardener, reminds his readers that organic herbicides are effective but don't work the same way as chemical products.
If your yard, flowers or vegetables have been abused in the past by use or over-use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, it may take some time for the beneficial organisms to come back. You might want to look into the use of beneficial nematodes if you have a current yard disease or are having trouble with pests like ants, Japanese beetles or fleas. They're also helpful for eliminating fungus.