Guest post by Nadia Gard(e)ner
Prevent the pollution of our water, soil and ultimately, animals (like us).
With summer our precious plants have returned, and with them the wicked weeds also arise. While some may be tempted by the seemingly simple solution, herbicides, their environmental effects outweigh any benefit. Herbicides are chemicals used to kill weeds in agriculture as well as household gardens. Many herbicides currently on the market are selective: meaning they kill only specific weeds. However, this does not make them any safer than the non-specific types that kill virtually every plant in their path.
Herbicides are toxic to most mammals (that means you, me, your dog, and your kids) as well as to the beneficial insects that you want to encourage in your garden to keep away harmful pests. Sometimes herbicides seep into the ground water; causing contamination of which the long term effects are not known.
Recent polls have shown that US residents see pollution as the result of boardroom decisions of large companies. In fact, agriculture is the top non-source polluter nationwide. Household chemical use also has a significant impact.
Phasing out the use of chemical herbicides at home can make a significant impact on our pollution problem.
Non-Toxic Weed Control
Herbicides are marketed as quick and easy solutions to weed problems. However, their use does not fix the problem, it only stalls the weeds for a time. If they are used as the sole “solution”, they will need to be used again and again. Preventative methods are a better solution. Weeds need a certain environment to thrive. If that environment is uncomfortable for them, they will be less likely to grow. Working from this simple premise not only saves time and money, but also prevents dangerous chemicals from being released into our environment.
Weed control can be a daunting task. However, with regular maintenance and a few preventative tools, weeding can be manageable, even easy.
- During the growing season, make a commitment to weed 20 minutes every week. Grab a hoe and disturb the little guys before they have the opportunity to grow big and tough. Circle hoes and asparagus knives/weeders are great weeding investments.
- Mulch, mulch, mulch! Weed bare earth thoroughly and place 3 inches or more of wood chips, grass clippings, straw, and/ or leaves over it. This will also help your plants conserve water and provide them nutrients. For pathways and other unplanted spots, place black landscaping cloth (or newspapers) under the mulch.
- Plant beds closely and evenly, leaving little room for weeds to grow. As your plants grow, they will crowd weeds out as they drink all water and shade the bare ground.
- Do not let weeds set seed. If nothing else, clip those weed flowers and seed heads as you see them.
- For concrete cracks, kill weeds with a good clipping and boiling water.
- In the off-season, use cover crops or mulch to prevent weed growth.
- Rotate crops from year to year. Weeds hate that, as do pests.
- Your weeds make a great addition to a hot compost pile. However, if your compost pile is not regularly maintained, i.e. turned and watered, keep out seeds and invasive weed roots.
Environmentally Safe Weed Prevention Products
If you choose to use herbicides, consider non-toxic alternatives. Several companies have come out with more environmentally sound herbicides, including: Bioganic and Safer. Corn gluten spread on bare earth has been shown to prevent weed growth. A handful of companies are providing gluten products. If your local nurseries do not carry these items, the Internet is a good resource.
- Vinegar and salt is great for places where you won’t be growing anything in the near future. Spray directly on plants.
- To remove young plants, pour boiling water directly on them. This is the simplest, yet safest herbicide there is. Just be careful to avoid plants that you don’t want to damage.
- Pour Coca-Cola on the cracks in the sidewalk to kill weeds. It’s sticky, but within a week the weeds will be dead.
- Spray some Gin mixed with a bit of apple cider vinegar and water on your weeds being careful to avoid other plants.