Organic Weed Control - Dandelions

Weeds Suck!

It’s a scientific fact. Well, OK, maybe it’s not so scientific, but, if you ask any farmer, gardener or homeowner, virtually all of them will tell you how much they hate weeds – and, even moreso, how much they hate trying to get rid of them.

Of course, not all of them are looking for organic weed control methods for their lawn and garden, but many of them, these days, are – and, it would appear that you would be one of those individuals, otherwise, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article in the first place.

So, maybe I should just get to the point and stop blathering on, so you can get out there and win the organic weed control battle – right?

Chemical Weed Control is About a Product

For those that are not into the more organic or natural route, then weed control is all about a product. Buy some chemical pre-emergent or weed killer and just start spreading or spraying – soon, all will be right with the world.

Unfortunately, the reality is much less rosy. Often, the weed killer of choice is glyphosate, commonly found in Monsanto’s “Round-up” product line. I encourage you to click the previous link to open up a new window to read our Glyphosate Toxicity article.

Then, do some of your own research on the topic and on the Monsanto company. IF you’re not already convinced that a more natural approach is the better option, I guarantee you will be with just a little reading on the topic. Round-up and most other chemical weed control products are pretty nasty stuff – best avoided at all costs.

Organic Weed Control is About a Process

Although there ARE organic products on the market to control weeds, and we’ll discuss some of them in this article, for the most part, organic weed control is about a process. If the process is done right and planned out, it’s actually relatively simple and quite effective. If not, it can be maddening trying to keep your weeds under control. Hopefully, we can minimize the madness and bring some peace and tranquility back into your lawn, garden or crop.

As a preface to some of the recommendations you’ll find below, obviously all of the tips won’t apply to all people and all situations. You may have to modify them a bit to make them work for you. In addition, if you’re already using any of the methods described below or a variation thereof, I’d love to hear from you (and I’m sure other readers would as well), so please leave your comments when you finish reading this post.

Why Do You Have Weeds?

This is actually a very important question, because, if you don’t answer it, you will likely continue to have problems with weeds season after season after season because the process you implement to control them may not be terribly effective. Answer this question and you’ll be half-way to your solution already.

The truth is, weeds are God’s way of replenishing the top soil. When the top soil is depleted of nutrients, “weeds” will naturally take over because they are the species that can put down tap roots deep enough to reach areas of the soil that your domestic “crop” is not reaching. As they do, those nutrients end up within the weed plant. When it dies, it deposits those nutrients into the top soil. Over time this replenishes the nutrients in that top soil making it hospitable for other plants that don’t put down such deep root systems.

Your domestic crop plants which are often growing in depleted topsoil due to overuse of chemical fertilizers can’t compete because without heavy fertilization they just don’t have the resources to sustain good growth. So, the weeds win out. Using a high quality, natural fertilizer to replenish the topsoil will stimulate the growth of the plants that you WANT growing there so that they can actually compete.

Diagnosing Deficiencies & Addressing Them Naturally

It is actually possible to get a fairly good idea of your specific soil deficiencies or problems simply by paying attention to what specific weeds happen to be thriving best in a particular area. Is the soil too compacted, too acidic, too alkaline, low in organic matter or particular nutrients? Those questions can often be answered by paying attention to the weed populations you’re growing. Unfortunately, that is an area that is a bit outside of my expertise and too involved for the likes of this article.

What’s important to know at this point is that the presence of weeds, and especially an infestation of them, is a pretty good indicator that you’ve got soil deficiencies of some sort that should really be corrected if at all possible. Often, even without knowing the specific deficiencies, just moving to more natural growing and fertilization methods will begin to correct much of the issue. Natural growing practices replenish the micronutrients and minerals that are so lacking in chemically fertilized soils.

Moreover, using chemical fertilizers raises soil acidity and salt levels. Weeds can easily tolerate these conditions. Other plants typically cannot, thus, they cannot compete. Getting your pH back in balance and then using a natural fertilizer that does not contribute to lower pH and higher salt levels will eventually create a more hospitable environment for the desired plants to grow, again providing a way for them to compete more effectively against the undesirable plants.

Lastly, when you’re talking about turf, a good quality, natural fertilizer will often give thicker grass blades, rather than taller ones that you often get from high nitrogen chemical fertilizers. These thicker grass blades tend to shade the soil better, preventing the germination of weed seeds, which generally need a great deal of sunlight for germination. Moreover, if you mow the lawn relatively long (2.5 – 3″), you compound this “shading” effect thereby making it very difficult for weeds to take hold.

Putting Physics to Work for Your Lawn

Physics tells us that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. So, in a lawn, if you’ve got weeds, it simply means that you’ve got bare soil where there is no grass growing (even if it’s not immediately visible to the eye). Grow more grass and you’ll have less weeds. There are only two ways to do that – fertilize (with a natural product containing a readily available source of natural phosphorus to encourage the growth of rhizomes and/or tillers for those grasses that have that capability) and overseed in the Fall or Spring and Fall. Fall is typically the most productive time to overseed since most of your weeds have already died out and are not competing for space in the lawn.

Combining these two practices (fertilization and overseeding) along with some of what’s been suggested above (such as keeping your lawn somewhat long) can quickly decimate the weeds in your lawn, replacing them with a full, lush lawn that your kids and pets will love to play on.

If You Want a “Product” to Do the Job

Corn Gluten Meal is a “natural” by-product of corn syrup production. I use the term “natural” a bit loosely since nearly all of it is from GMO corn which is about as far from being natural as it can be without being a man-made chemical. However, that being said, it is likely that, as a weed control mechanism, not to be eaten by any animal or human, it is far less toxic than the chemical products that are traditionally used.

It’s actually an organic weed control pre-emergent. It will NOT kill weeds after they’ve already germinated and begun growing. In addition, it will not stop perennial weeds that come up year after year from the root that is left behind over the winter. However, it CAN be relatively effective at keeping NEW seeds from germinating, both from annual and perennial weed species. As a side benefit, it also supplies nitrogen to your plants, so be careful how much other fertilizer you might use in conjunction with it so that you don’t “burn” anything.

In order to use corn gluten meal, you’d spread it evenly over the area you with to control weeds on BEFORE the weed seeds would typically begin to germinate. That means, if you live in a northern or transitional state here in the US, you’d probably be applying in mid April through Early May. It’s also likely that you’d need to put down another application around mid-August to address weeds that normally germinate later in the summer.

For effective coverage, you’d need to put down about 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet, and you’ll normally pay about $1 per pound to purchase it. So, in effect, you’ll pay about $20 per 1,000 square feet to use it, meaning that the average 5-10,000 square foot lawn would cost $100 – $200 per application … not exactly cheap.

This is why, in most cases, I don’t consider CGM to be a good weed control method for a lawn, unless you have a very tiny city lot. Now, the story may be a bit different with regards to gardening, since many home gardeners have fairly small gardens that wouldn’t require all that much CGM to do the job. So, if you’re looking to control weeds in the garden, CGM might be an option to consider, although it’s worth nothing again that any CGM you buy is VERY likely to be from genetically modified corn and CGM does work as a fertilizer as well as a pre-emergent for weeds. I’m not sure that anyone knows for absolute certain whether this would have a detrimental affect on the nutrition of the fruits and vegetables grown from plants fertilized with CGM.

Another Effective Weed Control Product

There are number of “spot spray” weed control products on the market that are pretty effective, although not selective. In other words, they do a good job of killing weeds, but they’ll also kill desirable plants if you’re not careful about what you spray. Most of these products are acetic acid (vinegar) based.

You can, of course, use household vinegar, but, since it’s only 5% acetic acid, it is not nearly as strong or as effective. You may be able to kill new “seedlings” with this, but don’t expect to kill any larger, established weeds. After a little research online, I found little in terms of available suppliers of the 20% vinegar solutions except Amazon. Obviously, that doesn’t make them the only option, just the one that I found, and the price was decent.

The product shown at the right (Maestro-Gro Blackjack 21 – Gallon) is one of about 4 different offerings on Amazon that are 20% acetic acid, but it is the cheapest of all of them, costing less then $30 for a full gallon of solution – which should last quite awhile, unless you’re spraying an entire field of weeds. These ARE affiliate links, so if you’re averse to paying me a commission for my expertise, just go directly to Amazon.com and search for “20% acetic acid” or try searching Google for other available options.

Alternatively, Citric Acid should work just as well based on my reading, and you could probably do it cheaper. Amazon sells a 5 pound bag of 100% citric acid (dry) for about $20 with FREE Super Saver Shipping (Spicy World Citric Acid, 5-Pound). A gallon of water weighs in at about 8 pounds. So, to get a 20% citric acid solution, you’d need to add 2 pounds of 100% citric acid crystals to one gallon of water (ending up with 10 pounds of solution, of which 2 pounds – or 20% – would be citric acid).

That works out to about $8 for more than a gallon of 20% citric acid solution, which seems like a much better deal to me. Again, don’t spray anything you don’t want to kill, so be careful not to spray any plants you like, but this is a relatively cheap and completely natural way to kill weeds.

Burn ‘Em ALL!!!

Weed TorchRemember that flamethrower that I said would be so fun to use? Well, you actually can use something similar to kill weeds, depending upon where they are.

It’s called a “weed torch” and it’s basically a mini flamethrower. In essence, you truly do “burn” your weeds away. Just hook up the “wand” to a small propane tank, light it up and start burning.

Since these get pretty hot, you don’t really want to be anywhere near plants that you care about, but, if you got an area of your lawn that is basically ALL weeds you could use this to kill them off and burn any weed seeds that may have dropped. Then, turn over the soil, heat it up one more time to kill any weed seeds you may have turned up and then prepare that soil area and plant grass seed.

You can also use these units to clear ice off of walkways in the winter, if you like. They are not cheap. The ones getting best reviews on Amazon are $100 and $300 respectively (the more expensive version is a “backpack” option. You can use the affiliate links below to check them out or simply go to Amazon.com and search for “weed torch”. The links below are to the two best reviewed models at Amazon.

Red Dragon VT 2-23 SVC 100,000 BTU Weed Dragon Propane Vapor Torch Kit

Red Dragon BP 223 SVC 100,000 BTU Weed Dragon Back Pack Propane Vapor Torch Kit With Squeeze Valve

Protecting Your Garden From Weeds

Of course, many of the tips and products provide above would work as well for a garden as for the lawn, although not all of them. In addition, there are some options available to you for a garden that might not be options for an established lawn, since a garden is generally replanted every year, so you’re starting from scratch every season.

Update Your Garden With the Latest News

Newspaper is actually an excellent weed barrier, especially if covered in a thin layer of mulch or soil. Simply lay down a double layer of newspaper (two sheets thick) anywhere you do not want weeds growing. Cut or tear the paper to fit it around your seedlings and overlap each section you lay down by about an inch (to prevent weeds from making their way up in between sections). Then toss some good mulch or soil on top to hold it in place.

Over the course of the season, the paper will degrade and will be incorporated into the soil for next years crop.

Use a “Living” Ground Cover

Try planting a low growing ground cover such as Thyme which will spread over the bare areas of your garden choking out weeds. You may need to fertilize a bit more since this ground cover will compete a bit with your garden plants for nutrients, but, if you use a ground cover with a shallow root system, the competition will be minor. In addition, at the end of the season, you’ll be able to “turn over” this ground cover to incorporate it into the soil and provide organic matter and nutrients for next year’s crop – so any fertilizer that these plants use will not be “lost”.

Get ‘Em Before They Get You

You can even do a pre-emptive strike against your weeds, before your garden ever gets planted. Water your garden area extensively and then cover the whole thing with clear plastic early in the season and leave it sit for about a month. As the temperatures begin to rise and the sun begins to shine more frequently and for longer periods, the soil will heat up and any weed seeds will germinate and start to grow quickly.

Of course, the clear plastic will intensify the suns rays so that as the weeds begin to grow they will be “burned alive” under the plastic. Leave the plastic on for at least a week after you see the last green weeds sprouts so you can be certain everything is dead. Then, remove the plastic and turn the weeds under (but only turn over the top few inches of soil to avoid turning up a whole new crop of weeds). Then, plant your crop as usual.

Don’t Forget a Good Quality Fertilizer

Remember, one of the most effective ways to keep weeds to a minimum and help your “desirables” to compete is to use a high quality natural fertilizer. There are many out there. I happen to believe that the AGGRAND Organic Fertilizer line that I sell is one of the best and most cost effective available. I hope that you’ll take some time to browse around the site and see for yourself whether AGGRAND would be a good fit for you.

What Do YOU Think? Agree? Disagree? Make You Mad? I Want to Know.
Please leave a comment, question, suggestion, correction or elaboration below.

Organic Weed Control Video Help

Here’s a little help from the National Gardening Association as well, just in case you’re not into reading all that much.

In the end, organic weed control isn’t nearly as hard as many people make it out to be, IF you know how to do it right.

Please be sure to leave us your questions, comments or suggestions below. We value your input.