I have been spending quite a bit of time out in the yard for the last few weeks now that spring is finally here. The grass is growing like gangbusters, the garden plants are in their beds and there are tons of projects that need tending to. One thing that I absolutely HATE doing is dealing with weeds. Of course, since I refuse to spray them all with chemicals I am left with natural weed control methods, which usually involve pulling them out by hand and swearing a lot. It is not usually a successful method of weed control, unfortunately! But, I do what I can to keep the weeds out of the actual food and try to overlook it when they grow places that I don’t think they belong. After all, what exactly IS a weed? What makes one pretty yellow flower a weed while that pink one that I PLANTED there is not a weed? Why is the wild strawberry my weed nemesis while cultivated berries are cherished as a much loved food source?
Think About This Thursday
I haven’t written a Think About This Thursday post in a while. Life sometimes gets in the way of deep thinking. But, today I would like to take a minute to think about what makes one thing a WEED and another NOT. According to Wikipedia, a weed is a plant that is considered undesirable. But, by who’s standards? The bunnies and chipmunks think that my out of control wild strawberry is a Godsend. While I may not be interested in eating those tart little berries, they certainly turn them into a spring feast every single year. I may hate the sight of a dandelion growing amongst my pretty pink mailbox flowers but many people actually eat dandelion greens on a regular basis. My grandmother used to serve them when we would visit and I could just never get over the fact that I was eating something I generally considered a weed, even as a kid. Basically, in today’s vernacular, a weed is anything that is growing somewhere we don’t want it to be. In Texas, wild Morning Glories are considered weeds, even though they are incredibly beautiful. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure and one person’s weed may be totally acceptable growing in someone else’s yard. So, what do we do when we are inundated with nature trying to take over places we don’t want it to be?
Chemical weed control methods are not always the safest choices. Those chemicals that we spray in our yards for weed control end up on things like our pets and our children. They also end up in rivers, streams, and the bellies of small woodland creatures. I would really like to suggest that you skip the chemical weed control methods this spring and look into natural weed control instead. What sort of natural things can you do to prevent those undesirable plants from taking over your yard? Here are few natural weed control methods that might work for you and in the process expose you, your family, and our environment to a lot fewer chemicals!
Natural Weed Control Methods
1. Mulch: Depending on what you have nearby, how much money you have to spend, and what areas you are working in you have a lot of choices. You can put down newspaper under a layer of soil. You can use wood chips from your nearby tree cutting service (often free but be careful that you get chips from a tree that was not diseased!). You can buy rubber tire mulch but do not use this in an area where you are planting food.
2. Ground cover plants: In our front walkway we have planted Creeping Jenny which has formed a very thick mat of short little plants. This plant grows so thickly that I almost never see weeds pop up in that area any more. Many different types of ground cover are available so choose one that thrives in your region for the best results.
3. Maintain healthy soil and plants: Weeds thrive in areas that are left bare. Plant things you WANT to grow there and make sure the soil is loaded with organic nutrients and the plants are well watered. If you keep desirable plants healthy you will have fewer problems with weeds.
4. Cover the ground with landscape fabric: We do this fairly regularly and while it is effective for a year or two, it will break down eventually. Weeds also like to grow around the edges. You can buy landscaping fabric for natural weed control in most lawn and garden stores.
5. Hand pick them: This can be time consuming if you have a large yard but it is effective, especially if you can pick them before they go to seed. Every year you should see fewer and fewer weeds as the seeds already in your soil start to become fewer and fewer.
6. Vinegar and other organic herbicides: Spraying your weeds with vinegar or a natural herbicide you purchase from a garden center is a good way to kill weeds, however this works best in an area where you don’t want ANYTHING growing. Grass in the cracks of you driveway or clover amongst the patio stones, for example. They will kill surrounding grass and plants so take care when using these natural weed control methods.
If you are currently using NON natural methods of weed control I would really like you to rethink your choices! Many of these chemical sprays have been shown to have serious harmful effects on humans, animals, and our environment as a whole. According to The Environmental Working Group, “Extreme levels”of the herbicide, Roundup, has been found in much of our food supply. Skip the dangerous chemicals and choose natural weed control methods instead. Or, maybe just let those weeds live with all those pretty tulips you planted!