With the exception of weeding by hand, the truth is that most “green” organic weed killers currently available are not as effective as their chemical-based counterparts, but organic science driven by consumer demand could bring new, more effective alternatives. In exchange for a somewhat reduced effectiveness, organic solutions give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing you are not polluting the environment or creating health risks to your family and neighbors. For many people, this is all the motivation required.
One mechanical means of killing weeds is with a flame torch. A variety of long-handled tools are available that operate by means of a small propane tank that fuels a hot flame at the tip of the tool. By scorching lawn weeds with the flame, you effectively kill it, right down to the roots. You will need to be careful, however, since the flame will also kill any grass plants it touches. Some homeowners practice a similar technique using boiling water.
The most common homebrew using some combination of vinegar (1 gallon), salt (1 cup), and/or soap (1 tablespoon). There are numerous variations on the recipe but the resulting concoction is usually a pretty good non-selective weed killer. The acetic acid of the vinegar goes to work disrupting the cells of the plant while the salt desiccates the tissue and the soap aids in allowing the mixture to stick to the plant. Its effectiveness can be improved with stronger vinegar concentrations—most store-bought vinegar is 5 percent acetic acid, but concentrations of up to 20 percent can be found. Plants with hairs or waxy coatings may not be completely eradicated by the vinegar concoction.
Removal by Hand
One advantage of systematically removing weeds by hand is that it provides a means of aerating the lawn. An hour or so of weeding after every lawn-mowing session will pockmark your yard with small holes where the weeds have been removed, providing the same benefit as running an aerator machine over the lawn. Weeding by hand keeps you in close contact with the health of your lawn, and those who do it regularly often find that it is not much of a burden. It can also be a good way to keep kids engaged in lawn work.
Another popular home remedy is Ultra Dawn dish soap mixed with water used as a moss killer. Simply mix 4 ounces of Ultra Dawn dish soap with 1 gallon of water in a sprayer and apply to the moss; it will turn brown and die within a week or so. Moss can be tricky to eliminate, and the conditions causing its presence need to be altered, but with an old recipe like dish soap and water, moss can be dealt with safely and cheaply.
But growing numbers of people no longer want to apply chemical pesticides (which kill insects) or herbicides (which kill plant life) to their lawns and gardens, out of growing awareness of the negative, and sometimes devastating, effects on the environment and on the health of people and animals. In response, laws and regulations are evolving to reflect public pressure and the inherent dangers of these chemicals. Progress on regulation is somewhat more advanced when it comes to insect-killing pesticides. The proper study of the effects of plant-killing herbicides on the environment has been slower in the U.S., although other nations, especially Canada, have put forth restrictions on some of the herbicides used routinely in the U.S. So what is the most responsible way for an environmentally conscious homeowner to deal with lawn weeds?
For years, chemical weed killer has been a part of nearly everyone’s lawn care routine. Products commonly used have ranged from pre-emergent crabgrass control to weed-and-feed fertilizer-weedkiller combinations, to broadleaf weed killer containing 2, 4-D, to the ubiquitous and controversial glyphosate (RoundUp)—killer of all plants. These harsh chemicals have become such a way of life that you can sometimes find entire neighborhoods smelling like 2,4-D after the lawn service has passed through.
9. Vinegar and Salt
Glyphosate is the active herbicidal ingredient in Roundup. Many genetically modified food crops, such as corn and soybeans, have been scientifically designed to be resistant to glyphosate. Farmers can then spray Roundup on their fields and kill all the weeds, leaving only the food crop standing. This greatly simplifies weed control, but it also means the food crops are literally covered with Roundup. And so is any food you eat that’s made from these crops, like corn chips, bread and other packaged food.
You don’t have to resort to chemical herbicides in order to get rid of invasive weeds. Safer options exist that will work just as effectively. They may take a bit more persistence, but the benefits of organic control methods far outweigh the negative health effects of chemical pesticides.
We’re just starting to understand the serious long-term health and environmental effects of Roundup and other popular herbicides. The less we use these chemicals, the better. Try some of these effective organic weed-control methods instead.
4. Regulate Food and Water
The oil in soap naturally breaks down the surface of waxy or hairy weed leaves. Adding a few drops of liquid dish detergent to vinegar or vodka sprays will help it stay on the leaves and have the greatest impact.