Do-it-yourself Weed Control
There are many things you can do in the creation of a beautiful lawn that will keep weeds at bay.
Your first line of defense against invading weeds is a healthy lawn. Grass which is lush, thick and left to grow to a proper length (generally, up to 4 inches for vertical grasses such as St Augustine and 2 inches for those bent grasses, such as Zoysia) will shade the ground enough to prevent weeds from growing. There are many websites that will give you exacting measurements for different species, different times of the year and even different areas of the country, but rather than trying to worry a homeowner into doing calculus, simply look at your lawn. All you are trying to do is get a great-looking and great-feeling lawn. Too short and the grass is susceptible to drought and disease. Not enough green to sustain the plant or crowd out weeds. If it is too long, you invite insects, rodents, snakes and the grass starts to lay over and become difficult to mow. A general rule of thumb is to always cut less than 1/3 of the length. This leaves plenty of green for healthy grass. Another point, grass should be mowed with the sharpest blade you can employ. A dull blade will rip up your grass rather than pinch the tops off cleanly.
In flower beds and shady areas without grass cover, a layer of organic matter can smother and inhibit weeds, as well as prevent new seeds from germinating. Good sources of mulch include wood chips, compost, grass clippings, and straw. Don’t use hay; it can contain a lot of unwanted seeds.
You can also put down ground cloth, newspaper, cardboard, old cotton curtains or bed sheets, landscape fabric, or other thick material on your soil to prevent weeds from growing through.
Boil a kettle of water and pour it over any weeds to burn them. This technique is great for weeds growing in the cracks of pavement and coming up in your garden paths. The water will cool as it runs off so it won’t hurt any plants you want to keep.
Vodka or Rubbing Alcohol
Try this weed-killing recipe on your annual weeds growing in full sun:
- 2 ounces cheap vodka or rubbing alcohol
- 2 cups of water
- a couple drops of dish soap (helps the mix to stick where you spray it)
Mix into a spray bottle. Spray on weeds to dry them out and kill them.
Be careful not to spray on any of your regular plants, because the alcohol will dry out whatever it hits. This spray does not work well in shady areas. If a weed should attempt tocome back, it will come back weaker and another dose should polish it off.
This vinegar mix is good for drying out weeds too, though you may have to apply it multiple times on weeds with a long taproot, like dandelion.
- 1 gallon 5% white household vinegar
- 1 cup table salt
- 1 Tbsp. dish soap
Mix into a spray bottle and spray directly onto your weeds, making sure to avoid the plants you want. It works even better in full sun.
If you use 20% or 30% vinegar, available at some garden shops, this formula will work much better, but the vinegar is so acidic, you will need to use gloves and goggles to ensure any spray doesn’t blow back and burn your skin or eyes.
Corn gluten meal is a byproduct of the corn milling process that just so happens to prevent weed seeds from germinating. It does nothing to kill weeds once they have sprouted, however.
Corn gluten meal is often applied to lawns to prevent crabgrass and dandelions from sprouting, but it can be used in other garden areas, after the seeds you want have sprouted.
It’s non-toxic, and if you buy certified organic corn gluten meal, there will be no GMOs or glyphosate residue.
Shock and Awe
A flame weeder is a wand connected to a propane tank which enables you to pass a flame over a weed in order to fatally heat the plant tissues. Flaming will only kill the leaves above the ground, not the roots, so you may need to flame your weeds a few times before they’re gone.
Flame weeders are extremely effective on all types of weeds, and if you have a large garden or small farm, they are worth the investment. Just take great care when using a flame weeder during a dry spell, when there is a risk of fire.