Like all chemicals, weed control products come with a few cautionary notes to ensure the safety of those applying and the general public. Products like Roundup, Zero or any other with the active constituent of Glyphosate, rightly or wrongly have a bad wrap and there is a big push to move away from these harsh and potentially toxic chemicals.
But what natural alternatives are available? Believe it or not, you have a few options. Read on for 8 chemical-free weed killer alternatives.
Sometimes prevention is the best method. A well-mulched garden bed will effectively reduce or completely eliminate most weed problems in the garden. Weed seeds need fertilise soil to germinate and a nice thick layer of quality mulch will prevent those seeds from hitting the soil. Anything that does get through should be smothered out by the thick mulch layer and lack direct sunlight.
This might sound a bit silly, pulling them out (roots and all) will take care of most weed issues. The trick is to not let them get away from you and catch them when the soil is soft and moist so you can remove as much of the plant as possible. If in a garden bed, grab your mattock and churn the soil, releasing the roots. Nothing but a bit of sweat required!
Landscaping fabrics such as weed mat, mulch mat and geotextile bidim can act as an artificial mulch, preventing weed seeds from germinating in exposed soil. The heavier duty versions also prevent penetration from weed roots making for easy removal. Even adding a layer of old newspaper over your garden beds can be an effective means of weed control. Cutting out the essential sunlight is surprisingly effective! The downside here is landscaping fabrics applied over soil can sour the soil by preventing the decomposition of organic matter (mulch) into the soil. We would also recommend a biodegradable product in active garden bed applications.
Plain, old tap water can do the trick. This is most effective on young weeds and smaller more isolated infestations, but a dousing of boiling water straight from the kettle will take care of it. Add a tablespoon of salt to make this method even more effective.
A Sprinkling of Salt
Stock up on rock salt and sprinkle it on garden paths to fight weeds in the spring (table salt works too). Salt also makes a good weed barrier along lawn edgings and other places a lawn mower can’t reach, but apply it carefully. It can erode concrete surfaces and can leave the ground barren for a prolonged period of time.
Pour Vinegar on Them
Douse weeds with vinegar and they’ll be a goner! Look for the horticultural kind, with 20% acetic acid. “It’s non-selective, meaning it’ll kill anything green, but it’s not all that effective on grassy weeds. But remember, vinegar is acidic, which means you run the risk of lowering the pH of the soil.
Grow Your Lawn
The height of your mower really does matter. The length of your grass can impact its health and make it more or less susceptible to weeds particularly in extreme conditions when your lawn is struggling. Growing out your lawn will minimise scalping (bare earth caused by mower height) and help shade out weed seeds from germinating. Just remember, when you set out to bring your lawn height down again, lower in stages removing only 1/3 of the leaf blade each mow.
Crowd Them Out
In the garden, the main competitor for a weed is a healthy plant. Planting your garden out, feeding and watering appropriately will mean only the strongest survive and thrive. Plant ground covers, flowers and garden crops that will naturally beat out weeds for sunlight, water and nutrients eliminating the need for all chemical weed control methods. Remember, a healthy garden and lawn will naturally take care of the weeds themselves!