A lot of plants that many people spray with poisonous herbicides are actually useful. Dandelions for instance, the bane of many a synthetic lawn care enthusiast, are edible, nutritious, and food for bees and other pollinators. Other plants are medicinal, attract beneficial insects, the list goes on.
But, even if you do have an appreciation for wild plants, there are going to be occasions where you have something growing in the wrong spot at the wrong time. And if you’re like me, RoundUp or any other synthetic herbicide is never an acceptable option.
Well, what else can you use?
You’ve really got two main choices; store bought or home made. If you choose the store bought route, make sure the product you use is OMRI certified, or FIFRA 25 (b) exempt and that you follow directions properly. There are many different products and manufacturers to choose from and you are bound to find what you need especially if you order online. If you like awesome things that shoot fire out them, this torch kit is useful for weeds and de-icing.
Because I am Exceedingly Cheap, I almost never buy something I can make for pennies with things I likely already have at home.
El Cheapo options include:
- boiling water (use care with it, it’s boiling water-duh)
- smothering with cardboard (takes a while, but good for clearing a large space)
- vinegar spray recipe (various versions are found on the web)
- weed whacker
- Fiskars weeder
- hand pulling (sometimes the simplest method is the way to go)
- goats (yes, goats)
What you choose really depends on what you have available to you, what it is you need to do, and where you need to do it. This summer I decided that our front walk looked especially crappy overgrown with crabgrass. There was a lot to pull by hand, and in many spots, it just wasn’t possible. So I decided to try out a vinegar recipe. I went with the vinegar, Epsom salt, dish soap recipe. The idea is that the vinegar burns the plant, the Epsom salts help desiccate the plant, and the dish soap works as a surfactant to penetrate the leaves. I used a biodegradable dish soap instead of Dawn. I eyeballed the amounts and slapped them together in a spray bottle and shook well.
I then squirted the weeds on a sunny morning. I only did the little ones growing in the cracks to see how well it worked as my first ‘speriment.
The next morning they were brown and sad looking. I let them be and they dried out and died back over the course of a few days. A couple showed regrowth and I was able to very easily pull them out by hand. It was quicker than mixing a new batch, and now even in October, my brick area is clear except for the one interesting flowering thing I purposefully left behind.
As you can see my ‘speriment was a success. The vinegar spray worked well and quickly. So, I set out to do the stubborn and impossible to pull crabgrass by the sidewalk. My husband used his muscles to get the big patch seen on the left, but the ones on the right growing around the large stone were too tight even for his brute strength. I slapped together a new batch and applied in the same manner, on a sunny morning.
The next morning they looked like this:
They were looking pretty dead, and since I was anxious to get rid of them I grabbed one up and gave it a pull. It came out roots and all, with hardly any effort. I was thrilled, and the rest came out just as easily. Only a day before, they weren’t budging at all. I swept up the area, and these are my results:
I couldn’t be more pleased with the results I got, using things already in my house. Shortly after this, the business across the street decided to fix up their front flower beds filled with harmless dandelions and narrow leaf plantain. I watched and cringed as a woman doused the whole front bed area with RoundUp. Weeks later, I then watched as she and two other people had to weed those beds by hand because they were still covered with mostly green plants. Not only did the glyphosate not work, she now exposed herself and our neighborhood to a toxic herbicide for nothing. Did she learn a lesson? I hope so. Perhaps next time she will use the vinegar recipe written on the back of a Beyond Pesticides print out called least toxic control of weeds that ahem magically found its way into the mail slot?*
It’s time to think differently about ‘weeds’ and how to control them. Here are some resources to learn more.
*not long after I saw and overheard the employees using vinegar and hand pulling the weeds in the crushed gravel out front. I dropped them a thank you card in the mail slot!