3 Simple Chemical-Free Strategies For Controlling Weeds

Keeping invasive weeds at bay is an important part of having a gorgeous lawn or garden. However, you may be hesitant to use chemical herbicides to control weeds, especially if you have kids or pets that are going to be spending time in your front or backyard. On the other hand, who wants to spend hours on their hands and knees pulling out weeds one by one? Luckily, you don't have to douse your plants in chemicals or spend hours doing backbreaking garden work to keep the weeds out of your garden. There are several good non-chemical strategies for keeping weeds at bay that are easier than you think.

Natural Herbicides

It's easy to find information about ordinary household ingredients that kill weeds. The trouble comes with finding accurate information about how to use these ingredients correctly. The most common natural herbicides you'll hear about are salt, vinegar, soap, and citrus oil. Here's what you need to know about these natural weed killers.

  • Salt. Although it's true that salt kills plants by drying them out, it's not a good choice for your garden. It can get into the soil and make it difficult or impossible to grow the plants that you do want in that area. Salt should be reserved for weeds that spring up in cracks in your driveway or patio, where you're not trying to grow other plants.
  • Vinegar. Vinegar is effective at killing weeds, also by drying them out – however, it may not kill the roots of the weed. If you use vinegar to get rid of weeds, be careful to target only the weed. Vinegar can just as easily kill the plants that you're trying to grow.
  • Soap. Dishwashing liquid can be added to a homemade weed killer formula made with vinegar or citrus oil. The soap helps the acid in the vinegar or oil to cling to the plant, ensuring that it soaks up more of the acid.
  • Citrus Oil. Citrus oil can kill weeds in exactly the same way vinegar does, and it requires the same targeted application. It's more expensive than vinegar, though, so unless you need an herbicide with a pleasant smell, it may make more sense to stick with the vinegar.

Black Tarps

A simple black tarp, like one from Billboard Tarps, can act as a permanent barrier to weeds, preventing them from growing in the first place. Weeds require sunlight to grow, and a black tarp will shut out most of the light, making it difficult for the seed seeds to germinate and spread in the first place. This works just as well as landscape fabric, but it costs considerably less.

To prevent weeds using a tarp, clear the area that you wish to plant, and lay the tarp flat over the soil. Cover it with several inches of sand, wood chips, or gravel mulch. Clear the mulch out of each spot that you're planning to put a plant, cut a round hole in the tarp in that area, and dig your hole to transplant the plant. Once the bulb is firmly in place, replace the mulch around the plant. Remember to leave a little space between the plant stem and the mulch so that water can soak into the root system. This will prevent weed growth in between plants.

Heavy Groundcover

What if you don't have a garden or plan to have one, and just want to keep the weeds out of the grass on your lawn? In that case, your best defense against weeds is a thick, heavy groundcover of the grass that you want. When the grass gets sparse, weeds have room to take root and take over.

Prevent your lawn from developing bare patches where weeds can grow by keeping your grass as healthy as possible. Reseed the lawn in the fall to guard against the fall and winter bare patches – the cold weather will kill off remaining weed seeds, and your grass will have the time to take root and establish itself before weeds can become an issue. Use high quality fertilizer on the lawn, and don't mow the grass too short. Mowing high increases the amount of area for photosynthesis, and more photosynthesis means more growth and healthier grass.

Once you've gotten the hang of using natural methods of weed control, you won't miss chemical herbicides, and you won't have to work nearly as hard to maintain a weed-free garden or lawn.