How to Get Rid of Weeds in an Eco-Friendly Way

Vego Garden
Vego Garden

Scraggly, unkempt, and obstinate – weeds are the bane of every gardener’s existence. During the summer season, they tend to proliferate in unsightly patches, marring your garden. When choosing a way to get rid of weeds, it can be second nature to reach for a commercial option at your local supercenter. However, many of them contain harmful chemicals that can leach into the environment. It is important to utilize eco-friendly ways of exterminating weeds to keep you and your garden healthy. Below are several safe ways to kill weeds in a sustainable manner. 


Frequently Asked Questions

What is Considered a Weed?

In The Great Gatsby, the character Daisy is a self-absorbed socialite that acts in a cowardly way under the disguise of femininity. She may be pretty, but ultimately, is just a weed. Likewise, even pretty flowers may be considered weeds if they are not wanted. Typical weeds are often singled out due to their undesirable qualities – aggressiveness, toxicity, and unattractive appearance. Weeds may fall into different categories such as noxious weeds, lawn weeds, and invasive weeds, but all are considered nuisances. Though few care about the particular semantics of weeds, a ‘noxious’ weed is actually a legal term that refers to weeds that must be, by law, controlled. 

What are Common Noxious Weeds?

There are many resources online that include a comprehensive list of noxious weeds. Common criteria include toxicity, high levels of pollen, and ability to irritate. Some, like the spotted knapweed and Canada thistle, are a bright pink; others have scraggly foliage or produce thistles. 

Can I Let Some Weeds Grow? 

A stray dandelion or two is no cause for concern. Oftentimes, gardeners will accept a few weeds as part of the landscape. Many experienced gardeners agree that some gardeners are too stringent with weed removal in their yards when some weeds are innocuous or even helpful. Dandelions are often the only food source for many early-season pollinators, and besides, their fluffy seeds are a whimsical sight to behold. 


Should I Use Boiling Water to Destroy Weeds? 

Boiling water has been tried with mixed success among gardeners. While it can cause a weed to wilt and potentially kill it, the scalding water will also deplete the surrounding area and potentially kill beneficial soil microbes and earthworms. Therefore, it is best to only apply to weedy cracks in pavements and driveways.  

Eco-Friendly Way to Kill Weeds

For those that are budget conscious, cardboard is a salient way to suppress and kill weeds. However, if you are more flexible with your budget, landscape fabric and row covers are great alternatives in keeping pests and weeds from encroaching upon your garden. While the elevated height of raised garden beds should already deter the majority of weeds, some gardeners choose to add cardboard as a base layer. 

1. Use Cardboard to Kill Weeds 

A common way to smother weeds involves layering down a large layer of cardboard and then adding bark or mulch on top. This method can be used as an easy way to prepare a garden bed for planting, with a few considerations. First, the planting area should be covered thoroughly, without any gaps in between. Make sure the cardboard is evenly soaked, then cover the area with organic material and soil. Fall, starting in September, is the ideal time to begin this process, because that is when the weeds will begin to sprout. 

For in-ground plots, this can be tricky to implement because this method can lead to a lack of air circulation in the soil, reducing the soil quality. There also remains an impenetrable layer of dead turf and other detritus that can be hard to dig under. For a simple solution to this problem, consider investing in raised garden beds, which eliminates the need to til or dig under the soil and other toilsome tasks. Simply fill the garden bed with soil once the area has been ridden of weeds.   

2. Use a Vinegar Mixture 

A remedy made using common household products – vinegar, salt, and dish soap – can be used to kill weeds. The acetic acid in vinegar damages their cell walls and removes moisture, leading to desiccation. In a bowl, mix together 1 gallon of vinegar (white is recommended), 1 tablespoon of dish soap, and 1 cup of salt. Afterwards, spray the mixture onto weeds. Vinegar is a non-selective weed killer, meaning that it will also damage nearby plants. While this can be effective in killing the top layer, it does not target weeds at the root level. Also, too much salt can render the area barren. A horticultural vinegar solution is recommended for killing tough, perennial weeds.  

3. Prevent Weeds from Sprouting

Weed prevention is important for long-term controls. Ground covers can aid in suppressing weeds while also adding texture to areas with low aesthetic value. Mulch, when combined with a layer of cardboard or newspaper, can increase the efficacy of weed prevention.  

4. Pull Weeds by Hand 

This old-school solution is one that many gardeners groan at, but it remains the safest. By methodically pulling weeds by hand, you can greatly reduce infestations and the number of weeds in general. For the best way to eradicate weeds at the root level, use a hori hori knife, which combines a garden knife and a trowel. First, plunge the blade into the soil, then pry the earth underneath it loose. From there, you should be able to pull up the weed. 

Unless you are dealing with a particularly pernicious variety, then you should refrain from using herbicides. If you do decide to use an herbicide, opt for organic ones. Organically-derived herbicides can aid in destroying common weeds such as crabgrass.  


5. Use A Torch Against Weeds

Beating weeds with specialized, handheld torches not only sounds humorous, but is an effective way to get rid of weeds without employing chemicals. Using clean-burning propane gas rather than fossil fuels, it involves exposing the plants to heat just enough to rupture plant tissue. Like with other methods, it has low selectivity, and should be used sparingly in vegetable patches. 

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