For many of us, organic weed control means many hours crouched in the garden pulling weeds.
And after a while, it’s easy for an organic gardener to begin to think of the buttercups or bindweed as the enemy.
So I’ll give some tips on how to kill weeds naturally in this article.
But at the same time, many of us may have an inkling that weeds aren’t simply the enemy, that it’s more complicated than that.
After all, many weeds are edible or have medicinal properties.
The difference comes down to this: weeds are soil healers...
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Phil: Hey guys it’s Phil from smilinggardener.com. It’s actually getting warm at here, I think this might be the last video where I am wearing my faithful green sweater here. If you haven’t picked up my free online organic gardening course, you can do that right on the home page of smilinggardener.com.
Today I am talking about organic weed control. Now for many of us organic weed control means we are down on our hands and knees for hours at a time pulling weeds, you can tell right now but I was down on my hands and knees and we really start to after a while to think that weeds are the enemies, especially weeds like bindweed and some of those grassy weeds which just keep putting up shoots all over the place. I am going to give you some tips on how to kill weeds naturally today but first I want to talk about the benefits of weeds some of us realized you know that can’t be just that simple that weeds are all bad, the truth is weeds are soil healers.
A number of weeds are nitrogen fixers like this is vetch and this is something I actually planted as a cover crop but it is helping to get more nitrogen into the soil, same with clover is a common weed, people would call the weed in the line even though it wasn’t long ago that it used to be included in lawn seed and it’s coming back a little bit today the people started to do a little bit of that but that is a nitrogen fixing plant. It’s working with bacteria to help improve the nitrogen in the soil, other than pulling weeds by hand there are number of things you can do. I am going to give you six of them today.
If you get cheap seed it’s going to have a lot of weed seeds in and you don’t want to do that, likewise when you are bringing in compost or when you are composting, you want to make sure you are creating a hot compost pile or buying really good compost for most of those weed seeds will have been killed because if you spread compost that has or top soil that has horse tiller or something like that you are bringing that into your garden. It’s not a great thing, so that’s number one as try to be clean. Second step is balancing your soil fertility and actually that’s what I was going to bring out my soil test for I remember now.
So I am not going to get in much detail here but when I look at this organic soil test result I can look especially at my main macronutrients here. I can see my calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium those are all a [indiscernible 02:02] which is certainly common but if we can balance those out based on the recommendations from a good organic soil lab, we will start to see our weed pressure go down, a trusty hope.
Now it’s not always going to kill the weeds but if you just keep doing it a few times, it’s going to weaken them and eventually they wouldn’t cause that much problem, but dandelion, it’s nice if you can pull up that by the tap root it takes so long, now for me personally I leave most of the dandelions in my soil because I know they are doing a lot of good work there but if I did want to get rid of them and this is one handed I would just take a whole and boom, I didn’t get rid of everything but I got rid of a lot, you know the worms like to hang up right in the root zone of a weed. So, that’s another reason weeds are good. Next, how I am going to stop that dandelion from coming up again, well dandelions happen to be pretty strong, they keep come in back otherwise you can weaken them over the time but the next step to controlling weeds is boom.
Throw a nice thick mulch in there leaves or straw or whatever you like to use for mulch, I talked about that before but that is going to stop most weeds from coming up. Let’s go have a look at okay. Let’s check out this new garden that I put in last fall, not a whole lot of weeds going on in here either and that’s because of mulch, does so much to stop weeds. I had a leaf mulching here over the fall and just actually in the last couple of days having lend on a little straw because some of the leaves blew over to that side of the garden, so now I am laying down straw, those are my two favorite kinds of mulch and I do not have any weed problems in this garden.
The next step is to plan very densely, plant poly cultures which are groups of different kinds of plants that all work together to help each other out and the shadow of the soil, now I don’t have much going on this year. Here is my little strawberry batch. It doesn’t have much weed problems because it’s pretty dense on it’s own when it gets going and plant other things in there and I smoldered it with leaves so that’s not a great example this time year and there is the last step right there if you are in a pinch in it vinegar, just regular household vinegar, it’s 5% ascetic acid by volume.
It’s going to get rid of some of those you know dandelions and those really strong perennials but they do a really good job on animals and it will weaken perennials too just like aa hoe does over the time. So, what you do here is you put this in a spray bottle and just spray it especially nice for sidewalks and patios, but even a little bit in the garden is not too big of a deal, now if you want something a little stronger, you can buy horticultural vinegar, it’s 10% to 30% ascetic acid now it’s pretty caustic stuff very ascetic. It can burn you, you got to be careful with it but it can be used with you know to kill more perennial weeds, so those are your six steps. So how to kill weeds naturally, the big thing here is to take a long review.
So all of these other lessons I am teaching you had a balance of your soil and get organic matter in there, all of that stuff is going to create a soil that doesn’t support weeds very well, they just wouldn’t be able to thrive there. So that’s the main one along with smoldering them out with a nice thick organic mulch with very dense plantings or plants with a very dense healthy line, it’s especially important to balance your soil and have a good healthy line to compete weeds there because in the garden we can put a thick mulch on and that can cover a lot.
So that allow me really need to make healthy and that’s what we gotta do that. So the question today is what are your main problem weeds. If you can post that down below I will try to give you some tips specifically on how to deal with those weeds or I will try to tell you if there are any fertility issues that those weeds point to, other than that you can read more detail in this article down below, you can subscribe to my free online course down below that, you can join me on facebook.com/smilinggardener and I will see you next week.
Many of these annoying plants we end up plucking from our garden beds are pioneer plants.
That means it’s their ecological job to restore imbalanced soil to a state of health.
This is why many weeds either host nitrogen-fixing bacteria – for example clover, trefoil, and vetch.
Or accumulate particular mineral nutrients – like thistles, dandelions, or plantain.
They share these nutrients and organic matter with the soil when they die, feeding the soil bacteria and nourishing the soil food web.
They also support healthy soil ecology by exuding nutrients through their roots while they’re alive, as their determined taproots break up compacted soil and improve tilth.
Weeds are generous givers!
Just as healthy plants don’t attract insect predators, well-balanced soils are much less likely to grow weeds.
We can even make some reasonable guesses about what’s going on with our soil, just by seeing which weeds are showing up.
For example, groups of grassy weeds tend to indicate low available calcium in the soil, while broadleaf weeds suggest a lack of phosphate relative to potash.
This doesn’t mean we should run off and apply single-nutrient organic fertilizers willy-nilly just based on the presence of a few dandelions, but weeds can add color to the picture of our overall soil health, and can help confirm soil test results.
Still, in the meantime, I know you want to get rid of them, and the good news is there are many organic weed control methods other than pulling them by hand...
We can start first by doing what we can to avoid bringing them into the garden through low quality seed mixes or improperly composted manure.
It may seem surprising that seeds could germinate even after going all the way through a horse’s digestive tract, but it’s true! The compost needs to get hot to kill these persistent little packets of life.
The second step is to balance the soil nutrients. Our plants want balanced soils, while weeds thrive on imbalanced soils.
I’ve been amazed to see insect predators leave plants and move over to the weeds as soil nutrients become more balanced.
Balancing the soil is especially important for organic weed control in lawns where we can’t use a mulch to smother out the weeds.
Which leads me to the third tip for how to kill weeds naturally - you’ll want to keep a nice thick layer of mulch on the soil all the time, once your seedlings have grown enough to reach light above the mulch.
Mulching is helpful for any number of reasons, not just for weed suppression, but this would be a good enough reason on its own. If you have a large home garden, mulching can save you dozens or even hundreds of hours over the course of a year.
The forth organic weed control tip is to crowd weeds out by planting densely, and planting polycultures of different plants that will keep the soil shaded.
There will pretty much always be something that grows on bare soil, so if you can keep the soil covered in multiple levels of desirable plants, the weeds won’t be as big of a deal.
The fifth organic weed killer, for those weeds that do make it through, is using a sharp hoe and cutting them off just below the soil surface.
It’s less work than hand-pulling, and can be very effective, especially for annual weeds. Even for perennials, it will weaken them over time.
The sixth step is to apply boiling water (only good for small areas obviously) or spray them with household vinegar (5% - very safe but not so useful for perennials or other tough weeds) or horticultural vinegar (10-30% - can burn your skin pretty bad, but works better).
Take a longer view.
Soil is full of seeds and bits of root, waiting weeks, years, even decades for the right conditions to germinate.
When that moment arrives and the soil lies bare, these dormant seeds will spring into action like liability lawyers in a trauma ward.
So there’s really very little point trying to eliminate weed seeds and roots from our soil.
Instead, we can keep our soil healthy and well covered with plants and mulch, so weeds can take a nice long holiday from their job as healers of imbalanced soil.
What are your problem weeds? Give me the details below and I’ll see what I can offer for organic weed control tips.