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Organic Gardening Series: Natural Weed Control

June 25th, 2010 · 9 Comments · Organic Gardening

There are many ways to naturally control weeds in a garden. If you have a raised bed garden, you really should have very few weeds, and if you do have any, you should be able to easily pull them up by hand. However, if you have a large garden, you are going to need efficient ways to control your weeds that won’t hurt your plants. This is the latest in the organic gardening series by Rene of Budget Saving Mom. Thank you, as usual, Rene, for your experienced wisdom!

natural weed killers

10 Ways to Naturally Control Weeds

1. Pull them up. As I mentioned before, this is not practical for larger gardens, and can take a lot of time. If you do pull your weeds up, make sure that you pull up the roots as well so the weeds don’t come back. If necessary use a shovel or a hoe to remove the weeds. Weeds are easier to pull up after a good rain, so keep this in mind for stubborn weeds. Also, you will need to make sure that you don’t pull up weeds that are too close to the plant you want to save. Their roots might be intertwined and you could accidentally kill your plant.

2. Use barriers to control weeds in your pathways. Seeds from those weeds can quickly spread into your garden area, so pathways need to be weed free as well. We have used various items throughout the years as barriers. This year we had a new roof put on our house and used the old shingles on the pathways to reduce weeds. We have also used carpet, cardboard, black weed control fabric and mulch. Basically, you just want to find something that will not allow light through and is heavy enough to not allow weeds through. I am sure that some items are better to use than others environmentally, but we have such a large garden area, that we tend to use what we are able to get free that year.

3. Use vinegar to pour on weeds. This is one of my favorite ways to control weeds that grow in my walkway and driveway. However, I have also used it in my garden. They sell horticultural vinegar that is 20% vinegar rather than the 5% vinegar you will find in the grocery stores. I have used both. I always have regular vinegar around, so it is quick and easy to use. However, you might have to make repeated applications of the vinegar with household vinegar.

You can just pour the vinegar onto the weeds, and they will quickly die including the roots. This really is an amazing method of weed control. The plants will die very quickly compared to chemicals that you would otherwise use, even as quickly as one day. You will want to make sure that there is no rain in the forecast so that the vinegar has time to work. Also, it works more quickly on sunny days.

When you are using the vinegar, make sure to avoid any plants that you do not want to kill. If you have very hardy weeds, you can also consider adding some salt to the vinegar for a stronger spray. If there the weeds are close to your plants, I recommend just using a brush to spread the vinegar onto the weed. Organic methods of weed control are not plant specific, and will kill any plant, so you need to make sure the vinegar only gets on your weeds.

4. Use cornmeal in your garden. I think this is such a neat method of weed control because it can really benefit your garden as well! This is much cheaper than corn gluten meal (which many people use), and works great. I have a detailed post about how to use cornmeal as weed control here. As an added bonus, cornmeal attracts good worms. These worms will help to aerate your soil, and provide the nutrients that your plants need. The richer your soil is, the fewer weeds you will have.

5. Till your garden. When your garden is tilled, the weeds are uprooted, and will be reduced. We till our pathways in addition to the garden before covering it with barrier material. This helps to prevent the weeds from ever forming.

6. Use newspaper. You can place newspapers around your plants, and they will form a natural barrier for weeds. Just keep in mind that when you use newspaper, you want to look through and remove any of the color pages. Only use black and white pages due to the chemicals in colored ads. This is an easy way to control weeds in your beds.

7. Keep a set of gloves that you use exclusively to pull weeds. Only use these gloves to pull weeds. When you pull the weeds, often seeds will be on your gloves. You want to make sure to wash your hands, and shake your gloves off away from the garden so that you are not aiding in the spread of those weeds.

8. Grow healthy plants. When you have healthy plants, weeds will naturally be reduced. There will be less sunlight and nutrients available to weeds to grow.

9. Use boiling water. Boiling water will kill weeds. You just need to be careful and use common sense so that you don’t get burned or damage other plants.

10. Grow plants throughout all of your growing seasons. We use succession planting in our gardens so that the garden has plants growing almost year round. Since we do not have bare areas in our garden when plants can grow, this naturally helps to control weeds. We are careful to rotate our crops and plant beans and peas among other plants to help put nutrients back into the soil since we do garden so intensively. There are some plants that resist weeds better than others; by using crop rotation, you are able to ensure that you are not planting plants that do not discourage weeds in the same area year after year.

Bonus: There are also organic oils that you can purchase for weed control. These will kill any plant, just like vinegar, so they need to be used with care. We do not typically use these oils because they are more expensive than other methods.

What other methods of weed control have worked for you?

If you’ve missed the rest of the organic gardening series from Rene of Budget Saving Mom, click here to catch up.

Newly found gardening carnival! Gardeners: check out GoodLifeEats for a weekly GrowCookEat carnival featuring gardening posts every Friday.

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9 Comments so far ↓

  • Greta @ Mom Living Healthy

    I’m still at a loss for controlling our weeds. I did try vinegar, but not at the 20% strength, so maybe I need to get some of that!
    .-= Greta @ Mom Living Healthy´s last blog ..This Week’s Menu Plan =-.

  • Amy

    When I start getting frustrated with weeds, I take a deep breath and remember that we will always battle weeds. Adam and Eve seen to that!

  • Lenetta @ Nettacow

    Oh, I linked to this one, too, on my weekly roundup. The cornmeal is by far my fave… and it got me to wondering – can I grind field corn in my grain mill and use that? It would be free for me, and for the average population, it would be cheap to pick up at a farm supply store or whatnot… Need to dig out my manual!
    .-= Lenetta @ Nettacow´s last blog ..Weekly Link Roundup – AGAIN Edition =-.

  • Cori

    The corn solution scares me in an organic garden. Be careful not to fill your fancy organic raised bed with GMO cornmeal!
    .-= Cori´s last blog ..on our way =-.

  • 2Shaye

    Great post! I’m here from Nettacow’s blog (just love her!).

    We had to kill off an entire lot full of weeds two years ago. We did the salt and vinegar which kills almost everything if you do it thoroughly. We actually did it twice in a summer and then we waited a month for rain to help wash away any of the salt before raking up the dead weeds and replanting. Then we watered and re-seeded and watered and re-seeded. I know all our neighbors were secretively laughing behind closed doors at how motivated we were to win this battle every day for an entire long, hot summer. But we endured and lived to tell the tale.

    I posted about the beginnings HERE. By the following spring our lot was amazingly lush and green all over. We even run barefoot on it!! No more tumble weeds or stickers or anything even remotely looking like a weed for a very long time. We’ve had people continue to stop us and ask how in the world we did it — even people who’ve lived here all their lives and said they’ve never seen grass grow there. When my broken camera is replaced next week, I’ll have to do a blog update methinks. It’s just so exciting when you find something that works wonders without flooding the well water supply with ick.

    Oh…and I said “almost everything” (above) because no matter how much vinegar and salt we dumped on them, it will not kill off bindweed. Bindweed is extremely resilient regardless of the chemicals you choose. We even tried the nasty chemicals on it with no luck. We learned that the roots go down SIX feet underground. Even if they disappear and go dormant for two years (which they did), they’ll always come back when they get just a drop of water near their dormant roots. They thrive off dry areas like my community so we’ve spoken to master gardeners who say that if you’re not willing to dig down 6 feet (who is??), then the best thing you can do is just keep them from re-seeding by pulling up the portion that you can see above ground. Ugh!
    .-= 2Shaye´s last blog ..Cloth Diapers 3 =-.

  • Jennifer

    Great ideas. I’ve never thought about using vinegar or corn meal for weeds. We usually pull them by hand, even the ones in our yard. Our beds don’t have too many because we use wood chips between the rows and till really well so there’s not much time for weeds to grow before the plants shade them out.

    Thanks!
    Jen Kruidenier gardening in SC

  • Blake

    I’ve never had a problem with weeds. Not that I’ve never had them, just that I’ve never had them be a problem. Generally speaking, I find that other plants tend to grow just a well (if not better) with plants that I tend to dub ‘weeds’ as without. The only real exceptions I make are maples (which will take over any area in a matter of a couple of years if they aren’t dealt with), and invasive species, primarily nightshade. I tend to try and stack things in favor of plants I find tasty and useful, but that’s mostly in making sure the plants that I’m cultivating are vigorous, and by never ploughing. Tilling the ground and you’ll soon have a whole contingency of plants whose job it is to repair damaged soil (most of which are considered weeds).

  • Tim

    Thanks for those tips, though I’ve had that luck because so far I never had these weeds in my garden. Weeds are quite interesting, I’ve read about it in the link below. It may help to give more information in controlling these weeds.

    http://farmingeek.org/farming-how-to/how-to-start-an-organic-farm/how-to-control-weeds-in-organic-farming

  • mahdi

    Please tell me these method (vinegar ) is good for big garden or no?

Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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