Sometimes the old ways are the best. Some weed-killing recipes have been handed down from generation to generation, making possible to eradicate weeds without ever applying store-bought chemicals.
Although it is regarded as hard labor by some people, one of the most effective ways to control lawn weeds is a truly old-fashioned way—removing them by hand. This can be a lot of work if your lawn is plagued by many weeds, but after doing it steadily over time, you will gradually find that weed infestations diminish as you remove weeds before they can bloom and set seed. Pay particular attention to removing weeds before they flower. The most common example is dandelion, which can scatter thousands of seeds if the pretty yellow flowers are allowed to ripen, dry, and set seeds.
Organic weed control is not about treating weeds so much as it is about preventing them. Healthy soil leads to a healthy lawn that discourages weed growth. Weeds are opportunists and their presence usually indicates an underlying problem. The presence of certain weeds can be signifiers of a deficiency in the soil or other issues which, once solved, will ease weed pressure. A thriving lawn is able to outcompete weeds and avoid weed infestations. When weeds do make themselves present, it becomes about tolerance and maintaining a manageable threshold. Then, if all else fails, a responsible homeowner treats the weeds with either an organic weed killer or by removing them by hand or with some other mechanical means. This philosophy is sometimes known as integrated pest management (IPM) and when practiced it is an effective way to deal with weeds and pests.
One mechanical means of killing weeds is with a flame torch. A variety of long-handled tools are available that operate by means of a small propane tank that fuels a hot flame at the tip of the tool. By scorching lawn weeds with the flame, you effectively kill it, right down to the roots. You will need to be careful, however, since the flame will also kill any grass plants it touches. Some homeowners practice a similar technique using boiling water.
With the exception of weeding by hand, the truth is that most “green” organic weed killers currently available are not as effective as their chemical-based counterparts, but organic science driven by consumer demand could bring new, more effective alternatives. In exchange for a somewhat reduced effectiveness, organic solutions give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing you are not polluting the environment or creating health risks to your family and neighbors. For many people, this is all the motivation required.
The first thing to understand is that the health of the soil is the key point in creating a weed free lawn. Healthy soil yields a healthy lawn and landscaping that will resist weeds. Use organic fertilizers, compost and organic soil amendments to build the health of your soil. Sow grass seed in the spring to thicken up your lawn. Trim and thin out the canopy of your trees so that your lawn receives the proper amount of sunlight. (Remember, Bermuda grass needs a minimum of 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight every day to be thick and healthy. St. Augustine needs a minimum of 4 hours of direct sunlight.) Also, over watering or areas in your lawn where the water drains poorly and the soil stays moist will also cause your lawn to be thin and sickly. Our southern grasses must completely dry out between waterings in order for them to be green, lush and weed resistant.
Now, while the grass is dormant and the weeds are green, is the best time to spot spray the lawn with an organic herbicide. Acetic acid in vinegar has plant killing properties and can be used as a non-selective weed killer. Household vinegar does not get above 5% acetic acid and weeds would need repeated applications.
Weeding by Hand
Organic weed control is much more than killing weeds safely. It is first about growing healthy turf in fertile soil and minimizing weed pressure. Organic weed control is further achieved by using an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to establish weed thresholds, prevent weeds, and eradicate as a last resort.
Now, I don’t think we need to resort to goats. But hiring your kids (or hiring Spriggs Brothers) to spend a few hours hand weeding will keep the weeds from taking over your lawn and landscaping. The best way to manually pull weeds is to grab the plant close to the ground, encircling its leaves with the fingers of one hand, using a small-bladed knife or sharp-edged weeding tool. Use it in the soil to slide under the roots of the weed to loosen them and help remove the plant from the soil. Be sure you get the roots of the weed. Throw the weeds into a compost pile or the trash. Do not leave the pulled weeds on the ground. Many weeds have seeds that will germinate and multiply your weed problem.
We recommend that you diligently follow the first two steps in steps in February and March and then when the temperature warms up, nature will finish off the job. Using multiple methods is the key to successful weed control. Combining different strategies brings excellent results.
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