Weeds can stunt your garden growth and cause growing problems with plants you want to thrive. Not all weeds are truly harmful and many are great for the local environment just not for your vegetable patch. As I’ve explored why native plants matter, I’ve learned a few things about natural week control. The good news is that there are some safe ways to get rid of weeds where you do not want them without harming other plants and native wildlife.
Natural Weed Control
In order to understand why natural weed control might be preferred to the commercially available weed killers, it’s important to understand why we need native plants.
Why do you want to preserve native plants?
Native plants are important to the ecosystem. As communities become more and more developed and spread out that development over larger areas the wild spaces that allow natural native wildlife to thrive are shrinking by the day. The use of chemical herbicides in an effort to have the perfect polished lawn is leading to issues with even fewer native plants. Because of this many plants and the animals that rely on them are struggling. Even more alarming is that it has been linked to an increased risk in Parkinson’s Disease.
How weed control products can harm native plants
When people grab a weed-killing spray to help make clearing weeds out of garden beds, lawns, and other areas they often forget that the overspray and the runoff of these weed killers can spread to other parts of your yard even off of your property. This can kill off many important native plants without ever intending to cause them harm. Some weed control products, like Round Up, also contain harmful chemicals like paraquat that not only increase the chance of Parkinson’s but cancers and other horrible, life-altering conditions. Instead of using a weed control product that will harm the environment, and may even harm you, try organic more manual options for your garden to help protect important native plants survive.
Natural weed control options
When you are working in your garden and even your lawn it is important that you consider natural weed control options. If you spray your garden with herbicides to reduce your workload you will kill off plants that are already struggling. Instead, allow your lawn to grow wild plants instead of aiming for the perfect monoculture and use natural weed control options in your garden and flower beds.
Mulch is one of the best chemical weed control options you have for controlling weeds in your garden naturally. By adding a thick layer of much you are blocking out weeds from your garden. When a weed does manage to take hold and grow the roots will set into the loose mulch and the weed will pull up right out of the ground very easily. A great option to make a thick mulch on a budget is to allow your grass clippings to dry in the sun before taking them up and using them as mulch in your garden or wondering about your nicer decorative mulch. You may think that this wouldn’t work, but a friend of mine follows the Back to Eden gardening method, and her garden is, by far, one of the most beautiful and productive gardens I’ve ever visited. I highly recommend the Back to Eden Film. While I don’t have a food garden, I did learn quite a bit from the film.
Old fashioned hand pulling is one of the best ways to clear away weeds in your garden. There are some great hand tools designed to make weeding easier than ever and help you to control your garden with less effort. Most gardeners can get away with a small cultivator or garden hoe to help keep weeds at bay with regular checks.
Transplanting weeds that you can identify is a great way to get them out of your garden bed but to still give them away to keep on growing. This is a great option if you want to take the time to learn about and collect a garden of native plants. This can be particularly beneficial if you find that you have a plant that is endangered growing where you do not want it to grow. For example, did you know there are many health benefits to dandelions? Dandelions actually help improve the soil because they help aerate it. Purslane is another plant that people frequently pull because it is a “weed”. But purslane is edible for humans and may be kept in vegetable or herb gardens.
Clearing grass and weeds to put in new garden beds
Often the only point where you need to get rid of weed and grass in an amount much harder to simply pull is when putting in a new garden bed. The good news is that you can do this easier than you think. The key here is to block the weeds from reaching the sunlight where they can grow.
If you have plenty of time you can snuff out weeds and grass by planing cardboard over the ground and allowing it to sit for a few weeks. Then pull up the cardboard and till the soil before placing it back down to help kill off any remaining plants. After using this method there is still a chance that the weeds will find their way up through the soil. For this reason, you should line your garden beds with more cardboard or landscape fabric and some thick mulch after your plants have been placed in the ground.
If you need to add in your garden bed faster you can effectively do so by adding in raised garden beds. Raised garden beds allow you to place your garden bed right over the existing grass and weeds. To do this, line the bottom of your garden beds with chicken wire to help protect your plants from ground pests and place the chicken wire-lined raised garden bed over cardboard boxes on the ground. You can then place your soil into the garden bed. This will block weeds from working their way up to the soil and the cardboard will break down over time allowing your plant’s roots to go deeper.