{Food and Gardening} Chemical-Free Weed Control

With my vegetable garden in full swing, weeds are also in full swing.  One of the biggest challenges I face is weeds, lots of them, lots of different kinds.  I find that if I spend just a little extra time controlling these garden interlopers, my crop is healthier and has better yields because the competition for water and nutrients is less.  There are several simple chemical-free methods that I use in my lawn and garden.

Mulch for weed control.   Mulch not only preserves moisture and keeps the soil cool, but it also smothers weeds and blocks out the light needed for weed seeds to germinate.  I like to recycle newspaper to lay directly on top of the soil before I add my mulch.  It really blocks the light and when it decomposes, it can be worked into the soil for added benefit.

Solarization.  Solarization is using the heat of the sun to sterilize weed seeds so that they can’t germinate.  This method is useful if you want to reclaim a really weedy spot for either a new garden or to renovate a lawn.   Solarization leaves no chemical residue and can improve soil structure.  Basically, an area of soil is heated up over a period of time by placing a plastic film over the area.  For a complete instructions, click here.

Boiling water.  This is simply cooking the weeds to death.  This method is great for those pesky weeds growing through the cracks in pavement.  Just make sure you don’t accidentally pour the water where you don’t want it.  Also, be careful not to burn yourself, and it’s best to use this method away from kids and pets.

Vinegar.  Vinegar works best with the help of the sun.  It also may take several applications to Be sure to watch the forecast for rain, though, because vinegar takes some time to set in.

Cornmeal.  When sprinkled on the soil, cornmeal acts as a pre-emergent and prevents weeds from sprouting.  It also attracts worms, which loosen the soil and add valuable nutrients in the form of worm castings (aka poop).  However, it’s best to wait until your seedlings have come up before using the cornmeal.

Hand weeding.  Of course, there is good old-fashioned hand weeding – getting down on hands and knees with a good narrow trowel.  This method works the best for weeds that have a long tap root, such as dandelions.   Another method of hand weeding is the hoe.  There are lots of different styles of hoes, and every gardener has his or her favorite.  It doesn’t take much time to scrape the soil with a hoe to rid your garden of young weeds.

~ What are some of the chemical-free methods you use with success?

Happy Gardening!  Mary Ellen

Photo via Flickr


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  1. Will share on my gardening blog. Thanks Mary Ellen.

  2. Anderzoid says:

    We put vinegar in water guns & let the kids weed the garden (my friend at Lisa at dead frog gave me that idea!). We also have bought a weed sprayer where u can pump & carry around & just put vinegr in in place of evil monsanto’s round up. My FIL who is a chemical lover & never had asked science whims pesticides etc now wants to know the science behind why vinegar works. I assumed it just burnt leaves when activated by sun?

    I’m wondering about cornmeal. Can I use in a flower garden or grass. How does that work? What is it actually doing to stop weeds? Want to make sure not to hurt the plants i do want.

    PS- Long live dandelions! NOMMY real food

  3. I love all this solutions I’m gonna try them all.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  4. I love the mindlessness of hand weeding. It is such a quiet and simple task…brings peace to my soul! Great post.

  5. I like this, a lot.