Whilst some Gardeners may not like to hear it, hand removal of weeds is by far the most environmentally friendly method. It also allows you to use the weeds as a valuable resource.
Bare soil provides opportunity for weeds to take root. Mulching and “Cover-Crops” of desired plants limit such opportunities. Laying cardboard under the mulch is also advocated by some Natural Farmers/Gardeners. Over time mulch improves soil quality resulting is healthier plants which can out compete weeds. Fertile soil will also discourage some weed species which prefer poor quality soils.
For larger areas, Solar Power can be harnessed by spreading a dark tarp over the weeds and allowing the heat of the sun to slowly cook them. This can take some time and works best in the heat summer. Be conscious that the solar heat may also kill soil life.
Boiling Water and Steam are effective but deep rooted weeds may require repeated applications. You can use a kettle for small areas or purchase a commercial steam weeder for larger areas. Care should be taken to prevent scalding injuries.
Flame Weeding can be also effective but requires the purchasing of a commercial tool and appropriate health and safety measures.
We have all heard about the dangers to human and environmental health of commercial synthetic herbicides. They are also expensive and in most cases the level of “fire-power” they pack is unnecessary for the suburban gardener. Many local councils are beginning to recognise this and are moving towards more natural alternatives.
However it is important to acknowledge that even Natural Herbicides have their risks. Most employ the killing power of Acid and/or Salt and both still have a detrimental impact on soil health. Keeping that in mind, the following recipe is used by some Natural Gardeners, but typically only for weeds in paved areas where the run off is unlikely to reach garden beds.
Salt & Vinegar Herbicide Recipe
Water or Table Vinegar
Salt is diluted in water or vinegar at ratios between 1:8 and 1:3 depending on the strength desired. Adding a squirt of dish washing liquid will better adhere the salt/vinegar herbicide to the weed. Application via spray bottle on a hot sunny day will ensure maximum effectiveness. Repeated application of deep rooted weeds may be necessary. Please consider the inherent risks of any herbicide use.