Weeds can be the bane of a gardener’s life. As the growing season gets into full swing, weeds can become a huge problem, often growing faster than your ornamental plants, fruits and vegetables. Unless you regularly hoe annual weeds, hand-weed problem areas and prepare soil thoroughly, you’re going to be overwhelmed the minute your back is turned.
Commercially available weed killers usually contain glyphosate, a controversial chemical linked to several cancer cases in the United States. While glyphosate is unlikely to be used in sufficient quantities at as to cause harm for the home gardener, you may want to avoid using it. There is also research to suggest that glyphosate can adversely affect honey bees. It appears that it affects the microbial community in the bees’ digestive system, making them more prone to deadly infections.
Mulching – covering the soil with a thick layer of material – can help hugely with keeping weeds under control. There are many options available, from homemade compost to weed membranes. Mulches can also lock moisture into the soil and some contain nutrients, acting as slow-release plant food. As worms take mulch into the soil, they also help improve the soil structure.
Various non-chemical weed-killing solutions exist to help you kill weeds safely, including using flame guns and battery powered ‘weed burners’ to kill weeds. However, you may want to look to your kitchen cupboards for cheaper, natural home remedies to safely eradicate weeds.
How to kill weeds safely
We’ve put together a few suggestions for natural and homemade remedies that might make weeding easier. Bear in mind that these solutions don’t have the same weed-killing powers as glyphosate and other commercially available weed killers. It’s therefore a good idea to use more than one application over the course of a few weeks, as one dose of homemade weed killer may not be enough to completely kill the weed.
More on weeds and weeding:
- Garden identifier: weed seedlings
- Five ways to eradicate garden weeds
- Weeding by hand
- Weeding without chemicals
- Weeding garden paths
Kill weeds using boiling water
Boiling water can kill weeds. This is a particularly useful technique on paths, where you don’t have to worry about nearby plants being affected. Simply boil a full kettle of water and use it immediately, pouring the contents on the leaves and roots of the weed. Stubborn weeds may need more than one application.
Kill weeds using lemons
Lemon juice can cause weeds to shrivel. Again, this natural weedkiller is best used on paths as lemon juice can kill all plants, not just weeds. Juice your lemons and add to a spray bottle, then spray the weeds on a dry day. Established weeds may need a second application.
Kill weeds using salt
Salt can be very harmful to plants if applied in high enough doses, and this means it can be used to effectively kill weeds. Salt is not good for the garden, however, and can kill other plants. Use in pots and on paths only. Start with a weak solution of salt water – around three parts water to one part salt, and then increase the strength of the solution if you need to. Bear in mind that salt is soluble in water and can leach into other parts of the garden, which can harm other plants.
Kill weeds using baking soda and vinegar
Various home remedies can be made to kill weeds, including a spray made using vinegar and baking soda (you can also add lemon). Some councils are trialling vinegar as a long-term solution to removing weeds in towns and cities. Try one part baking soda with two parts vinegar. Spray onto weeds immediately.