Weeds in the garden

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You don’t have to resort to chemical herbicides in order to get rid of invasive weeds. Safer options exist that will work just as effectively. They may take a bit more persistence, but the benefits of organic control methods far outweigh the negative health effects of chemical pesticides.

So what’s the big deal about Roundup? It’s a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide, which means it kills most plants that it comes in contact with. Roundup is also the most widely used herbicide in the world.

Glyphosate is the active herbicidal ingredient in Roundup. Many genetically modified food crops, such as corn and soybeans, have been scientifically designed to be resistant to glyphosate. Farmers can then spray Roundup on their fields and kill all the weeds, leaving only the food crop standing. This greatly simplifies weed control, but it also means the food crops are literally covered with Roundup. And so is any food you eat that’s made from these crops, like corn chips, bread and other packaged food.

A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that glyphosate residue in our food may enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. This can lead to disruption of normal body functions and the development of diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, infertility and cancers.

A French study also found that a “filler” ingredient used in Roundup, polyethoxylated tallowamine, was more deadly to human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells than the main herbicidal ingredient glyphosate.

We’re just starting to understand the serious long-term health and environmental effects of Roundup and other popular herbicides. The less we use these chemicals, the better. Try some of these effective organic weed-control methods instead.

1. Mulching

Covering the soil with an extra layer of organic matter can smother and inhibit weeds, as well as prevent new seeds from germinating. You can mulch with compost, bark, wood chips, newspaper, cardboard, grass clippings, straw or most other organic matter. But make sure not to get hay, which can have a lot of unwanted seeds. You can also put ground cloth, old shower curtains or other thick material underneath a pathway made of wood chips or gravel to prevent weeds from growing through.

2. Hand-Digging

Manual removal with a shovel, hoe or other tool is an effective spot-treatment for basically all weeds. Many weeds may come back and need to be dug again. But consistent hand-weeding will greatly reduce their populations. When young weeds are promptly dug out, they won’t be able to seed and reproduce. And regularly digging up weeds with tap roots, such as dandelions or thistles, will weaken the root and eventually kill the plant.

3. Competition

Weeds can’t take hold if there’s no space for them. Try planting dense ground covers and perennial plants in ornamental beds. The shade and heavy root systems of trees and shrubs can naturally prevent weeds from growing underneath. If you’re battling weeds in your lawn, make sure you use grass varieties appropriate for shade, drought or other difficult areas where a regular lawn might not grow well, leaving openings for unwanted visitors.

4. Regulate Food and Water

The nutrients and irrigation you give your garden will encourage weeds as much as the plants you want to grow. Only give your plants what they need. Well-established trees, shrubs and perennial plants can often do well without a lot of extra fertilizer and irrigation. Vegetables may need a bit more, but you can be selective. Heavy feeders can get extra compost, like squash and cucumbers. However, you can feed crops like root vegetables much less.

5. Solarize

Solarizing involves covering an area of weeds with a heavy plastic sheet. This works best in full sun where the heat will collect under the sheet and literally bake the weeds. Leave the sheet in place for 4 to 6 weeks. You’ll know it’s done when the weeds underneath are clearly brown and desiccated.

6. Limit Tilling and Digging

Turning over the soil in your vegetable patch or other beds will bring new weed seeds to the surface. Experiment with the no-till method of gardening, where you try to disturb the soil as little as possible. For example, if you’re seeding vegetables, only dig down as far as you need to plant the seeds instead of deeply digging or tilling the entire bed. The no-till method has also been shown to improve soil structure and fertility, as well as increase beneficial soil organisms.

7. Corn Gluten Meal

Corn gluten meal is a powdery byproduct of the corn milling process that’s been found to prevent weed seeds from germinating. It’s often applied to lawns or can be used in other garden areas. It’s non-toxic to animals and you can buy certified organic corn gluten meal. If you can’t find it in your local garden center, corn gluten meal is available online.

8. Vodka

Try spraying a mix of 1 ounce vodka, 2 cups of water and a couple drops of dish soap on weeds with good sun exposure. This will often dry them out and kill them. It doesn’t work well in shady areas. Also be careful not to overspray onto any of your regular plants, the vodka will dry out whatever plants it hits.

9. Vinegar and Salt

Regular 5 percent household vinegar can be used on its own against weeds. It’s even better mixed with salt and dish soap. Mix 1 gallon of white vinegar with 1 cup of table salt and 1 tablespoon of liquid dish detergent. Put the mixture into a plastic spray bottle and spray directly on targeted weeds.

10. Soap

The oil in soap naturally breaks down the surface of waxy or hairy weed leaves. Adding a few drops of liquid dish detergent to vinegar or vodka sprays will help it stay on the leaves and have the greatest impact.

11. Boiling Water

Simply boil a kettle of water and pour it over any undesirable weeds to burn them. This works especially well for weeds growing in cracks of pavement or cement. The water will cool as it runs off to the sides of your pavement and won’t hurt any plants along the border.

12. Flame Weeding

This involves passing a flame over a weed briefly in order to fatally heat the plant tissues. A flame weeder is typically a wand connected to a propane tank. These may be carried at your local garden center or hardware store. Flaming will only kill the weed parts above the ground, not the roots, so you may need to flame your weeds a few times before they’re gone. Clearly, this should not be done during any dry spells when there is a risk of fire. Always follow the safety precautions that come with your flame throwing device.

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Natural Methods to Get Rid of Common Garden Weeds

10 ways to control weeds and keep them out of your lawn and garden—including natural weed killers By Linda Hagen

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Photo by: David Prahl / .

With so much controversy surrounding the use of chemical weed killers, especially those containing glyphosate, many gardeners are turning to more organic and natural weed control methods to deal with weeds — even if it means more work. If you would like to get rid of weeds without harsh chemicals, here are 10 ways to knock them out.

  1. NATURAL WEED KILLERS: Post-emergent herbicides target and kill growing weeds. They are available in spray forms that enter through the foliage, or granular forms that are watered into the soil and penetrate through the roots.
    There are two types of post-emergent formulas:
    • Systemic formulas that absorb directly into the plant and are best on perennial weeds
    • Contact formulas that kill only the exposed part of the plant and are more useful for annuals or smaller weeds

    Most organic herbicides are comprised of acetic acid, citric acid, clove and/or citrus oils, as well as other ingredients. There are others that are based on iron content, such as Iron X, that have a better effect on broadleaf weeds, such as creeping Charlie, than on grasses.
    Common weed killers to try:

    • Weed Slayer Organic Herbicide
    • Bonide Burnout All Natural Weed & Grass Killer
    • Avenger Organics Weed Killer Concentrate
  2. NATURAL WEED PREVENTERS: Pre-emegent herbicides affect the weed seeds and don’t allow them to germinate, but they don’t work on existing weeds. Most natural pre-emergents are made from corn gluten meal, and it comes in granular, pellet and liquid formulas. If you’re targeting mainly annual weeds like crabgrass, henbit, chickweed, or purslane, pre-emergents can provide good weed prevention when applied at the right time of year (see Types of Common Weeds below). Read labels carefully and make sure the product you are using not only kills the specific weeds you are targeting, but is also safe for use with the type of lawn you have. Don’t use pre-emergent weed control at a time when you are sowing new grass seed or will be in the near future; some pre-emergents can be effective for months.
    Common weed preventers to try:
    • Espoma Organic Weed Preventer
    • Preen Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer
    • Safer Brand Weed Prevention Plus

    Within each herbicide category (post-emergent or pre-emergent), there are selective and non-selective options. Selective treatments target specific weeds and are non-lethal to other weeds or plants. Non-selective treatments do damage to all plants they come into contact with, good and bad. When using any type of herbicide, remember that ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘safe for kids and pets.’ Treat all products carefully, read labels, and follow instructions.

  3. Stand-up weeding tool. Photo by: Jari Hindstroem / .

  4. DIY WEED SPRAYS: Homemade salt, vinegar and dish soap mixtures can be effective on some weeds, but should be used sparingly. Although they may sound safe and harmless, the ingredients can be harmful to the soil. Too much salt can cause soil to become toxic to plants and the vinegar can change the soil pH. Also, beware of using vinegar if there are amphibians (frogs, toads, etc.) near, as it can be harmful.
  5. DIG AND PULL: The key to success when removing weeds by hand is to get all the roots, especially with perennial weeds as they can spread and regrow from roots left behind. There are hand tools and stand-up weeders that make the job easier. Combine some sweat equity with other methods, and you’re sure to see results.
    Try these highly rated weeding tools:
  6. HEALTHY LAWN AND MULCH: Maintaining a healthy, thick lawn may prove too much competition for weeds. In flowerbeds, a thick layer of mulch applied after a thorough hand weeding can help prevent weeds from reseeding. Different mulches can consist of: bark chips, wood chips, hulls or bean shells, leaves, or straw.
  • Healthy lawn tip: Lawns that receive frequent light watering develop shallow roots, making them weak and susceptible to weed invasion. Water lawns less frequently, but thoroughly and deeply.
  • Mulch tip: Cedar mulch also has natural insect-repellent qualities and breaks down slower than other bark or wood mulches.
  • LANDSCAPE FABRIC: A heavy landscape or weed control fabric blocks seeds from reaching the soil. Be sure to do a thorough weeding or solarization (see below) first, as seeds that are lurking below the cloth may still find a way up and out, either around the edges or through holes created when inserting plants. Although it’s not attractive when used by itself, you can add a layer of mulch for a more appealing look. Even if seeds do find a home and sprout in the mulch, the fabric will keep roots from taking a firm hold and they will be easily removed. Secure fabric with landscape fabric staples or stakes.
  • GROUNDCOVER: Plant a quick-growing groundcover to give the weeds competition for soil and water such as creeping phlox, creeping thyme or dragon’s blood sedum.
  • NO-TILL GARDENING: Adopt a no-till approach to keep dormant weed seeds below the surface. (See Garden Soil 101 for more benefits.)
  • SOIL SOLARIZATION: This method is good for reclaiming an area that weeds have taken over. It is an environmentally friendly, organic method that uses the sun’s heat to “cook” the weeds and their seeds. It will also kill bacteria, fungi, insects, and other organisms in the soil. This method can’t determine bad organisms from beneficial ones, so it is a good idea to work in some compost before re-planting this area.
  • Soil solarization method with drip lines. Photo by: AJCespedes / .

    • Thoroughly clear the area of plants and debris. Till to uproot weed roots, and rake to remove them and create a smooth surface.
    • Water the soil to a depth of 6 inches.
    • Cover the area tightly with clear plastic (1 to 4 mil painter’s plastic works great). Don’t use white or black plastic, as they don’t allow enough heat transmission to the soil.
    • Bury the plastic around the perimeter of the area or hold the edges down with cinder blocks or bricks.
    • Leave in place for 4 to 8 weeks in hottest part of summer.
    • Remove plastic and cover with landscape fabric before planting. Carefully cut the holes in the fabric, keeping dirt from getting on top of it.
    • Tip: This method works best on soils that hold moisture, allowing it to produce steam every day to kill the weed seeds. If you are solarizing drier or sandy soil, lay drip lines or a soaker hose under the plastic and water regularly. Keep an eye on the amount of water that beads on the underside of the plastic in the morning. When it decreases, it’s time to add water.

    Flame torch method. Photo by: Gabor Tinz / .

  • HEAT: A specialized flame torch can be passed over the weed foliage quickly, just long enough to destroy the tissues, and the weed will die. Flame weeding is best for use on annual weeds, as it only kills the above-ground plant and not the roots. When used on perennials, they will often come right back, re-growing from the roots left behind. This method can be quite effective when used on young weeds in walkways or cracks. Use with caution in dry or high fire danger areas.
  • Another way to use heat to kill weeds is with boiling water. It will kill any plant growth it touches, so be careful with nearby plants. It will also kill beneficial organisms in the soil. You may find this method to be more successful in killing broadleaf annual weeds, but not as effective in controlling perennial weeds. It is, however, quite useful for weeds growing between pavers or bricks, or in cracks in walkways or driveways. Use caution when transporting and pouring the boiling water.

    TYPES OF COMMON WEEDS & HOW TO TREAT THEM

    Weeds fall into categories just like other plants: annual or perennial, and broadleaf or grassy. Determining which group you’re targeting will help determine how and when to treat them, giving you better weed control.

    • Annuals grow from seed each year and die off at the end of the season or are killed by the first frost.
    • Perennials come back year after year and spread by seeds and roots.

    Swipe to view slides

    CHICKWEED

    Photo by: WikimediaImages / .com.

    Winter annuals, like chickweed, grow from seed each year.

    Seeds germinate late summer to early fall. Seedlings establish themselves in fall and go dormant or have very slow growth in winter. In spring, they grow rapidly to flower & set seed by early summer. Seeds can remain dormant in the soil for years.

    Apply pre-emergent in late summer to early fall.*

    Apply post-emergent in spring during active growth and before they set seed.

    Treat these other winter annuals similarly:

    • Deadnettle
    • Henbit
    • Shepherd’s purse
    • Speedwell (Veronica)
    • Annual bluegrass

    PURSLANE

    Photo by: WikimediaImages / .com

    Purslane is a common broadleaf summer annual.

    Seeds germinate in early spring and actively grow through spring and summer. They will be killed by fall frost.

    Apply pre-emergent late winter to early spring.*

    Apply post-emergent in late spring to early summer, before setting seed.

    Treat these other broadleaf summer annuals similarly:

    • Black medic
    • Knotweed
    • Mallow
    • Prostrate and spotted spurge
    • Lambquarters
    • Ragweed

    DANDELION

    Photo by: Beeki / .com.

    Broadleaf perennials, like dandelions, are the largest group of weeds, with some of the hardest to control. Once established, they return year after year. They will spread rapidly if allowed to set seed.

    Apply pre-emergent in late summer to early fall.*

    Apply post-emergent during active growth, usually spring and summer.

    Some tougher weeds, like creeping Charlie, may need spring and fall applications or specialized treatments.

    **Note: Dandelions are also an early food source for many pollinators, if you can deal with a few in your yard or garden, the bees will appreciate them in early spring.

    Treat these other broadleaf perennials similarly:

    • Broadleaf plantain
    • Cinquefoil
    • Creeping Charlie (ground ivy)
    • Oxalis (woodsorrel)
    • White clover
    • Wild violet

    CRABGRASS

    Photo by Christian Delbert / .

    Crabgrass is the most common grassy summer annual, although it can act more like a perennial in warmer climates.

    Seeds germinate early to mid-spring through summer. Most are killed by frost in fall.

    Apply pre-emergent in early to mid-spring.*

    Apply post-emergent in late spring to early summer.

    Treat these other grassy summer annuals similarly:

    • Goosegrass
    • Barnyardgrass
    • Yellow foxtail

    NUTSEDGE

    Photo by: leoleobobeo / .com.

    Grassy perennials and sedges, like nutsedge, are some of the most difficult to control. They not only return year after year, but they spread both above and below ground.

    There are very few selective pre- or post-emergent herbicides that treat the weeds in this category, and non-selective treatments will also kill the surrounding lawn. Heavily infested areas may need full renovation. (See soil solarization above for one method.)

    Treat these other grassy perennials similarly:

    • Bermudagrass
    • Quackgrass
    • Dallisgrass
    • Orchardgrass

    *Do not apply pre-emergents if you are planning on seeding your lawn in the near future, as they can also keep your grass seed from sprouting. Some pre-emergents can last for months.

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    How to Kill Weeds Naturally

    Are weeds choking your garden or invading your lawn?

    Pulling weeds one by one is usually the task gardeners hate most. Many homeowners revert to using harmful synthetic chemicals to get rid of those frustrating plants, but there are other all-natural weed killers that are better for the environment and your family. Many of them you can even find around your home!

    Watch the video below on how to kill weeds naturally and ways to keep weeds from growing in the future.

    All-Natural Weed Killer

    Prevention is key for a happy weed-free lawn and garden. Buy clean lawn seed and compost when first getting your yard established.

    If you already have weeds in your lawn and garden, take action before they spread! Make a homemade salt or vinegar solution to kill the weed before it becomes an adult. For extra protection in areas that don’t have any plants but weeds still pop up, use mulch to smother it.

    The Best Way to Get Rid of Weeds

    Homemade herbicides, such as vinegar solution in the video work well when you have only a few young weeds to kill. However, if you are fighting a weed war and need some serious weed killer to come to your aid, look no further than Safer® Brand Fast Acting Weed & Grass Killer! Our weed killer for lawns and gardens uses potassium salts and fatty acids to kill unwanted weeds and grasses. You’ll be able to see results within hours and our weed killer won’t travel through the soil to kill nearby plants.

    Killing weeds is only half the battle. Give your lawn a fighting chance by mowing your grass a little taller and using Ringer® Lawn Restore® II Fertilizer to keep your lawn healthy. A thick lawn will make it more difficult for weeds to grow. Finally, stop weeds for good by using the power of Corn Gluten in Concern® Weed Prevention Plus®.

    Don’t let one more weed take over your lawn or garden! Use these eight ways to get rid of weeds naturally.

    Goatweed Biology and Control in Pastures1

    Brent A. Sellers2

    Goatweed (Scoparia dulcis), also referred to as sweet broom and licorice weed, is a perennial plant that is becoming a serious problem in pastures. A problematic weed in citrus groves for many years, goatweed now appears to be proliferating in improved pastures as the calls for its identification and control have increased greatly over the past couple of years. The spread of goatweed in Florida can be attributed to a number of things including prolific seed production, movement of seeds from citrus groves to pastures through mowing equipment or wildlife, and the tolerance of goatweed to several herbicides utilized in citrus groves and pastures. Goatweed is particularly dense in areas that have been overgrazed or previously harvested for sod.

    Biology

    Goatweed seedlings (Figure 1) are extremely small, with opposite or whorled leaves occurring in numbers of three or more on the same node. Leaves are light green, serrated and approximately 1.5 inches long by 1 inch wide (Figure 2). As the plants mature, leaves become linear with or without serrations. Leaves and stems contain small glands that emit an unpleasant odor when crushed. Stems are usually smooth, but sometimes have soft, fine hairs, and become woody with age. Flowers are white, about 3 to 5 mm long, and borne in the leaf axils (Figure 3). Seeds are extremely small and enclosed in a yellow-brown capsule (Figure 4). Perennial goatweed plants at the height of their maturing (Figure 5) look quite different from new seedlings because their leaves have become more linear, giving the plant a spindly appearance. Mature plants reach heights of 1 to 2.5 feet. Figure 1.

    A goatweed seedling approximately 1 week after emergence.

    Figure 2.

    Goatweed leaves are serrated and approximately 1.5 inches long by 1 inch wide. Young plants tend to be light green in color.

    Figure 3.

    Goatweed flowers are white and are borne in the leaf axils.

    Figure 4.

    Goatweed seeds are very small and are enclosed in yellow to brown capsules.

    Figure 5.

    Mature goatweed plants have a more spindly appearance than seedlings. This is due to the linear leaves the plant develops as it matures.

    Germination of goatweed occurs under light and high temperatures and is inhibited by acidic soils and drought. Since light is a requirement for germination, maintaining a thick grass sward will limit the number of germinating goatweed seeds in pastures. In most cases, goatweed invades areas in pastures where the grass has been killed by overgrazing or other pest problems.

    Control

    Goatweed is relatively tolerant to many of the herbicides utilized in citrus and pastures compared to other weed species. For example, 3 to 4 lbs per acre of glyphosate are needed to control this weed in citrus groves, whereas many other weeds can be controlled with less than 1 lb per acre. In bahiagrass pastures, 4 pints/acre of 2,4-D is needed for optimum control. In bermudagrass, stargrass, and limpograss metsulfuron (MSM60, others)at 0.3 oz/acre or Chaparral at 3 oz/acre provides good to excellent control of goatweed. The addition of 2 pt/acre 2,4-D to metsulfuron will increase control of goatweed, but 2,4-D should not be applied to limpograss during the summer growing season unless injury can be tolerated. Additionally, the addition of 2,4-D to metsulfuron has resulted in decreased control of ‘Pensacola’ bahiagrass. Repeated mowing does not control goatweed, and it is more difficult to control with herbicides if its stem has become woody. Although triclopyr (Remedy, others) and Pasturegard HL® provide good control of most woody species in pastures, these herbicides are not particularly effective on goatweed. While proper pasture management can go a long way in controlling this weed, herbicides with the prescribed amounts of 2,4-D, metsulfuron, or Chaparral will optimize goatweed control in most improved pastures.

    Footnotes

    This document is SS AGR 299, one of a series of the Agronomy Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date February 2008. Revised February 2014 and April 2017. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

    Brent Sellers, associate professor; UF/IFAS Range Cattle Research and Education Center, Ona, FL 33865.

    The use of trade names in this publication is solely for the purpose of providing specific information. UF/IFAS does not guarantee or warranty the products named, and references to them in this publication does not signify our approval to the exclusion of other products of suitable composition. All chemicals should be used in accordance with directions on the manufacturer’s label.

    The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension office.
    U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.

    An enthusiastic, new gardener wrote to me about a very tough customer: goutweed, aka ground elder or bishop’s weed. I had goutweed growing under cedars and along my fenceline about 20 years ago, in Maple Ridge.

    It prefers shady locations and some ornamental forms are really quite attractive, with medium green leaves and white edges. I actually quite liked it as a native decorative plant, but then I never tried to eradicate it. That’s where love can turn to hate in a big hurry.

    Gayle Nelson writes:

    Hi Randy

    Gayle Nelson’s opponent.

    I am a newbie Gardner and avid reader of your column and blog. Last year, I noticed this invasive plant insinuating itself into every nook and cranny of my healthy plants, grasses and trees. It is such a successful adversary I could almost respect it, but I have been shocked at the speed it grows, chokes out everything it grows near, and now it’s even coming up in the lawn. It has long, white runners with a pink- red root ball.

    Goutweed roots are difficult to remove from the soil.

    I can’t seem to dig deep enough or fast enough to pull it up my the multiple runners it sends out. I’m stumped….what the heck is it and how can I send it packing? ( my new found joy of gardening it taking a beating !)

    On Gayle’s behalf, I consulted the experts at the UBC Botanical Garden. Douglas Justice teaches in the landscape architectureprogram and is the curator of collections for the botanical garden. Douglas responds, thusly:

    Aegopodium podagraria. Pernicious as hell. Copious seeds and elastic rhizomes. Tolerates any kind of soil and full sun to heavy shade. Drought tolerant in deep soil. Only need a tiny rhizome piece to start a whole new colony. Dig it out and the roots go deeper. Very frustrating.

    Like other aggressive runners, extraction/elimination requires wholesale (though not necessary permanent) change to the affected area. Converting the area to turf for three years or very heavy mulching (leaf mould, chips, whatever, at 20 to 30 cm deep) are two approaches that can be effective.

    Unless plants are woody and relatively large, they should be lifted, cleaned thoroughly and put aside or planted elsewhere (obviously, this has to be done when plants are dormant). Deep mulching encourages the goutweed rhizomes to find a higher plane, which, if the mulch is kept loose, makes extraction relatively simple, but the removal must be religious. A maintained sward of good turf (start with sod, not seed) will starve/exhaust/prevent regrowth. Rhizomes will be completely dead after three years; however, when returning the area to planting bed, seedlings may be an issue.

    Otherwise, the plants are apparently “medicinal” and the new shoots edible.

    I also received a response from the UBC Botanical Garden Hortline:

    Indeed, “goutweed” is a real challenge to remove. As Douglas mentioned it will be very important to remove any lingering goutweed roots from your existing plants because they regenerate quickly even if you dig them up and place elsewhere in your garden they will soon send out new shoots. I was able to eradicate a small area of my vegetable garden by digging down 2 1/2 feet, removing all the roots of goutweed (as well as the plants) and allow the area to sit fallow for 6 months covered with black plastic. After six months I brought in new soil and re-planted. After 2 years there has been no return of goutweed.

    For what it’s worth, the best way I have found to eliminate really difficult weed infestations is by solarizing. Cover the area with a sheet of black plastic and let the sun cook everything.

    Randy Shore is the author of Grow What You Eat, Eat What You Grow, a guide to growing and cooking sustainably. More than 130 recipes using whole, fresh ingredients!

    LISTEN TO THE GREEN MAN PODCAST

    The Green Man Podcast is not just a broadcast version of the Green Man Blog: It’s a play anytime broadcast with interesting, opinionated and sometimes controversial guests. Enjoy these podcasts right now on your computer with the built-in player. Or search “Randy Shore” on iTunes to download to your smartphone or tablet.

    The Paleo Diet: Host Randy Shore welcomes paleo nutritionist Travis Steward and St. Paul’s Hospital dietitian Sinead Feeney for a paleo diet cage match. Should you eat like a caveman? Should you eat like Alton Brown? How about eating like the Green Man, Randy Shore?

    Ethical Killing and Sustainable Hunting: Host Randy Shore, Harrison Mooney and hunting instructor Dylan Eyers of EatWild.ca talk about the modern revival of hunting in B.C. Urbanites, hipsters, hippies and women are taking up hunting as a way to harvest ethical, sustainable meat and reject the industrial food industry.

    Animal Welfare and the Ethics of Meat: Host Randy Shore, Vancouver Sun reporter Zoe McKnight and Leanne McConnachie of the Vancouver Humane Society talk about the ethics of meat, the reality of industrial farming and animal welfare. Omnivore Shore – a recovered vegetarian – takes on two practicing vegetarians over who should eat what and why.

    Is Organic Food Worth the Money?: Host Randy Shore, Mike Bell and Tara McDonald of Vancouver Farmers Markets talk about organic food, what it is, what it isn’t and whether it’s worth the extra money. British Columbians are enthusiastic consumers of organic products, more so than any other province. What do we want from our food? Are we getting it with organics?

    Weed removal

    If you’ve already got weeds to deal with, then physical removal is the way go. Here are some options:

    Hand weeding – aside from your ngers, there are various other tools to make removal easier, such as hoes and forks, so see what works best for you. Check garden beds regularly and attack the weeds when they’re small and easy to remove. When removing large weeds, watch for seed heads and only add to your compost if it gets hot enough to destroy them.

    Scari cation – for masses of small weeds, try scarifying, or lightly cultivating the soil to quickly dislodge and kill the weeds. Works especially well in vegie patches between rows.

    Animal helpers – let your chooks, guinea pigs or pet rabbits feast on weedy patches and fertilise the area at the same time. Just remember they won’t discriminate, so plant out your prized seedlings after the animals have gone over an area.

    Solarisation – in large areas where the weeds have grown too big for scarifying temporarily lay black plastic sheeting. It robs the weeds of sunlight and water while also heating them up to cook them. You may need to mow or roughly whipper snip the area first if the weeds are tall. Leave for a few weeks until weeds are dead and then remove the plastic. Other materials, such as old carpet or thick layers of newspaper, can be used, but may take longer to work because they won’t heat up like the black plastic.

    Other heat treatments – there are also devices available that use steam or a gas flame to heat and kill weeds. Steam devices tend to be more suited to commercial use (popular with some local councils), while the gas- flame option works well in home gardens.

    Herbicide sprays

    Unfortunately, most sprays are not organic and are actually pretty dangerous chemicals. There are a few certified organic weed treatments available, including Amgrow’s Organix Weed Blitz. This has pine oil as the active ingredient. Don’t go too crazy spraying it as pine needles contain a substance that retards plant growth and this could impact on your desired plants as well as the weeds.

    Weeds in lawns

    Dig out at weeds early before they expand and kill off lawn underneath them. Regularly mow and feed lawns to encourage denser growth to outcompete other weeds. Fix bare areas quickly with seed or turf sods.

    8 Things to Know When Pulling Weeds

    Photo: istockphoto.com

    Ask any group of gardeners to cite their least favorite task is and you’re bound to hear a chorus of “Weeding!” Rampant weeds steal water and valuable nutrients from the soil that beneficial plants could be receiving, and their less-than-lovely heads detract from lawn and garden design.

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    In your quest to keep your landscape weed-free, it’s easy to make some overzealous mistakes. Before you begin pulling weeds, read on for the right way to vanquish green invaders and reduce their future growth. Your bountiful vegetable harvest and big beautiful flowers will thank you!

    1. Don’t wait to weed.

    If you let weeds tower over your tomatoes, you’ll have a tough time getting them out. When weeds are small, their roots are weaker, making it easier to pull them out. Commit to doing a quick walk-through of your garden every other day; it will take only a few minutes to pull up any young weeds that show up.

    Bonus tip: Pull weeds soon after watering your plants or a rain shower; when the soil is moist, the whole weed is more likely to come out by the roots. It’s perfectly fine to put pulled weeds in your compost bin, where the naturally hot temperature will destroy any seeds.

    Photo: istockphoto.com

    2. Grab by the base.

    Gardeners who weed manually may be tempted to reach down and snatch a handful give it a sharp tug. Unfortunately, that often causes the weed to snap in two, leaving the bottom half and the roots still in the ground. Instead, take your time and grab each weed individually at its base and then pull slowly and steadily to ease the roots from the soil.

    RELATED: 10 Gardening Mistakes That Are Killing Your Plants

    Photo: istockphoto.com

    3. Ply the proper tools.

    Many gardeners find that a few tools make weeding speedier. Choose well-made implements with a solid handle that feels comfortable in your grasp and a head or blade made of tough forged steel. Also, select tools that suit your weeding method, either kneeling or standing.

    • Kneeling tools: These have relatively short handles, from about six to 12 inches long. Rake-type tools with finger-like prongs (such as the Gardener’s Claw Rake, available on Amazon) work well for scraping up surface weeds with minimal root systems, such as henbit. A hook neck tool (such as the CobraHead Weeder, available on Amazon) can be positioned behind the base of a weed and used to dig in and scoop out the intruder. To remove weeds between beneficial plants, try an angled hand hoe like the Nejiri Gama Hoe (also available on Amazon), which features a sharp point for getting into tight spots. Hand shovels can be used to dig out large weed roots.

    • Standing tools: For removing many weeds at once, it’s hard to beat the tried-and-true long-handled hoe, but today’s manufacturers have done just that! A hoe with a sharpened blade, such as the ProHoe Rogue Garden Hoe (available on Amazon), can sever roots beneath the soil surface with a single chop. Grip-and-pull weeders like Fiskars’ Deluxe Stand-up Weeder (available on Amazon) promise to save time and labor when removing weeds with deep root systems, such as dandelions. Sharp prongs are driven deep into the soil by pressing a foot pedal, and then the prongs grip the roots securely and pull them right out.

    Photo: amazon.com via Roundup

    4. Understand herbicides.

    Need a break from the strenuous work of pulling weeds? Controlling these unwanted crops with foliar herbicides (toxic substances absorbed through a plant’s leaves) is physically easier than either pulling or hoeing. Just be sure to consider the pros and cons of these weed killers before you go this route.

    PROS

    + Spraying a foliar herbicide such as Roundup (available on Amazon) effectively kills individual weeds or large areas that are awash with weeds.

    + Foliar herbicides work fast, killing weeds sometimes within a day—and usually no longer than a week—of application.

    + There’s no need to remove weeds individually and no strain on your back from bending over and pulling weeds for long periods of time. After the weeds turn brown and die, rake them into a pile and dispose of them.

    CONS

    – The wind could blow herbicidal spray onto beneficial plants, inadvertently harming or killing them.

    – Exposure to chemical herbicides may result in skin irritation while inhaling the spray can result in a sore throat and other respiratory woes. Care should always be taken not to come into contact with the spray.

    – Weeds that are chemically killed should not be placed in the compost bin. Traces of herbicides can survive the composting process and may result in stunting vegetation if later used in garden soil.

    – Chemical herbicides may interfere with the environment and studies indicate that the chemicals can affect earthworms and offset soil nutrients, leading to the leaching of chemicals into streams and underground aquifers. Consider a non-toxic herbicide, such as A.D.I.O.S Eco-Friendly Weed Control (available on Amazon), which will allow you to avoid the contamination problems associated with toxic herbicides.

    5. Avoid pulling weeds with an ounce of prevention.

    You don’t have to kill or pull weeds if they don’t grow in the first place, so consider a pre-emergent to keep weed seeds from germinating. Sprinkle a granular pre-emergent herbicide such as Preen’s Organic Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer (available on Amazon) on the soil and then water. The granules will dissolve and permeate the soil, creating a barrier around the weed seeds. A single application will last up to 12 weeks, after which the product can be reapplied.

    Note that once a pre-emergent is in the soil, beneficial seeds won’t sprout either. For best results, wait until beneficial plants are four to eight inches tall before using a pre-emergent product (as directed on the package)—it won’t kill plants that are already growing.

    6. Cut it out.

    Photo: istockphoto.com

    Some stubborn weeds, such as Canadian thistle, not only send deep roots that are extremely hard to pull, but also feature prickly stems and foliage that will pierce anything less than heavy leather gloves. When dealing with these tough customers, reach for a sharp pair of nippers, such as TABOR TOOLS Bypass Pruning Shears (available on Amazon) for small to medium size weeds or long-handled shears, such as Fiskars 28” Bypass Loppers (available on Amazon) for cutting down those large Canadian thistles. The roots will still remain in the soil, but in most cases, if you remove the entire growing part of the plant, it can no longer receive the sunshine it needs to survive.

    7. Know when to turn up the heat!

    If you find yourself with a large swath of weeds that don’t respond to other methods, consider burning them out. A weed burner, such as the Red Dragon Weed Torch Kit (available on Amazon), connects to a standard propane tank to deliver a flame directly to the weeds, scorching and killing them. A weed burner works well on invaders growing beneath fences or encroaching near raised garden beds. Be sure weeds are green, not brown and dry. You want to scorch them, not start a fire. Check with local authorities before using a weed torch as some communities may restrict or ban their use.

    Hot water can also kill weeds. Carefully pour a pitcher of just-boiled water directly on weeds or use a steam weeder, such as the DynaSteam Weeder (available at Amazon), to simplify the process—and reduce the risk of dripping scalding water on your feet.

    RELATED: 7 Weirdly Effective Ways to Weed

    You can also use heat to kill weeds between gardening seasons. After harvest, cover a planting bed with dark landscape plastic (hold it in place rocks or bricks) and leave it on over the winter. Sun hitting the plastic it will raise the soil temperature beneath to destroy weed seeds.

    Photo: istockphoto.com

    8. Grow a no-till garden.

    Every fall and again every spring, home gardeners can be found turning their garden soil to helps break up heavy clay, distribute organic matter, and deliver oxygen to the soil. Tilling in this way, however, also brings dormant weed seeds to the surface where they quickly sprout. An alternative to the turning the soil several times annually—and reduce weed growth—is a no-till garden.

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    You will till, but only once—when you start the garden to loosen the soil. Then, you’ll cover the soil with four to six inches of organic mulch (dried leaves, grass clippings, or hardwood chips). The mulch helps keep the soil beneath moist and also prevents weed seeds from sprouting by keeping light from reaching the surface. When you want to plant seeds or transplant seedlings, just push the mulch aside in that spot.

    For a vegetable garden, this might mean creating long V-shaped rows in the mulch with bare soil only visible inside the “V.” Crops grow in the narrow rows, and after harvest, remove the spent plants and cover the area again with mulch. Once you’ve established a no-till garden, add a few inches of mulch every year (the old mulch will biodegrade and settle) and push the soil aside as described each time you plant.

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