Weeds & Weeding the ECO-FRIENDLY way ...or How to get rid of 'em without losing your mind
Weeds and Weeding the ECO-FRIENDLY Way
Weeds - they’re going to suck the first spring you put in a new garden - and after rainfalls - but things get easier as gardens mature.
In Permaculture & Ecodesign, we believe weeds aren't there to piss you off, they're there to help repair soil... They're just too aggressive. So much so that they’re not letting your new plants thrive. Or they’re way too pokey or seedy for human comfort.
We weed a lot in certain seasons, to favor the plants we love and care about most. And to give valuable domesticated flora a chance to outcompete the weeds ( AKA vigorous hard working volunteers who’ve survived the soil nutrient apocalypse).
In the end we want to favor your new plants enough to outcompete the weeds but not so much that we completely strip the soil of life.
So now that you’ve got the end goal in mind, Here's our favorite pointers on how to get rid of weeds... or at least par back the ones you don't want in your garden.
Eco-Friendly ways to get rid of weeds:
- Grasses: pull out by the roots or spray carefully (don't hit other plants) with herbicide - shop here or see #4 - (have found this herbicide works well in full hot sun only, so wait for the weather to cooperate). Herbicide isn't entirely eco friendly but it can save you a lot of bending over. The ultimate sustainable alternative for weeding grasses is Weed Torches - see #5
- Young weeds: if they haven't gone to seed you can cut them at the base and leave plant matter on the surface as mulch (chop & drop baby!). The sun will compost them pretty quick. And return nutrients to your soil. Or tuck them under your existing bark or rock mulch if you don't like the look.
- Flowering weeds: if they have gone to seed (their flowers have bloomed and started forming seed heads) chop ‘em at the base & put ‘em in the green waste. The roots may keep sprouting but eventually they’ll get tired out, die and compost their valuable nutrients into the soil. Many weeds are relatively short-lived annuals who will diminish over time if you keep them from going to seed.
- DIY round-up - if you just can’t hack it anymore, mix a tablespoon of dish soap into a few cups of vinegar, put it into a spray bottle and spritz weeds down at base! Be careful not to splash or get too close to the plants you want to keep.
- Weed Torch - a natural weed miracle. The most environmentally-friendly way to weed is a weee torch (it looks like a weed wacker except with a flame at the bottom). Be sure to use ONLY when there is no wind & it is not excessively dry (when fire risk is low).
- Mulch with woodchip or any mulch (raked leaves, straw, shredded paper, etc.) to 2” deep but not over 3” when & where you can. This will help with weeds big time! Check out this article on mulch to learn how & where to get it cheap.
- If you're growing lots of edible plants or big flowers, fertilize every 6 months with animal manure or microbially active compost (homemade is great!). This helps keep your soil balance in favor of the existing plants and makes it naturally less attractive to weeds.
- Shade...if you've ever walked in a space of deep shade, do you see many weeds? Hardly any at all. Weeds grow in disturbed soil and in sun, as gardens get fuller and naturally mature there will be less and less room for them. Or accelerate it by adding plants that can create part shade conditions and deter them quicker.
There's a lot of great ways to cut down on weeds. Just remembering we don't need to be at war with them is a good start. The conventional farmer garden vision of perfectly bare soil around a giant fruiting bush is not healthy for our wild garden ecosystems.
For weeds growing out of - or through - a plant, I would just hand pull gently down into the first top inch of soil. And doing this a few times until the larger plant gets more established. You can also reduce them overtime by balancing soil nutrients. If you can identify the weed clearly, you can go down the rabbit hole on Google to identify it's 'dynamic accumulator' function (the nutrients it aggregates in it's vegetation or roots) and use that as your litmus for how to amend your soil.
We prefer a dynamic community of plants all loving and supporting one another! Just steer your garden towards the plants that you want and gently find ways to cope with or eradicate the rest.