Weeds and Weeding the ECO-FRIENDLY Way
Weeds - they’re going to suck the first spring you put in a new garden, but things will get easier.
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 to let your new plants thrive. Or way too pokey or seedy for your comfort.
We weed a lot in the spring, to favor the plants we love and care about most. And to give valuable domesticated flora a chance to outcompete the vigorous hard workers that have survived the soil nutrient apocalypse (aka industrialization hehe).
Eventually the plants you do want growing there will outcompete the weeds and cause you a lot less grief. Just a note, if the plants you do want aren't succeeding over a number of been years you likely need to adjust your soil health more seriously to suit their preferences.
Besides a refresh on your mindset. 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 - (By the way, My mom says 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 is Weed Torches - see #5
- Other weeds: if they haven't gone to seed you can cut them at the base and leave the plant matter on the surface as mulch (chop & drop baby!). The sun will turn it into compost pretty quick. Or tuck it under your existing bark or rock mulch if you don't like the look.
- Other weeds cont’d: if they have gone to seed 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 or the little guys are too much to take on mix a tablespoon of dish soap into a few cups of vinegar put it into a spray bottle and spritz those weeds down! Be careful not to splash or get too close to the plants you want to keep.
- Weed torch - another weed miracle & the most sustainable way to weed; use only when there is no wind & it is not excessively dry (aka when fire season is favorable)
- 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.
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.