How to control weeds in my garden?
June 16, 2008 12:53 PM   Subscribe

Seeking practical alternative to Roundup weed killer for Florida flower garden.

Ok - before I'm suspected of plain laziness... I enjoy weeding by hand but just do not have the time as I own my own business, but hiring someone else to weed is not financially or logistically practical. That said, are there "safer" spray-on herbicides? I hate the idea of the chemicals in "Roundup" or similar sprays. And I have lots of toads and lizards - I like them and don't want to poison them. I do mulch a couple of times a year. I try to pick native or at least low-water plants.

In a dry year it's not such a big deal, but when it rains (yay!) it's hard to manage the weeds. Ideas?
posted by pinkbungalow to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
Vinegar. Put it in a spray bottle, and spray directly on weeds when they pop up.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 1:01 PM on June 16, 2008

Vinegar works on some weeds. Boiling water works on most weeds.

Next time you mulch put down a layer of corn meal gluten. It is a natural pre-emergent weed control agent, and it's a fertilizer too.
posted by caddis at 1:57 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

If the weeds are in an area like a path, spread salt. (Don't do this between plants in your flower bed). You won't be able to grow anything there for a while.

Early in the year or just after it rains, spread corn gluten (available at nurseries) thickly on the ground wherever you don't want weeds. It prevents seed germination. ANY seed germination, so make sure the plants you do want are already seedlings or they won't germinate, either.
posted by GardenGal at 1:58 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Before you discount Roundup, read up on how it works. It employs the glyphosate molecule, which from what I remember inhibits an enzyme that exists only in growing plants, not in animals or insects. Meaning it's pretty awesome. Maybe it'll turn out to not be the right thing for your purpose, but don't discount it just because it's chemical. Everything is chemical.
posted by you're a kitty! at 4:08 PM on June 16, 2008

Before putting down mulch, layer 5-6 sheets of (wet) newspaper. You can also use cardboard. It is a great weed barrier and will break down eventually.
posted by SMELLSLIKEFUN at 4:09 PM on June 16, 2008

Before you discount Roundup, read up on how it works. It employs the glyphosate molecule, which from what I remember inhibits an enzyme that exists only in growing plants, not in animals or insects.

I think if you dig deeper you will find some issues with this chemical, but I agree, it is of less concern than many home chemicals.
posted by caddis at 7:17 PM on June 16, 2008

What are the other issues, caddis? I'm curious.

I certainly understand the desire to avoid unnecessary poisons, but as herbicides go, glyphosate / Roundup is one of the most benign. And now that it's off-patent, you can buy it without giving money to Monsanto.

Back to the original question, boiling water is also an effective weed killer.
posted by hattifattener at 9:17 PM on June 16, 2008

(Duh, I missed that caddis already mentioned boiling water right off the bat.)
posted by hattifattener at 9:18 PM on June 16, 2008

Sorry hattifattener, I was out of town for a few days. Glyphosate has been linked to Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and to Hairy Cell Leukemia, and other health effects such as miscarriages. There also seems to be evidence that it harms naturally beneficial bacteria and fungi in the soil, such as those that fix nitrogen. Denmark has banned its use. There are much worse chemicals out there such as Atrazine. Nevertheless, glyphosate is likely not benign. The science about its ill effects or safety is by no means crystal clear. The worst effects are likely felt by farmers, lawn service personnel and others whose exposure greatly exceeds the average. Still, if vinegar or boiling water works then that would seem to be preferred.

As for the vinegar, it apparently helps to put a small amount of a surfactant, such as dish washing liquid, into it to improve its penetration into the plants.
posted by caddis at 7:27 AM on June 19, 2008

Nature's Avenger is an organic herbicide made from citrus oil. It's certified organic and loses it's herbicidal properties in about four hours. The way it works is by breaking down the waxy coating on plants that helps them retain moisture. The plant then dehydrates and dies. Simple and effective, eh?

My own experiences: Less effective than the catalog claims, but that's to be expected. I was killing off a mixture of grass, blackberries, ornamentals, and scotchbroom. Basically, I'm recovering a neglected and overgrown hillside for cultivation. The verdict, it works. I had to spray 2-3 times at higher concentrations than recommended but the plants did die. It's not the agent orange-like effect I was hoping for and root-based plants are coming back where I haven't cultivated thoroughly. Wear goggles when you spray as citrus oil is *decidedly* uncomfortable in ones eye.

I don't know if this is an optimal solution for you and I can't wholeheartedly endorse the herbicide but I will say that next time I cultivate a lawn into a garden, I'm killing off the grass with Nature's Avenger instead of tarps or rototillers.
posted by stet at 11:41 AM on June 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

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