Stop Using Round Up
There is some debate over the safety of glyphosate. Most of the research that claims Round Up is safe is industry funded. The New York Times published an article that raises new doubts about the safety of the product that stem from the surfacing of unsealed documents. The article to dubious research that was published as well as documentation of internal debate by officials at the Environmental Protection Agency regarding an assessment carried out by the Office of Pesticide Programs. Multiple independent studies also claim that glyphosate may be increasing risk for many serious diseases. One study demonstrates a possible link between glyphosate and Celiac disease. Another demonstrates possible links with autism, Alzheimer’s disease, infertility, birth defects, depression, anxiety, Parkinson’s and other neurological illnesses. Within the Round Up formula, there are other potentially dangerous chemicals as well. Some are not revealed by the manufacturer, and referred to as inert ingredients. EcoWatch cites a French study that indicates a filler ingredient called polyethoxylated tallowamine is more dangerous to human embryonic and cells in the umbilical cord and placenta than glyphosate.
Luckily there are many natural ways to limit the growth of weeds without needing to use dangerous chemicals. EcoWatch lists twelve alternatives:
Mulching – Mulching means you cover the soil with a layer of compost, wood chips, bark, cardboard, cloth, or basically any organic matter you have on hand. This can deter weeds and stop new seeds from germinating. The article warns against using hay because it can contain many unwanted seeds and create a bigger problem.
Hand Digging – This refers to the manual removal of weeds with a shovel or other hand tool. This allows you to remove weeds at the root. There is no guarantee a weed will not return, but this method will greatly reduce them overall. The sooner you can get to weeds using this method, the more effective it will be.
Competition – This basically means crowding weeds out and using dense ground covers and perennials so they don’t have room to sprout.
Regulate Food and Water – Research what types of plants you are growing and how much food and water they actually need. Well established plants can do well without extra water and fertilizer where young plants or certain food crops may need more. The point is to not overdo it. The same products that encourage fast plant growth encourage weed growth as well.
Solarize – This method involves covering large areas of weeds, located in full sun with a heavy plastic sheet. You have to leave the sheet in place for 4-6 weeks. When you remove it, weeds will likely be brown and starting to break down. This will kill your regular plants too so only do this on large areas of weeds only.
Limit Tilling and Digging – Use the no-till method of gardening. This sounds counter to what we have always been told. However, the article states this method improves soil structure, increases beneficial soil bacteria and increases fertility. So, save yourself some work and only dig down as much as needed to plan your seeds.
Vodka – Mix 1 ounce of vodka, 2 cups of water and a couple of drops of dish soap together. Then spray on weeds that have good exposure to the sun. This will dry them and kill them. Avoid spraying on plants you want to keep. It doesn’t work well in the shade.
Vinegar and Salt – Regular household vinegar can be used in isolation. Just spray on weeds directly. If you want a more potent solution, mix 1 gallon of white vinegar with 1 cup of table salt and 1 TBSP of dish soap. Then spray as needed.
Soap – Soap is added to all of the spray mixes because it breaks down the surface on waxy or hairy leaves. So, don’t leave it out of your vodka or vinegar solution.
Boiling water – Pouring boiling water over weeds will burn them. This application is best for sidewalks or in the cracks of pavement.
Flame weeding – This method carries a risk of fire and should not be used in extremely dry areas or during times of drought as it could start a larger fire. A flame weeder can be purchased at a hardware store or on Amazon. It is a wand attached to a propane tank. Basically you pass the flame over the weeds and it fatally burns them. It does not go to the root level so you may need to do this several times for it to eliminate a weed completely.
I'm going to add a couple more ideas if you have large areas full of weeds or just want to go with a totally "out of the box" method. First, if you are in between planting and need some clean up, get some chickens in your garden. They will clean up and break down overgrowth as well as add some nitrogen to the soil. If you don't have chickens or access to chickens and have a large yard, you can rent a goat. In a previous post, I listed a service that was on Amazon. However, it has since been removed. Regardless, there are local goat farmers that may be willing to rent you an animal for this purpose. Goats do a great job with weeds and actually prefer them to grass. You can read my previous post here. It discusses the benefits of enlisting a goat to do the work.