Conventional wisdom dictates that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with dropping by the store and picking up a can of Roundup. The same would suggest that the targeted usage of controlled poisons will help maintain your garden, keeping the plants you want to keep alive healthy with little to no impact on you, unless you misuse it.
For those who aren’t aware of the potential consequences of using chemical herbicides, this probably sounds reasonable enough: after all, herbicide usage has been prevalent in the United States across a wide field of industries since the ‘70s, with everyone from your next-door neighbor to your company’s maintenance officer spraying Roundup on their flowerbeds.
Unfortunately, the reality is that chemical herbicides often contain compounds that can prove dangerous to human health and the environment. One such chemical is glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Roundup. While being an effective plant killer due to its ability to halt the energy production process of plants, there’s evidence to suggest that it also has adverse effects on the cells of mammals.
In fact, consistent glyphosate exposure has been correlated with the development of non-Hodgkins lymphoma and other cancers, to the point where the World Health Organization has labeled glyphosate a potential carcinogen and many European countries have banned the use of the compound.
Yet for gardeners across the country, Roundup has become a household name, and taking such an easy, convenient method of killing weeds away leaves the question of what these gardeners can use to replace it.
Without further ado, here are a few reliable methods of killing weeds safely and naturally:
Organic Weed Killer
The growing awareness surrounding the dangers of using glyphosate-based herbicides has led to a large market of organic weed killers springing up. These weed killers are all-natural products concocted to kill weeds with the same efficiency as their more harmful counterparts, and the added bonus for time-conscious consumers is that you can find them in your local supermarket.
The downside of using these is that it’s difficult to guarantee their safety, as they may use some of the same inert ingredients as chemical herbicides, and they are also more expensive than other methods on this list. That being said, if you’re looking to curb weeds and make your garden beautiful without overthinking it, this may be your best option.
Mixing a Vinegar-Based Herbicide
For this, you’ll need vinegar that’s just a little bit stronger than the standard variety, and you’ll need to mix it with a little bit of salt and dish soap, put it in a spray bottle, and let it rip on weeds you don’t want sticking around.
The way it works is that the vinegar dries out leaves it comes into contact with, and if it makes contact with the roots of immature weeds, it can dehydrate them, shriveling them and limiting their capacity to take in resources. The salt adds a little bit to the natural dehydrating effect of the vinegar, accelerating the process just a bit, while the soap makes it easy for vinegar to cling to plants with waxier leaves.
This method tends to work better on recently grown weeds or weeds with immature roots: more established weeds might not succumb to this otherwise effective method. This can also be done with most types of alcohol, including rubbing alcohol and vodka. Boiling water has also been found to be an effective, all-natural herbicide that you can use for weeds growing out of sidewalks or driveways.
Suffocate the Weeds with Mulch
This process tends to take a little longer, but it can be highly effective and stops weeds from growing back. After mowing the area where the weeds have grown, cover it with about 2 or 3 inches of mulch or sod. You can also use wet newspaper if you really want to make sure they don’t come back. The covering blocks the sun, starving the weeds and killing off even seeded ones that haven’t sprouted yet.
Better, Healthier Herbicides
While few of the methods listed above are 100% effective, all of them are environmentally friendly and have no known impact on human health. Experiment with them, and don’t be afraid to do your own research to find new methods if some of them don’t work. Regardless, switching from chemical herbicides to any of the methods above will help both you and your garden stay healthier longer.