Spring and summer have come and gone, along with those glorious garden beds. Your fruits and vegetables are harvested, you’ve canned until your hands were sore, and now it’s time to kick back and relax … or so you think. But alas, the weeds are starting to creep up along your fall perennials and you have to make a move before the roots do.
While weed maintenance is important during the peak of the gardening season, it's just as important, if not more important that you keep your garden free of weeds in the “off” season. Year-round weed maintenance ensures that your spring plants have the opportunity to grow without having to fight weeds for a share of your soil’s nutrients.
Most sustainably-minded people aren’t the type of homeowners to just reach for a bottle of Roundup, but pulling all those weeds by hand isn’t the best alternative. And while traditional herbicides like Roundup may work in the short term, they are not a sustainable, long-term solution that gets to the root of the problem. Pun definitely intended. Not to mention, Roundup can be detrimental to soil, and poses a health risk for both humans and wildlife alike.
So what is a gardener to do? Luckily, there are a variety of natural weed maintenance methods that can help to reduce the number of weeds in your yard. Read on to learn more about some of the best ways to eliminate weeds and encourage your soil to stay healthy for the upcoming gardening season.
Utilize Mulch in Garden Beds
Mulch is a great way to keep weeds away while simultaneously slowing down moisture evaporation in your soil. When the mulch breaks down through the fall and winter, the soil absorbs all the nutrients from the mulch. This will provide your spring garden with healthy soil and the fresh start that it deserves.
There are two types of mulch that you can choose from: organic and inorganic. Organic mulch typically consists of wood chips, straw, pine needles, leaves, or a combination of brown materials.
While you can purchase organic mulch at your local home and garden store, chances are you already have everything you need in your own backyard! Save some money and keep it sustainable by making your very own organic mulch at home. Your vegetable garden will love the extra nutrients!
Inorganic mulch on the other hand can consist of a variety of things. Anything from rubber pellets and crushed rocks to plastic tarps and paper bags. While plastic and rubber may be unsustainable, utilizing paper bags from the grocery store can be a sustainable and recyclable option. I chatted with one gardener who tried out just about every kind of recycled mulch he could come up with, and found that amazon boxes works pretty well as a form of mulch!
Create Your Own Organic Herbicide Spray
Traditional herbicides like Roundup and Ortho may claim to be effective, but they contain harsh chemicals that can linger in our air and water supply. The chemical that is especially heinous is called glyphosate, and can cause all sorts of problems.
Nowadays there are many natural alternatives to spot weed control that can be made out of common household products. One of the most popular and effective natural weed killers is made out of salt, white vinegar, and soap. Combine all of your ingredients into a spray bottle and attack each individual weed with a vengeance!
While spot spraying each weed isn’t the most efficient method, it can be incredibly effective without the use of chemicals. Utilizing an organic herbicide spray is also a good way to break down those super pesky roots so that you can pull them out later with ease.
Pick Them by Hand and Eat Them!
Call me crazy, but I’ve found that one of the most relaxing activities is pulling weeds by hand. But if you want to get fancy, you can always invest in a weed pulling tool to help with the process. Not only will you be able to get down to the root of the weed and discourage it from returning, but you’ll have the added benefit of saving the weeds for medicinal or culinary uses.
Weeds? As food? Yes! Many homesteaders collect weeds and transform them into something useful. Before you toss that chickweed, consider using it as a salad green! And before you spray that plantain with your homemade weed killer, consider turning it into a healing salve!
Rent Some Local Goats
If you have a lot of property (with a lot of weeds) and want to avoid spreading chemicals all over your fields, consider renting goats. Yes, you heard that right! Goats LOVE to eat just about everything, including all those pesky weeds! There is a growing trend where farmers will rent out their herd of goats for a few hours or even a few weeks, allowing their goats to forage the fields.
After all is said and done, you’ll end up with a weed-free yard. And the farmer will end up with happy goats with full bellies! Renting goats will cost you anywhere from $250-$2500, depending on the size of the property. If you’re still not convinced that the benefits outweigh the costs, check out the before and after on this family’s backyard.
Live in a suburban setting? No problem! Renting goats for weed control isn’t limited to just country settings. I’ve seen a herd of goats munching on weeds on the side of the road in Seattle! Do be aware, though, that some HOA’s may not allow for goat rentals. Check out your community’s bylaws and always do your research.
Author Bio: Leigha Staffenhagen is the managing editor of Insteading.com, a homesteading and sustainability site focusing on everything from raising chickens and gardening to tiny houses and off-grid living.