Before looking at the non-chemical pest/weed control options, it's important to address this question: Are weeds necessarily "bad"?
Weeds such as dandelions offer tremendous health benefits, ranking in the top four green vegetables in overall nutritional value. Purslane tops the list of plants with omega-3 fats. Stinging nettle is difficult to handle, but the young leaves offer a multitude of minerals. See this website for a comprehensive list of these wild nutritional boosters.
Even with my "good weeds," how do I care for my lawn without the use of harsh chemicals? There are numerous resources dedicated to helping you provide a safe, attractive addition to your home.
The EPA offers these tips for safe lawn care:
- Keep grass at a height of 3 inches.
- Make sure mowing blades are sharp.
- Water 1 inch per week on average.
- Allow your lawn to go dormant in July/August.
- Consider non-chemical pest/weed control methods.
The EPA has a four-minute video summarizing these tips.
One of the best natural weed killer recipes utilizes three simple ingredients:
- 1 gallon white vinegar *
- 1/2 c. liquid soap
- 2 tbsp. salt
* Some find horticultural (20%) vinegar is more effective.
Combine and shake. Place in spray bottle and spray leaves and stems of weeds only. Avoid surrounding plants.
For additional natural weed killer alternatives, see this list.
Other resources designed to help you avoid toxic chemicals include:
- Safe Lawns. Helpful how-to videos ranging from aeration to brewing your own compost tea.
- Read Your "Weeds" – A Simple Guide to Creating a Healthy Lawn. An excellent fact sheet offered by Beyond Pesticides.
- Taking Care of Your Lawn Without Using Pesticides. An article written by Caroline Cox, detailing the subject of grasscycling:
Grasscycling (leaving grass clippings on the lawn when you mow) adds plant nutrients and organic matter to your soil and keeps the clippings out of landfills. It also saves you time! Researchers estimate that grasscycling reduces fertilizer needs by 25 percent. It works best if you mow frequently, when the grass is dry, and with sharp mower blades. Mulching mowers have an extra blade that finely chops and distributes the clippings, but you can use a regular lawn mower for grasscycling just by removing the bag.
- Tips for Weeds, Lawns and Landscaping. Numerous downloadable fact sheets from the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides.
- List by state of organic suppliers and contractors. An outstanding resource directory provided by Safe Lawns.
With these resources you may soon find yourself with a thriving lawn free of harmful chemicals!