Weeds are the bane of any gardener, but they can be especially bothersome to organic gardeners. Many gardeners choose to use weed killer to get rid of weeds, but you certainly aren’t going to do that in an organic garden!
So what can you do?
Well, you’ll need to identify your most troublesome weed, and then deal with it in the way that best gets rid of that particular type of weed. We’re going to look at a few of the most common weeds, and how to get rid of those weeds.
Dandelion is a really common one that grows everywhere. While they are a fabulous food plant, most gardeners just want to get rid of them. To get rid of dandelions, you need to dig out the entire taproot – and they’re deep.
You should always pull them up with a hoe before they flower. And you can spread corn gluten over the areas you wish to remain free from dandelions in the early spring. This will help keep a lot of the seedlings from growing.
Crabgrass is a major pest in many yards and gardens. It is very tough to pull up, and it is especially hard to get rid of. You must pull up the entire plant, including all of its roots. You can suppress further growth by spreading down corn gluten in the early spring. You can also mulch to prevent the seeds from germinating.
You must cut the plant at the base, then let it dry out completely. Bury the vines, or throw them away in the trash. Never, ever burn poison ivy, because the smoke can be fatal! Do not compost poison ivy.
Lamb’s quarters is an edible wild green. Last week I was showing some to my father and said, “Do you know what this is?” He nodded “Wild spinach!” Even though they are a very tasty and useful green, most people think of them as common weeds. They can be difficult to get rid of. You can hoe or pull up the plants when you see them. Then you should mulch heavily to suppress the seedlings.
Ragweed is a plant that many people want to get rid of, and I am afraid I can’t think of a single good thing to say about it. It’s a very common allergen, and its pollen is a major cause of hayfever. You can hoe up seedlings, and use a mower to mow down full-sized plants. You can use mulch to cover the areas where it grows. You can compost ragweed if it hasn’t yet gone to seed.
Purslane is another edible plant that you should consider eating instead of destroying. Or at least eat some of them. You can remove individual plants by hoeing. If you pull the plants, they can reroot themselves if you leave them lying on top of the soil. The seeds of this plant can mature after the plant has been pulled, so don’t compost them unless you want a compost bed full of purslane. You can mulch to prevent these from growing.
Prickly lettuce is an annoying little plant that is related to dandelion and sow thistle. In fact, when young, it can be easily mistaken for dandelion. It can cause itching and burning if it comes in contact with skin, so always wear gloves when you handle it. You can pull or hoe plants, or cut the taproot below the soil. In much of the United States, prickly lettuce has become pesticide-resistant, providing us with more incentive to deal with these plant pests organically.
You might wish to leave it alone, as it can attract beneficial insects, but it can carry lettuce diseases. Be sure to keep it away from your lettuce patches because it can cross with domestic lettuce. It is also poisonous to livestock, so you should be sure to keep it away from your animals. You can hoe or pull plants beneath the soil line. You can compost it if it hasn’t yet gone to seed.
Whatever you do, please resist the urge to use chemical pesticides! There is no ‘cide that exclusively kills pests. Even diatomaceous earth, which should be in every sustainable household, will kill both harmful and beneficial insects if used incorrectly.
Chemical pesticides are directly linked to the decline of the bees.