With all of the rains we’ve had throughout the summer and into fall, weeds are having a ball. Whether you are a homeowner or landscape contractor responsible for commercial landscaping, using chemical weed killers does not have to be your only choice for weed control. It is important to understand why this is important.
Are Weed Killers Safe? In short, no. They are not safe and although some products insist the weed killing chemical in their sprays do not hurt humans or wildlife, they aren’t giving you the whole picture. While the jury may still be out on the main ingredient for some, it is most definitely in when it comes to the so-called inert ingredients. Inert chemicals in weed killing sprays are toxic. According Crystal Gammon in a June 22nd, 2009 Environmental Health News article, inert chemicals in Roundup, a popular herbicide, are more deadly than the herbicide itself. The additive known as polyethoxylated tallowamine, is particularly poisonous to human embryonic cells. It is also toxic to cells making up the placenta and umbilical cord.
There are at least two products currently available to control weeds that do not harm people, pets and wildlife. A propane torch called a “weed flamer” is very effective in controlling weeds, and also has the bonus of killing weed seeds before they germinate. The weed flamer works by boiling water in plant cells causing them to burst. This is the first step to weed killing. While passing the flame over the weed, you also burn weed seeds on the ground. It is important to remember when using this tool to only use it on small, green weeds. Obviously, if you try and burn large, dead weeds you risk setting fires. This is no toy, and requires the utmost care when using, but is highly effective. It is especially useful along edges of driveways, sidewalks and in areas of landscape rock.
Another simple weed killer is vinegar. Although store bought vinegar with 5% acidity will work with multiple applications, horticultural vinegar comes in at 20% acidity, and works much quicker. Comparing the price of chemical weed killer to a gallon of horticultural vinegar will also sell you on the idea even if you don’t care about toxic chemicals in your yard.Although it sounds very old-fashioned, a stirrup hoe is a very effective way to keep weeds under control. This hoe, shaped like a stirrup, slips under weeds disturbing a minimal amount of soil. This is important so you don’t accidentally plant more seeds to come up later while hoeing. As with any weed control, getting weeds out when they are small is the key to less effort.
Some folks swear by pre-emergents, as they keep weeds from germinating. Aside from the high price, it is just another chemical added to our drinking water after a heavy rain. An alternative to chemical pre-emergents is corn gluten meal. Non-toxic and safe, corn gluten inhibits weed growth and will not poison your yard in the process. As a side note, it is thought that using pre-emergents are directly related to increase populations of mites. Another good reason to remember how closely everything is related. Kill one thing, affect another. And not necessarily in a good way.
We all have a responsibility to the health of our planet, and if going green is high on your list, put away those poisons and do the right thing when controlling weeds. Your children’s children will thank you.