A weed- and pest-free lawn and garden may sound ideal, but is it really? Maintaining the perfect urban landscape may result in a reliance on pesticides that can lead to environmental and human health problems.
Many homeowners are looking for alternative ways to control pests in gardens and landscapes. The Colorado State University Extension Office has provided a handy Guide to Alternative Pesticide Management for the Lawn and Garden to help residents and businesses practice "green" weed and insect control in their own yards and gardens.
Nontoxic alternatives to commercial herbicides
Herbicides help rid your yard of unsightly weeds, but they can damage other plant life, animals and the environment. Nontoxic alternatives can be just as effective at destroying weeds but are safe for regular use in your garden. They are often less expensive as well. You likely already have what it takes to safely eradicate weeds in your cupboard or pantry.
The acid in vinegar is effective at destroying weeds and is nontoxic to children and pets. Five to 9 percent vinegars are the most effective at getting rid of pesky weeds and they are inexpensive as well. Put the vinegar into a spray bottle and coat the entire surface of the weed with the liquid. An application of vinegar as an herbicide can last for several weeks. Use caution, however, not to spray vinegar on neighboring plants because it can also destroy flowers and foliage.
Baking soda is an effective weed killer when sprinkled on weeds in powder form. It is also a safe way to destroy weeds without introducing chemicals into your garden. It is most useful to destroy weeds growing in the cracks on driveways, paths and sidewalks. Sprinkle a handful of baking soda on top of pesky weeds and sweep it into the cracks. Don't use baking soda in areas where you want to grow other plants. The high sodium levels can change the soil, making it less hospitable to plant life.
A correct ratio of dish soap to water is a nontoxic way to get rid of pesky weeds and it is one of the most inexpensive options as well. Combine 20 percent dish soap and 80 percent water in a spray bottle. Coat the entire weed with the soapy water mixture. This method works best on hot days. Repeat as needed throughout the growing season to keep weeds at bay without introducing chemicals into your yard.
Additional Nontoxic Herbicides
Boiling water is a simple and effective way to eradicate weeds. Pour boiling water directly onto the weeds to destroy them. Boiling water can also destroy weed seeds so they aren't able to sprout. This method isn't as long-lasting, however, and will need to be repeated often. Alcohol is another nontoxic herbicide option. Combine 1 to 5 tablespoons of alcohol, such as rum or vodka, with 1 quart of water in a spray bottle. Douse the weeds with the mixture. Be careful not to get the alcohol on neighboring plants because it can cause leaf damage.
Reference: sfgate.com and CSU Extension