Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

Saturday, July 06, 2019 1:00 am

Drenched gardens conducive to weeds

Ricky Kemery

Q.: It was so wet this spring I was unable to do much gardening. My gardens are full of weeds and my driveway looks like a jungle. I am an organic gardener and prefer not to use chemicals in my garden. What can I do?

A.: You are not alone as many folks are dealing with weed issues. More and more folks prefer organic methods in their garden and landscape. Of course, the first solution is the least popular one – simply hand pull or hoe the weeds. This works on the most common annual weeds.

In my raised beds, smart weeds and pigweed are common. These are easy to pull and place in a compost pile. More difficult weeds with deep taproots are the simple perennials such as lambs' quarter, pokeweed and burdock root.

One strategy I used this year was to use the cardboard from containers such as pet food delivery and other Amazon deliveries to place over turf and other areas. I then mulch over those areas. This is effective for pathways and around my firepit area.

I also used the Epsom salt, vinegar (white vinegar recommended) and dish soap solution that is the internet rave for organic weed control. The recipe is 1 gallon of vinegar, 2 cups of Epsom salts and a quarter of a cup of dishwashing detergent. Put the whole mixture in a sprayer, then spray the foliage of the weeds.

I used this solution in a small area and indeed the weeds turned brown by the next day. It is important to note that this solution does not actually go within the plant. It only burns the foliage for a period of time. Eventually the weeds might regrow, especially a perennial such as quack grass.

It is important also to realize that the solution will burn anything it comes into contact with, so be careful not to spray on any desirable plants or turf. The vinegar especially can burn skin or irritate and damage the eyes, especially if stronger solutions of vinegar are used.

Finally, repeated use of Epsom salts over the same area could potentially sterilize the soil so nothing will grow, so I used the vinegar soap solution in some areas where I wanted the soil to remain viable.

Organic Preen may also be used as a pre-emergent control in some areas. This is essentially corn gluten that has some control over grasses and some common weeds.

Boiling water (applied carefully) may also be poured over weeds and is especially effective on weeds in driveways.

Invasive weeds such as Canada Thistle will still need specialized controls that are not organic, otherwise they will simply take over an area.

Controlling weeds can be an unpleasant chore, but one can rationalize that the sense of accomplishment and exercise is good for the body and soul – and that is what makes gardening so rewarding.

The Plant Medic, written by Ricky Kemery, appears every other Saturday. Kemery retired as the extension educator for horticulture at the Allen County branch of the Purdue Extension Service.