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11 ways to control weeds without chemicals

Aug. 13, 2010, 11:07 a.m.
dandelion blowing in the wind

Photo: Pensiero/Flickr

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Don't let weeds go to seed

Again, no matter what you do, you will never completely prevent weed growth. However, you can keep them from getting deeply established and spreading. Keep an eye on weeds and pull them before they can go to seed. For many species, you have days or weeks of growth before weeds flower and distribute seeds.

For example, if you want to get rid of dandelions, pull them before the flowers turn into puffballs and blow around the yard. A single dandelion plant can produce 15,000 seeds each year, and each seed can survive for up to six years in the soil.

Though most professors avoid recommend certain products and brands, Lanini swears by the Weed Hound. It allows you to grab and pull out weed roots with a foot lever for quick removal without bending over.

He said he doesn’t mind a few dandelions, but persistently eliminates perennial nuisances. He said every two weeks he pulls all his bindweed, an invasive plant that will choke out other plants and take over a yard or lawn. After two weeks, the weed starts sending energy to its roots, so pulling them will starve the roots.

Two years of vigilant pre-flower weeding has long-term advantages. “Preventing weeds from going to seed for a few years can deplete the seedbank and minimize efforts in future years,” Hartzler said.

“If someone wants to reduce the amount of handweeding required in a garden, this is the key,” he added. “While a small percentage of seeds remain viable for long times in the soil, the majority either emerge or are lost to predation or decay in a couple years. Thus, the size of the weed seedbank can be dramatically reduced with a couple good years of weed control.”