Eco-Friendly Ways to Control Weeds: A Brief Introduction
Weeds, weeds and more weeds
Every Garden has Some Weeds...
Life is a garden. It is an opportunity. You can grow weeds, you can grow roses; it all depends on you. -Osho
Wherever there is earth (or even pavement), there will be some weeds as well as other flora that most of us consider to be more useful. If you were planning to grow more than weeds in your garden, then sooner or later it's going to be necessary to either get down and pull the weeds out, or you could try some of these eco-friendly weed control methods.
Chickens and Goats
This idea works best where you are preparing a space for your garden and either live on a farm or in an area where you are permitted to have livestock. Chickens will scratch a plot of earth back to the bare dirt given enough time. They enjoy it too. Not to mention the fact that they will fertilize the soil with their droppings. Goats will eat pretty much everything. It is true that they like blackberry bushes, in my experience though they will eat the leaves whilst leaving the branches.
Most appropriately used when establishing a garden, this style focuses on minimal disturbance of the earth. You establish your garden bed and from then on you top dress your garden bed with compost, fertilizers and mulch. The system has several benefits including the minimization of weed growth. This article explains the system in more detail.
No Till Gardening Aids Weed Control
Straw Bale/Hay Bale Gardening
This is where your garden is grown in bales of hay and straw. While there are some challenges in keeping your plants well watered and the fact that your bale will eventually fall apart, there are also many benefits including the fact that the bales do not lend themselves as a great host for weeds and any that do appear are easily removed. See this article for more information on this type of gardening.
Spraying weeds with vinegar is often cited as an eco-friendly method of control. Lemon juice has also been mentioned as it also possesses acidic properties. The perfect recipe and methods of application are subject to some debate so it is worth doing a little research and testing before applying this method wholesale in your garden.
Pouring boiling water on weeds is an effective control method. The advantages include the easy availability of this resource and the lack of harmful chemicals. Care needs to be taken however to avoid dousing wanted plants or yourself with the hot water.
Mulch and Weed Barriers
Weeds need sunshine to grow. If you stop the sunshine you stop (or at least slow down) the weeds. Using mulch around your plants, whether the mulch is hay, bark, lawn clippings, compost, newspaper or other forms, can limit the growth and regrowth of weeds. Weed barriers/mats are basically a layer of material placed over the garden bed with holes or spaces made for the desired plants. They work on the same principle as mulch and come in organic and non-organic forms from plastic to fabric. There is a consideration around the balance between hindering the weeds and allowing water and oxygen through for the benefit of the plants that you do want to grow. Weed barriers can be either purchased commercially or you can make your own.
Another way to inhibit the growth of weeds is to give them some stiff competition. Planting hardy and tenacious ground covers according to your taste and local conditions can limit the available resources needed for weeds to flourish.
Finally, there are numerous versions of weed control equipment. From humble hand tools to steam and flame weeders, there are a diverse array of aids to choose from according to your expertise and the size of your garden.