Never have nor ever will use Roundup.
Against it on SO many levels it is not funny. I hate to even mention it but it's why I decided to write this recommending much safer alternatives. If you feel the same, I may have some sound ideas for you, but it may not be what you think.
What is particularly disturbing is even though we know what we do about it, so many disregard that and indiscriminately use it anyway. Sadly, it is the most widely used chemical in the world today.
There really ought to be a law against it.
Sometimes you need to just pull weeds, or grass that grows like one. Mother Nature is a miracle but at times, unwanted vegetation takes over, making it difficult or nearly impossible to manage. Perhaps you find that you are especially short on time. You can't get anyone to help you. Or maybe you are just fed up and about to do the unthinkable.
Before you go the route of drastic, remember most weeds are not harmful. Some things, like stinging nettles or foxtails are definitely unwelcome, but your average broadleaf dandelion doesn't bite, even though it may behave like a nutcase. Annoying, certainly. Worth using poison? Not really. Also, do your homework in advance with Poison Ivy and especially Poison Oak. NEVER EVER burn it. Know your enemy and be prepared with these guys.
Maybe, just maybe if it only affected your target pest, and it stayed exactly where you put it it would have its place. But, There is always drift, then there is run-off. It takes a long time to fully degrade too. It gets absorbed into other things that act as 'sinks' like non-target plants, trees, upholstered furniture, even clothing or the foam in car seats. Normal weather conditions such as temperature changes or humidity levels can cause it to revolatize. Even if you don't use it, others who do make it your problem. The average home HVAC systems exchange indoor air with outdoor air roughly 6-10 times an hour, so simply staying indoors or closing your windows will not keep it out of your home or workplace. So you are inhaling it, tracking it indoors on clothing and footwear an you are being exposed to it. Residue will adhere to your pets paws and fur as they walk down the street or sidewalk with such wide use. They will likely even lick their paws. It is no wonder why there is so much cancer in dogs. It's a crying shame. Especially since so much is avoidable by not using herbicides! At least not without damn good reason. Cosmetic use of herbicides has been sharply curtailed or banned in progressive places like Canada and overseas. So what's wrong with most Americans? We must be mighty selfish or stupid. Probably both.
If you have a lot of weeds, you don't necessarily need to do anything drastic. Like insects, the world is chock full of them. It is mostly a matter of perception. Many of us seem perfectly fine accepting and working with Mother Nature. Having said that, weeds are also a symptom of poor soil health, so those who believe their property is the picture of health, resembling a golf course greenway, I am here to tell you it may not be as healthy or well cared for as one thinks. Lawns might look lush and green with an infusion of Nitrogen, but require routine chemical input to maintain a certain 'look', so even they can be turned into junkies. They end up seriously stressed and eventually weeds, brown spots or insects move right in. Kind of like being nutritionally deficient might cause a human to be fatigued, or overly susceptible to viruses. Could be your grounds are just plain neglected, affected by drought conditions or suffer from too much chemical input! You might consider to first check the pH of your soil in several places on your property. Label your baggies of 2-3 TBL (each) of soil with their locations to later help with your master plan of fixing it. You might begin this process at your county extension office or find a good Master Gardener group nearby. Most communities have them. Your lawn may behave much better with a correctly timed and simple lime application, for starters. The book we recommended in our first blog will address this in greater detail.
We have employed lots of tools in tending property, but it may be best to see it for what it is. A living organism! These tools do not always mean tools in a literal sense. Testing pH, planting appropriate vegetation, and we recommend using native plants whenever you can. Cutting or watering properly all play roles, even allowing clover to grow. Like ants, if it is around, it is there out of necessity. Nature is not without its own tricks of the trade folks. It's a naturally occurring nitrogen fixer, and interestingly only deemed a weed since the advent of the supposedly professional lawn services. That sounds a bit suspect to me! Not to make these recommendations too overly complex, we will just mention a few of the usual suspects, such as hand-held flamers, (propane) For weed removal. It's effective though learning the technique is critical to success. Another example of less is more: rather than torch the heck out of an offending plant, one takes it to the 'wilt stage' only. By doing so, the plant will use its reserves to try and 'save' itself. It hopefully goes without saying that this can be a potential fire risk under certain conditions. There is no excuse for not educating yourself in advance and using Safety first, always.
We have also tried corn gluten meal, believe it or not it is a pre-emergent herbicide, meaning it will only affect things that have not yet emerged (germinated) so the timing is key. Therefore, it won't have the desired effect on existing plants, noxious or not as a post-emergent would. It does have an added benefit of feeding your plants (which includes your lawn) already growing, but it could mean you feed the good along with the undesirables.
Corn gluten meal was (and still is) used as feed for livestock when it was accidentally discovered to be a pre-emergent. I think in all the years since I first heard about it, a number of formulas now exist. If memory serves me well, the first was called "aMaizing Lawn." Amazing!
If you were wondering how long it would take me to mention IPM again, I just find it both interesting and peculiar that things we use all the time have a secondary purpose as alternatives to toxic chemicals. For example, canola oil. It's actually listed as a pesticide, because it has been used to kill certain pests.
See this if you don't believe me:
Although this should have been mentioned in our first Blog about Ants, it was my first. You have my apology for that. You may use it to deter ants from feasting on your hummingbird feeder. As it is, you graciously set it up for the birds.
It's as if a neon sign were flashing to ants and yellow jackets alike, making a bee line (pun intended) for it. They can't help it. As opportunists, it is an unwanted consequence of sugar-water left outside. Since I brought it up, you basically coat the feeder junctions where the hummers feed with the oil. Won't affect the birds but the varmints don't much care for it.
As usual, I have already gotten off point.
What you do NOT want to do with what follows is spill it just anywhere, but that will also be explained.
The recipe I will share, for this nearly edible alternative herbicide, is considered non-selective too. To the novice that means, it will assume you meant for it to go where you put it and IT Will KILL Everything it comes into contact with. It may take more than one time of applying it but if you time things correctly, you will successfully albeit temporarily put your noxious weed to rest. If you are after broad-leafs alone, you won't do much very effectively unless you actually dig out the tap root. There are many exceptional manual tools you can find to help you accomplish this. It reminds me of my days in detention. The nuns made us do it with our hands, and in the full sun. We did not have access to sunscreen in those days. It was a barbaric practice.
Before you get too complacent however, realize it has some repercussions too. You can use it now and then, but there is salt involved. Yes, it is table salt. Sodium Chloride, good old NaCl. One can use a reasonably safe, edible thing too much too. I understand that for some individuals it can wreak havoc with blood-pressure. Years ago, that toxic product I mentioned before was actually forced to change its advertising when they claimed it was as safe as table salt. It clearly was not, nor is it now either.
First you need to line up your ducks.
Since I mentioned that, Fauna are often used in IPM for pest control. The use of goats and even ducks or geese come to mind at present, for vegetation and insect control. That is for another day. You may already have what you need on hand, otherwise you will want to make a shopping list now.
A place like Costco may be your best bet to find the GALLON sized jug of plain white VINEGAR. You may use any generic version of it as well as your table salt. The latter should be granular, not rock salt. We shall mix a gallon of this, so you need 1 CUP of the SALT, Iodized or not does not matter. You will also need 1-2 TBL of a biodegradable liquid DISH SOAP. I use 7th Generation, fragrance-free of course.
But here is a good trivia question for you..
Did you know that there is a difference between the terms unscented v. fragrance free?
I feel another BLOG coming on.
Finally, you need the SUN.
Thank goodness you live on Earth.
If you have ever made Sun Tea, then you know we are headed outside. You do not need a very hot day to mix your concoction, but you will achieve optimal "Death Star" results if you check your forecast, mix and then apply it, minus wet conditions. This means any rain in advance or afterwards for at least 3-4 days. It will achieve much better results to forego when it's cool or even dew has drenched your plant material.
Why waste energy or water unnecessarily by warming your vinegar under a hot water tap when you may use the power of the sun to do it for you? Set the unopened gallon in the direct sun for a few hours. It need not be hot, but warming it helps it to mix more effectively. Find a recycled yogurt container (surely you have a million saved by now) and pour a few cups of the vinegar out of the jug but reserve it. You will need it later. Cover and move it so you neither accidentally spill it nor your dog nor kids try to drink it.
You will pour your cup of salt into the warmed vinegar then cover it. Though I do not recommend that you shake it vigorously, (unless you planned to take a spontaneous shower) you want to encourage it to dissolve. It may not do so completely but don't worry about that. Gently rocking your almost full gallon or turning it up side down then right side up will do the trick. You likely will not use all of what you create playing mad scientist, so label your jug now, so you'll recognize it later. Call it what you like, but best to add what ingredients you used. Should it sit around awhile, unused (rest assured it will keep) but the salt may settle to the bottom. Next time you are prepared to use it, just repeat the warming in sun to incorporate the salt solids back into the suspension of the vinegar/soap liquid solution but you won't be adding anything new next time.
The last few steps are simple. You want to mix it as well as you possibly can before adding your dish soap. The soap acts as the surfactant (helps it stick to the plant you want to affect) to help your alternative product vinegar/salt (so far, edible) but it still should not be left around where little kids or pets can ingest it. Even though it would be a million times safer than that other junk I mentioned at the outset, it might cause some stomach upset. Nobody wants that.
The reason you wait to add your soap will soon become clear. Especially if you skipped ahead and added it already! The soap makes bubbles and displaces the vinegar and salt in your gallon container. Suddenly the gallon jug is no longer adequate for your mad scientist needs.
You may replace the excess vinegar you poured out initially whenever your jug can handle the excess. Now you find a SPRAY BOTTLE and please-- start with a new one. Some things just SHOULD NOT be repurposed. When chemicals are involved, you can get yourself in all kinds of trouble.
A perfect example of what NOT to do is: NEVER EVER mix Chlorine Bleach and Ammonia. NOT just in the same bucket, or other receptacle. NOT in the same room! The safest way to go is just not use them. IF you insist upon it, pick ONE or the OTHER. Since Chlorine is used in water treatment, it may be the safer choice, but that is your decision. This way you will never have that potential for serious harm. It produces a gas called CHLORAMINE.
PLEASE Do NOT REuse things just because they may be empty. You don't want to risk making something reasonably edible downright TOXIC by not knowing what on earth may have been in there previously.
I'm not joking.
We have one of those pump garden sprayers, but we know that it is ok to use as nothing but water and the mad scientist recipe has been in it. It was purchased new 16 years ago, but I was injured almost 27 years ago, so I know for sure it is SAFE to use because of my own history. I Repeat, do NOT use one that may have been sitting in your garden shed or garage for a year OR 10 that you may have used for God-only- knows-what that you figured was rinsed well enough to store. This is also not an item you should pay a dollar for at a yard sale. Just start new!
If you have sensitive skin, you may wish to wear gloves and safety-glasses when you spot treat your offenders. It can be an irritant, so best to play it safe than sorry. We have a lot of fence area, and there is one section on the north side of the orchard that produces the crab grass from Hell. I swear it must have been crossed with titanium, making it virtually impossible to cut or pull. If it gets too obnoxious, (and it will) every few years even I can be challenged to a duel. That is has been killed off to nothing about 3 times in 16 years, AND that it is as healthy as a horse today, speaks to the 'it will probably grow back' principle. Finally, let's say you neither have a sprayer, a new spray bottle and insist you don't want one, and you are familiar with what a wick-wand application method is, feel free to try that. Since I am not recommending that, I will leave you to Google it if interested. That practice would be ok on pavers, sidewalk, roadway or driveways. The dabbing technique likely won't work well elsewhere since it will favor dripping. Where your solution drips, it will adversely affect your vegetation. That means it will kill it.
Then, do not water anywhere near it and this is why you do not want to apply with the threat of precipitation. You just do not want to dilute it. Then, walk away.
Compost, garden, play with the kids or the dog, or cut the lawn. I would probably sit under the shade of one of the apple trees and sing that song (Don't sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me) to my dog -- Which I have been known to do. She has a killer sense of humor but I usually end up paying for it. Maybe she just doesn't care for my singing?
Now you ask The SUN to work for you. Coupled with your alternative wanna be long chain fatty acid salty soap solution, or for the sake of continuity, the "mad scientist stuff" it will quickly start to brown out, and then it will die. Because it will look terrible and be very dry, (hence removal for more than just an unsightly reason is important if conditions you live in favor any fire risk). You may want to watch it for a day or two before removal since you may notice you missed a spot and need to repeat before you are done.
But, if you spill it elsewhere, expect to be nominated for the drunker sailor potty mouth award. You will non-selectively kill off stuff you did not want to. Don't get mad at me, I have warned you several times over now. So take care with it. It's that common sense scenario again. If you cultivate it, it will serve you well.
The vegetation will eventually grow back as mentioned before. Most things do. Even when you use that TOXIC stuff and even things you don't want to come back but don't go nuts with this. Now and then, it won't adversely affect your soil. Use it like people do with that poison stuff, and it will get like the sand at the coast. Some plants will grow in salty conditions, but like anything, you need to know when to say when.
Should you want to go the direction of a professional service, I know someone I would recommend to get you started. His name is Phil Catron, a certified agronomist, who founded NaturalLawn of America. For more information, here you go:
Let's end on an upswing, so to speak. Heard this just yesterday when I began this. Consider it directed to the guys out there but this too has a secondary benefit. It seems that pulling weeds and (tending a garden) may have multiple benefits; environmentally for one, perhaps economic and even for your health from an exercise or stress reduction standpoint. It also may be rewarding, growing your own food and giving your kids something meaningful to do, but if none of that is reason enough to take up this hobby, apparently it mimics the effect of a drug (evidently with a high need) since every other TV commercial I see is selling the pharmaceutical version (Viagra).
When I mentioned that to the husband, it brought about that really cute smile I expected. The guy keeps a massive organic vegetable, berry, herb and flower garden, not to mention an organic orchard, and that's just in his spare time!
I'm just saying... :)
Thank you kindly if you have read 'No Ants in Your Pants' (our first Blog) and 'Pull Weeds for your Sex Life" (our second). I am going out on a limb here thinking the title of the second may facilitate more views than the first.
Still, Mirra & I thank you especially for visiting Mica's site and learning about IMHA. We may have to live as if my life depends upon it, (an explanation in the first blog referenced) but if you are inclined to join us, we welcome that. Each person can contribute something positive to the world we all have to share. I know that not everyone likes using toxic chemicals (especially around children or pets) and we commend you for you that, but many do not know there are alternative ways and means. It is in part why we are doing this. We hope that it helps you think outside the box.
PAWlease join us by becoming a member of Mica's Team.
M, M & Angel M