If this spring is any indication, we are going to have one big struggle controlling weeds. Some of these organic methods may make "the battle" a little easier and help the environment.
Hand pulling or hoeing weeds is a really nice way to eliminate weeds in a garden or landscape bed. This method, however, usually doesn't work for those aggressive creeping perennial weeds such as ground-ivy or Canada thistle. In fact, it will make the problem worse because every little bit of the plant will root and make new plants. Organic growers will sometimes use flame devices that burn off the weeds at the surface. This can work on many weeds. Such devices are available to citizens and can be found locally.
A USDA study says vinegar can be used as a way to control weeds. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists offer the first scientific evidence that vinegar may be a potent weed killer that is inexpensive and environmentally safe. Researchers find that 5 and 10 percent concentrations killed weeds during their first two weeks of life. A bottle of household vinegar is about a 5 percent concentration. In the ARS research, Canada thistle, one of the most tenacious weeds in the world, proved the most susceptible; the 5 percent concentration had a 100 percent kill rate of the perennial's top growth. Researchers used only vinegar made from fruits or grains.
WOW is a product available from Gardens Alive that is made from corn gluten, a byproduct of high-fructose corn syrup production. Research by Iowa State University found that WOW was just as effective as "traditional" herbicides at controlling weeds in a strawberry patch. The problem with WOW is that it’s rather expensive and must be used for several years to work more effectively.
Borax has been touted by some as a control of ground-ivy in a lawn. There is very limited research that supports this claim. The difficulty here is that if too much borax is used, then nothing will grow for a very long time.
Talk with local garden center experts for their input on these environmentally-friendly products and their recommendations for specific problem weed areas.
The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange County.