Pesticides (which include insect killing chemicals, as well as weed killing chemicals)
are toxic by nature. For humans, exposure to very tiny amounts can not
only cause cancer, but can cause birth defects, nerve damage, genetic
damage, reproductive damage, immune system disorders and more.
One of the big uses of pesticides in
the United States is in home lawn care and home gardening. If you don't
want a 'natural' landscape, you can still have a beautiful
lawn and garden through using least toxic gardening. It's easy to
start. Here are several effective ways to get rid of dandelions or
other broad-leafed 'weeds' in your yard without using toxic chemicals.
- Dig them out - 'old-fashioned' but
if you (or a willing friend) can do this, it still works!
- Use a cordless electric drill and a "Dandelion Terminator" and drill
your dandelions out - in about 6 seconds per dandelion. This nifty tool is worth its weight in gold. It's no longer available
from the manufacturer, but it shows up on eBay periodically. Price for one still in the original packaging on eBay averaged
around $15 (not including shipping)
as of October, 2012
- Fill a spray bottle with a mixture
of 1 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup lemon juice. Spray directly on the weed
when the sun is out (be careful not to spray plants you want to keep!).
You may have to spray a weed two or three different times, but the
sources that recommend this say it works quite well.
- Fill a spray bottle with straight vinegar and spray directly on
weeds during a warm sunny day. My neighbor tried this on his plantain weeds, and totally
eliminated them. We tried it and wiped out a huge patch of plantain with one try.
It will kill dandelions too, but not as well.
- Pour boiling water directly on the
weed (be careful to not scald yourself). This works especially well for
weeds in sidewalk cracks.
- In the spring, before the daffodils
bloom, use corn gluten as a pre-emergent weed killer and fertilizer on
your lawn. The University of Iowa 1,2,3 has found that corn
gluten (a by-product made when processing corn for food) is as
effective as any chemical pre-emergent herbicide - and as safe for us
to be around as a package of corn meal. It is available now even in 'big box'
retail stores, and is widely available through organic
- Carefully use a fatty-acid based
herbicide. Safer makes a product called "Safer's Superfast Weed and
Grass Killer." This product is non-selective - it will kill all plants
- so don't spray it near plants or grass that you want to keep
unharmed. Be careful to read the label carefully before you use other
fatty-acid based herbicides - some of the other competing products
apparently use petroleum-based inerts, and some even mix in synthetic
Although Safer gives it a pretty
broad spectrum of effectiveness, Peaceful Valley (a popular
organic gardening and farming supplies retailer - phone: 888-784-1722 or
that Safer's Superfast "works best on young, actively-growing annuals
seedlings" - "it is not effective against woody perennials." 4
If the weed has a deep taproot, it may need re-spraying. The most effective way to spray is
to spray the entire plant during the heat of day in warm, dry weather.
- Use a weed-flamer. Flaming will work on annuals, perennials, trees and vines.
If you have chemical injury, and are bothered by propane, you want someone else to use this
Weed flaming has re-emerged because it is as labor effective as hand-spraying plants, "can be done
when fields are too wet to cultivate, and does not bring dormant weed
seeds to the surface."4 Flaming works by using the heat of
a specially-designed propane burner to "boil" the water in the cells of
the plant - takes about two seconds per plant. You do not set
weeds on fire with a flamer. Obviously, you need to familiarize
yourself with this equipment and how to use it safely before heading
out into your lawn and garden! We've found flamers at our local Ace Hardware, and at our local farm supply
stores. On the web, Peaceful Valley has a good selection of flamers. For home
gardeners, they have a Primus Gardener Flamer that weighs only about
2.5 pounds total (tank, and the long wand) for around $40.00.
For larger acreage, their "Red Dragon Hand Held Flamer" is priced at
around $70, with an added-on "Flamer Squeeze Valve" (which makes it much
easier to turn off and on) for an additional $45. A flamer is a once-in-a-lifetime
purchase; the refillable propane bottles run a couple of bucks.
I've just scratched the ways you can
handle all sorts of weed problems in a non-toxic fashion.
The University of Iowa Integrated Pest Management Website is full of good articles that
can help you address all sorts of lawncare issues, from non-toxic mole
treatments, to moss problems in turfgrass, weed and insect control. Not
all their articles exclude use of synthetic pesticides, but most do and
are based on research carried out at major universities. Happy
1Christians, Nick, PhD,
University of Iowa, 1995. "A Natural Product for the Control of Annual
Weeds." Golf Course Management: 71-72
2Christians, Nick, PhD,
University of Iowa, 1995 "Greenhouse Screening of Corn Gluten Meal as a
Natural Control Product for Broadleaf and Grass Weeds." Hortscience
University of Iowa IPM website
4Peaceful Valley Farm Supply Catalog