Tag Archives: Herbicides

Weeding Blues

Weeding - 2

I left my  garden during the height of the summer for a month. The weather was hot and rainy while I was gone evident by the profusion of weeds I found when I came back.  Photo is not great, but yes, there is basil under all those weeds!  At first I could not even see the plants from the weeds.  This particularly pesky weed is Prostrate Knotweed, Polygonum aviculare. An annual weed, it spreads widely and very difficult to eradicate. Just finding the root is a real challenge!It covered all my vegetable beds even in places where I had laid black weed prevention cloth.I also found abundant Crabgrass some plants as wide as a child’s swimming pool! Not exaggerating… In my perennial beds, Prostate Spurge, Euphorbia maculata, Ground Ivy, Healall, Deadnettle, Dandelion and my archenemy, Canada Thistle! Clearly, I had a lot of work ahead!

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Here, one small area after weeding.

This brings me to the purpose of this essay. WEEDING. It requires tenacity, discipline and above all, the right frame of mind. To all those who have asked, no, there are no shortcuts. I always advise against using synthetic herbicides . Besides affecting our health and that of our beloved pets, they disrupt the delicate web connecting the millions of organisms that populate our soil.  I do recommend the use of organic controls such as corn gluten which is a pre-emergent that prevents seed from germinating. A very economical -and eco friendly-  homemade herbicide mix I use: 1 Gallon vinegar, 1/4 cup of Dawn and 2 cups of epson salts. Mix in sprayer and apply.  Works quite well on hard surfaces like  brick patios and driveways, or applied directly on deep rooted weeds like dandelion. Best sprayed on a sunny day. A cover of mulch on bare areas is a good option too. Here are some more tips to make weeding more manageable:

Be consistent.  Pull them when you see them and do not let them go to seed or you will have them forever.

Get those roots. If you are doing the work, might as well get the whole plant.  Most can regenerate within weeks if some of the root is left behind.

Do one area at the time.  This has the benefit of giving you that sense of accomplishment by seeing your results without being overwhelming. You will be surprised by what you can accomplish in just one hour a day.

Plant densely. Weeds are opportunistic.  If there is available exposed soil they will be the first to populate.  So use perennial ground covers in the front of your borders to keep them out.

Make the best of it. Look at all the positive aspects:  Spending time outdoors, can be a great workout once you incorporate some stretching and moving around, music or podcasts really help, my IPod happens to be an indispensable tool when weeding. Or just tune in to the sounds of nature. I am always surprised of how much is going even in a very small garden! So, get “in the zone”and weed on…

“Many gardeners will agree that hand-weeding is not the terrible drudgery that it is often made out to be.  Some people find in it a kind of soothing monotony.  It leaves their minds free to develop the plot for their next novel or to perfect the brilliant repartee with which they should have encountered a relative’s latest example of unreasonableness.”  ~Christopher Lloyd, The Well-Tempered Garden, 1973




The Deadliest Product in your Shed

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It appears the science is in and in all recent studies the reality of the toxicity of Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide is coming to light. The results are downright terrifying. If you read the findings of scientists studying its effects, the story that develops is one that belongs in a science fiction plot except it is real and we are uncovering the truth more fully every day.  It is now linked to the majority of chronic modern diseases in Western society.

Glyphosate, developed by Monsanto and billed as a “safe, biodegradable and environmentally friendly” is anything but.  In combination with other additives that Monsanto is not required to disclose, this herbicide becomes systemic in the plants it is sprayed on.  It is now known that it will persist in our soils up to twenty years after the last application. Originally designed to be used with GMO crops, like corn, sugar,soybean and wheat in order to control weeds in the fields, it started getting our of control when the weeds became resistant and farmers applied more and more product to compensate.  It is estimated that in the last couple of decades 2.6 billion pounds of Roundup has been dumped in our fields. As we are finding out, not only does it not biodegrade, but because it is systemic, it is not just in the plant, but also in the fruit the plants produce, in the soil, in our water, and as a result in our bodies now as well.  According to Dr. Stephanie Seneff, research scientist at MIT, glyphosate residues “enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease.”  She has linked it to diseases like Cancer, Autism, Allergies, Parkinson’s  just to name a few.  I urge you to take the time to read the study and and watch the video “The Horrific Truth about Monsanto’s Roundup” were Dr. Seneff  gives the specifics of how this insidious, poisonous herbicide affects our bodies.

As gardeners we are in close contact with our individual environments.  Every decision we take affects the natural world and our own health and that of our families and pets. Let’s go out and garden in a responsible and natural way. Happy organic gardening!

Related reading:

Widely used herbicide linked to Cancer. Scientific American.

Study finds Monsanto’s glyphosate in 100% of wines tested -even organic ones.

Glyphosate fact sheet

“We have some very suggestive evidence that the use of pesticides and herbicides affects our mental function and brain physiology, including increasing the incidence of Parkinson’s disease up to seven times in those most heavily exposed to them. This is not exactly a surprise when we realize that pesticides are designed to be neurotoxic to the pests.”
Gabriel Cousens M.D., Conscious Parenting: The Holistic Guide to Raising and Nourishing Healthy, Happy Children



Why Organic?

A picture of compost soil

Image via Wikipedia

Increasingly, walking down the garden aisles of big name stores and plant nurseries, we are faced with shelf upon shelf of products that claim to tackle every pest, weed and soil problem possible.  I am always amazed at the sophistication of the ingredients with names that I can not pronounce, much less claim to completely understand or know what they are or do.  Just read the warnings to know these are not products to be taken lightly. We know we are surrounded by a complex ecosystem in which every creature plays a major role. Every species, starting with the smallest bacteria in the soil to higher mammals from deer to man, are closely connected.  It is a delicate web of life so complex and intricate, that to disrupt one thread has repercussions somewhere up or down the entire system.

Take our garden soil as a start, only recently scientists have started to have a comprehensive understanding of the complexity of life in the root zone.  They have now been able to identify as many a one million distinct bacteria species in a single gram of soil!  This dirt under out feet is full of life, rich with chatter, unexpected alliances and surprising acts of aggression.  It has been compared to another great marketplace:  the internet.  Soil is alive, filled with Micro-organisms.  In addition to bacteria, we can go up the life ladder with millions of each organism represented:  fungi, algae, protozoa, nematodes, mites, earthworms to name a few.  All are always working and in the business of breaking down organic matter to release nutrients for the plants.

Above ground, the web continues.  Every garden ecosystem is a collection of plants and animals  – producers and consumers –  a garden is a teeming community of insect herbivores eating plants but keeping these herbivores in check, are dozens of species of predator insects.  These in turn, are prayed on by birds, amphibians and small mammals that hunt and make their life in the garden.  Each is a vital link to the garden ecosystem.

You can then see, how introducing any toxic substances contained in pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers would upset this delicate balance.  I can only hope that the reader, as I have become aware by my understanding, will in the future, think carefully before opening those bags and spreading them on the plants or soil.

The right additives for our gardens are often those which come by naturally and by natural processes.  Compost rules!  all you need is a top dressing of compost to feed the soil and mulch to preserve the soil from erosion and conserve humidity.

Organic Soil Amendments: Alfalfa Meal, corn gluten (inhibits seed germination), cottonseed meal, soybean meal, seaweed products, wood ash, blood meal, bone meal, feather meal, fish emulsion, compost.

Mulches: composted hardwood, straw, fresh mushroom manure, pine needles, cocoa bean hulls, compost.

“Humankind has not woven the web of life.  We are but one thread within it.  Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.  All things are bound together.  All things connect.” ~Chief Seattle, 1855