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The Wonder of Weeds

I pull a lot of weeds this time of the year. Each season I try to find some different angle to battle these relentless devils. They suck up water and nutrients intended for my vegetables and then have the audacity to scatter their seeds again and again. In some ways I admire their ability to survive. I just wish they’d do it somewhere other than my yard.

Through the decades, I have discovered there are multiple ways to tackle this project. The key is to beat them at their own game and destroy the unwanted weed before they produce seed heads. Here I should say there are some weeds that can act as food and medicine, so before you begin your mission of destruction, identify the weed, and consider its potential value. An example of this is the common dandelion. Both animals and humans enjoy the tender shoots for food. Dandelion roots can be prepared as a medicinal tea, and I have made wine from its cheery yellow flowers.

If you’re going to harvest dandelions, make sure they haven’t been tainted with chemicals or a wandering dog!

But back to destroying the unwanted weeds. Here are a few ways I accomplish this.

The Flame Thrower

One of the fun ways to eliminate weeds is with a flame thrower. The catch is you have to be mindful of starting a fire. Get too close to dry debris and you could be in trouble. I keep water nearby just in case things get out of control. This instrument works best on small weeds that are isolated. It will not reach the root, but sometimes burning the weed weakens it enough to permanently kill it. It also saves your back as you can do this from a standing position.

The weed burner with propane gas tank.


An afternoon of weed pulling can be made easier with the right tools. I use gloves to save my hands and avoid stickers, sap, and my personal terror, scorpions. It can also give you a better grip. To save my back, I get close to the ground, using low seats or kneeling pads. There are many garden seats available, in fact, I have a small cart on wheels that allows me to carry my tools in the cart and scoot along to target new territory. Barbeque forks work well for reaching into the ground to loosen roots, as well as narrow hand trowels. Sometimes I use a hula hoe to circle a weed and pry it out of the ground.

My garden cart on wheels.

Weed Block Cloth

This probably cut down on my weed time by fifty percent. There is an investment involved, but for me it’s worth it. Weed barrier cloth can be purchased online. Make sure you get the product you want as there are many varieties. I like a cloth that is slightly thicker. It maneuvers easier, stays put, and lasts longer. You’ll need wire stakes to hold corners in place. In the summer when temperatures rise, the weed cloth will burn the seeds to prevent new growth. Occasionally, a determined weed will succeed in pushing up through a hole in the cloth, but for the most part, these last for years as an organic addition to weed management.

Weed barrier provides a clear path.

Commercial Grade Vinegar

Vinegar can also be purchased online, however this is not what you find in your kitchen. This is a potent acid that will burn the weed and nearby plants, and you as well, if you are careless. Use eye protection, gloves and avoid fumes like any other vinegar. Having warned you, it is a great product to destroy weeds. What I like is that it will not remain in the soil like regular chemical herbicides. If the pH is thrown off, it is easily corrected. Again, it is best used on small weeds.


If you have access to large piles of mulch, a thick layer will serve to block the sun and choke any weeds. Many cities collect green debris, put it through a chopper, and gardeners can pick this up for free. It’s a win-win situation with one catch. The mulch is not heated or sterilized and sometimes you can bring home more weed seeds than what you are already battling. You have to weigh the pros and cons for this one.

A Word about Herbicides

Is there a place for herbicides like Spectracide or Round-up with organic gardening? Not in my green world. My only exception to that would be on concrete surfaces or driveway areas where the dirt will never come in contact with my food. These toxins stay in the ground for at least four years, and then there’s the issue of accidentally spraying yourself with these chemicals. Use of chemicals falls into a grey area, so make that choice based on your own needs.

Slap on the sunscreen, grab a wide-brimmed hat and your best garden gloves when those invading sprouts make their presence known. Trying to stay ahead of the curve will go a long way to cut down on work and encourage flowers and vegetables to reach their peak without the struggle for valuable resources.

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