9 Organic Weed Control Tips for an Eco-Friendly Lawn and Garden

Alison Kasch
Written by Alison Kasch
Updated February 2, 2022
Patio and lawn outside house
Photo: Portra / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Crabgrass got you crabby? Use these tips to kill weeds without any collateral damage

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Nobody wants rogue plants in their lawn and garden, but avoiding harsh chemicals doesn’t have to leave you in the weeds. While many commercial weed killers contain ingredients that can harm the environment, they’re not the only option for getting the job done. Use these tips to keep your outdoor space weed-free organically and safely.

1. Use Mulch for Effective Organic Weed Control

Mulch provides a natural ground cover that limits the light and oxygen needed for those wicked weeds to thrive. Apply different types of mulch to landscaped areas, as well as around flower beds and trees. This will help control weeds without the use of harsh chemicals while also promoting moisture retention in the soil.

2. Avoid Landscape Fabric

Since it creates a physical barrier instead of a chemical one, landscape fabric might seem like a relatively eco-friendly weed solution. Unfortunately, this often isn’t the case. Most fabrics contain petroleum products and other chemicals that can get absorbed into the soil. Also, if any weeds sprout through the barrier, as they often do, they’ll get tangled in the fabric and be extremely tricky to pull out.

3. Lay Down Cardboard to Smother Weed Seedlings

Why not put your online shopping addiction to good use? Those leftover boxes make an excellent biodegradable alternative to landscape fabric. As a bonus, the earthworms love to munch on it.

Simply remove the tape, stickers, and anything else that isn’t biodegradable. Put down a couple of layers wherever those pesky weeds won’t stop popping up. Follow this with a spray-down from your garden house to wet the sheets into place.

4. Repurpose Your Old Newspapers

Hated the week’s news? Make something good out of it by adding it to your garden. Lay down about five to eight layers of newspaper for easy and effective weed control. Wet the sheets with your hose and cover them with a layer of mulch or topsoil. 

The newspaper will prevent new weed seeds from competing with your plants. Eventually, it will biodegrade to allow roots to penetrate as the plants grow stronger. 

Important note: Be sure the newspaper ink is soy-based rather than petroleum-based, as petroleum inks may be harmful to the soil.

5. Surround Plants With Grass Clippings

A red wheelbarrow on a lawn with fresh grass clippings
Photo: capecodphoto / E+ / Getty Images

Lawn care is rewarding in more ways than one. Rather than filling up a yard waste bag with those valuable clippings, add them around your garden where you don’t want weeds to sprout. Keep the layer about one inch thick to avoid any smelly odors. Once your clippings dry out, you can add another layer. Do not use diseased grass or grass that was treated with weed killers in the past two weeks, as this could harm your plants. 

6. Use Vinegar as a Natural Weed Killer

If you spot any unwanted intruders near your precious petunias, your secret weapon for DIY weed control is probably already in your pantry. Vinegar is a highly effective organic herbicide. Add some white vinegar to a spray bottle for a homemade weed killer and spray those suckers down. Letting out an angry war cry is optional.

Important note: Be sure to avoid your wanted plants, as this stuff is a grass killer and will dry out whatever it touches. 

7. Salt Around Your Hardscaping

Having trouble with ugly growths around your patio, driveway, and walkways? Table salt will take them out in a jiff. Like vinegar, salt will dry out weeds and kill them. However, it will also linger in the soil, so you should only use it where you don’t want anything to grow.

8. Add Ground-Covering Plants

If you can’t stop the weeds from taking over, plant your own low-maintenance ground covers to take over instead. These plants will compete for resources like water and soil nutrients, giving weeds the boot. Here are some beautiful varieties to choose from:

  • Creeping thyme

  • Dead nettle

  • Creeping juniper

  • Sedum

  • Lavender

  • Oregano

  • Ajuga

9. Hand-Weed on a Regular Basis

Not today, Creeping Charlie. The easiest way to prevent an out-of-control weed situation is to keep up with hand-weeding between treatments. Learn how to identify harmful weeds around your garden and make a habit of checking for them as you’re outside tending.  Keep a pair of gardening gloves handy to pull any stowaways before they become a problem.

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