Thursday 30 May 2013

Battling Weeds

Today I am totally digressing from my usual topics of late - quilting and fabric - to meander out to the yard... 
The yard beside my garage is surrounded by hedge/shrubs and is the only private space on my property. Because my house is situated weirdly on my property, I do not have a back yard, so this space is it. When I bought my house in 2009, this space was tilled as a garden and I actually did try to garden in there. But that didn't last long. I don't have time or need for a large garden. And since this is my only private space, I would like to be able to turn it into lawn, so that if I want to sit out in an evening, I can do it here without being on display to the neighbourhood. But I have been battling weeds ever since I moved in. As a matter of fact, it seems when you own a house with a yard, battling weeds is an ongoing issue. I would really like to kill off the weeds in this area, till it up, and lay sod so that I can have a nice lawn. I really don't want to try grass seed, as I am sure the weeds will get the jump on the grass and I'll have a nice plot of weeds again. In desperation, I have sprayed it with Roundup. Dare I confess that? Roundup isn't cheap, and personally, I really don't find it that effective. Some, but not all, of the weeds would die, only to spring back up again, while the rest continued to flourish. It's a lot of work and money spraying a whole area with Roundup and all that work and money (not to mention toxins) really didn't accomplish what I wanted it to. And I really wanted a less toxic option. (Yes, I know - Roundup is supposedly only toxic to plants, but, as far as I am concerned, the jury is still out on that one). 
Several times I have seen posted on facebook a "recipe" for a "natural" weed killer, using vinegar, salt and dish soap. I never saved the recipe, however, and when I googled it, I found out that the salt and possibly even the vinegar are toxic to the soil. You can see some comments to this effect here:  and here: 
Note that some claim this formula is more toxic than Roundup. Hmm... Toxic to whom? I could drink this vinegar/salt/dishsoap stuff and I may have a gut ache and be foaming at the mouth, but unless I have an anaphylactic allergy to one of the components, it's not going to kill me. Or my cats, in all likelihood. I wouldn't say the same thing about Roundup. Now, I am not disputing that the salt is not good for the soil. After all, the Dead Sea, with its high salt content, is not called dead for nothing. I have a harder time believing the same about vinegar, in small doses. After all, vinegar is just the liquid from rotten apples and there are enough of those around. The interesting thing is that a lot of the information about this mixture is inconsistent. On the one hand, we are told not to use it where we want to grow anything for the next 6 months to 2 years. On the other hand, it supposedly doesn't kill the roots of the weeds and the weeds will grow back. Does that even make sense? If the soil becomes so toxic that you can't grow anything there for at least 6 months, how do the weeds grow back?
I decided to give it a try. On the far side of my hedge, along the alleyway, grows a nice crop of weeds that the town authorities keep threatening me about. Personally, I think that anything on that side of the hedge is not my problem. It's the town's alley, not mine, so the weeds are theirs as well. Unfortunately, they don't see it that way. Since I have no intention of growing anything there, I will be very happy if nothing ever grows there again. Then both the town and I will be happy. So, I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained. And if it poisons my hedge as well, oh well... I eventually wanted to rip it out and put up a fence anyway. So I mixed up my "poisonous concoction," poured it into a spray bottle and "shot" all those weeds. I will have to report back on how it works.
Meanwhile, there's still the space inside the hedge... I found more ideas here: 
I did try pouring boiling water on some weeds. I used a two litre kettle and I was lucky if I "boiled" 10 weeds - probably not even that. So that's not going to be a very effective method. A lot of power will go into boiling all that water. If I had an outdoor firepit and a huge cauldron, this method might be more worthwhile. Or if I didn't have so many weeds. 
Another suggestion that I found on a couple of sites was bleach. That's initially quite toxic, but it does apparently dissipate quite quickly. I'd want to do more research before I tried that. 
One other solution was something akin to a blowtorch. I can't imagine that would be very safe in Alberta's dry climate when we're under fire bans everywhere. It might be feasible if we get more rain. 
I think for my hedged in property, I will probably end up just having it rototilled, rake out as many roots as I can, and then lay sod. Hopefully, the sod will smother most of the weeds still left while it gets itself established. 
Any other suggestions? I've got lots more weeds to work on...


  1. Oh shoot! It wasn't supposed to rain until Saturday. And now it is raining. And while we really need the rain, and I praise God for it, it's going to wash away all of my weed killer... At least it's cheap enough that I haven't lost much money-wise.
    Hmm, the sun was actually shining while I was spraying the weeds, but that's weather in Alberta.

  2. Weeds! When we bought our condo-townhouse in 1990, the area was kept weedless, very nice lawn. Then the ban on chemicals came and the area has quickly become a sea of dandelions and other weeds. Last spring the management finally decided to try and get the grass they hired a firm to do something! I can't say that I am seeing much change despite them using something to kill the seems to be making them healthier! But our management sent a letter last week assuring us that it was working...and that by next year, it will be grass instead of weeds. I am not holding my breathe! My daughter thinks Orillia needs to change their slogan from "Sunshine City" to "Dandelion City"!.

  3. Oh well, the battle goes on. There are days when I wish I had bought a condo instead of a house. Then the battle would be someone else's, at least. It's very challenging trying to maintain both the inside and the outside of a house - doing all the traditionally "man-type" work, plus all of the traditionally "woman-type" work, plus holding down a full-time job. If I had a condo, I'd have more time for quilting. :-). I really do love my house, but there are days... I was out mowing the lawn and mowing under a tree, I bumped my arm against a broken-off end of a tree branch. Fortunately, it wasn't sharp, but it certainly was hard. Got a big bruise on my arm now.
    I tried spraying my weeds with my vinegar-salt-dishsoap concoction again. It's a clear blue sky, so hopefully no rain for at least 24 hours. By Thursday night, if the weeds are not dead or dying, I might try the bleach...
    Wish I could afford a landscape company to deal with my yard issues.

  4. One of the best, easiest and cheapest way of dealing with weeds that I know of is to smother them: you just cover the ground in something like cardboard or black plastic (pref with holes for the rain to drain through) for a good few months (over the growing season) - and that's it. I used this technique on my allotment and it's brilliant! The trouble with weeds is that the seeds can lie dormant in the soil for years and years (some for decades apparently) and if you disturb them by digging or tilling it can spur them into growth. There's a little info here, but I'm sure you'll find lots on the web :) Hope it helps!