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  Mike's Gardening Tips

Chemical-Free Weed Control

Here's a course on chemical-free weed control!: non-toxic controls that destroy everything from tough, overgrown, perennial weeds like bamboo and thistle to dandelions and other 'regularly-nasty' weeds in lawns and gardens.

Herbicidal soap sprays kill weeds by smothering them with a soap bubble-like film. Tough perennials like dandelions require several sprays. Mail-order supplier Gardens Alive (www.gardensalive.com; 812-537-8650) sells "Weed-Aside" (say it out loud) in concentrated pints and quarts. You'll find pre-mixed quart and half-gallon sprayer bottles of Concern brand's "Fast Acting Weed Killer" in stores. You'll find a complete list of retailers (click on 'where can I buy?') at http://www.victorpest.com/. Or call them toll-free at 1-800-800-1819. Or order direct at www.outdoor-catalog.com; 1-800-795-5157.


  • St. Gabriel (800-801-0061; www.milkyspore.com) offers "BurnOut Weed Killer", a mixture of vinegar and lemon juice available at retail outlets (including True Value and Agway stores), or direct from them. Like the name says, the acidic lemon and vinegar 'burns' weeds to their Final Reward; one spray for annual weeds, two to kill the roots of tough perennials. Available in 24 oz and one-gallon sprayers (pre-mixed) or a 2-_ gallon concentrate.
  • "Greensense 20% acidity vinegar" is white vinegar that's four times more potent than the household variety. Available in stores in the Southeast, Rohde's in Garland, Texas (near Dallas) will sell you a gallon for $10.95 plus $8.50 shipping; call 972-864-1934, or visit www.beorganic.com and enter "white vinegar" in the search function. There's a photo at www.greensense.net.
    SAFETY NOTE: This is not harmless stuff! Vinegar with such enormous acidity is really caustic! You have to be careful not to get any on your skin or eyes--gloves and goggles are a must!!!!
  • "Greenergy Blackberry & Brush Block", 8% vinegar (apple cider or wine) and 5% citric acid, is a West Coast product (apparently, wild blackberry vines attack people's cars and children out there). You can get a gallon from Professional Turf Center in Portland for $36 (includes shipping); call 1-800-894-7333 or go to www.foodwebonline.com and click on "store".

(Hint: Regular household 5% white vinegar goes for about two bucks a gallon and should kill the 'easy' weeds.)

You don't have to cook weeds to a crisp to kill them with a propane powered flame weeder (but you can if you want to); just a 'wave' bursts the plants' cells and kills 'em. The BernzOmatic "Yard & Garden Torch" (around $30-$40) uses a small camp-stove sized propane bottle. You can get (or order) one at True Value, Ace hardware or Home Depot stores (model #JT850, with push button ignition), or direct from BernzOmatic (800-654-9011). You'll find a wider variety of flamers--including one that works with big gas-grill sized tanks and a WAY cool backpack flamer that will have your weeds wetting their little green pants--at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply: (www.groworganic.com; 888-784-1722).

A Canadian company called Rittenhouse (www.rittenhouse.ca; 877-488-1914) sells a pair of Swiss-made beauties that use small propane bottles to deliver radiant heat rather than open flame to kill weeds. The "Dandy Destroyer" ($180) has a two inch round 'cooking' head with a spike in the middle for lawn weeds, while the "Infra-Weeder" ($210) wilts unwanted plants with the heat from a 3 by 7" plate--great for patios, walkways and such. Copyright (c) 2002 Mike McGrath. All rights reserved.

© 2002 Mike McGrath. All Rights Reserved

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