With most of the nation receiving record rainfalls, gardeners are finding weeds to be more than a nuisance this growing season. Regardless of how often you pull them, they return with a vengeance. Many may be tempted to use commercial weed sprays to help eliminate weeds, however, using chemicals is not always the best or safest option for the health of your flowers, or that of your family and pets.
When it comes to weed control, there is no shortage of products at your local store that “guarantee” the elimination of your weed problems. Unfortunately, the assurance comes with many warnings, including that of the health of your flowers, family, and pets. A broad-spectrum herbicide sprayed onto weeds can damage or kill your flowers if the chemicals come into contact with the plants. Your flowers are not the only potential casualty of weedkiller toxicity, as animals can also fall victim if exposed to or ingest the product. In addition to the danger posed to your flowers and pets, numerous studies show the combination of ingredients in some of the world’s most widely used herbicides as potentially carcinogenic to humans. There are organic and green herbicides on the market that do not contain harmful chemicals and can be used without concern. However, why not use a convenient and often free alternative in your pursuit of weed-free flower gardens?
Even in today’s digital age, we find paper as a plentiful resource. Whether it be junk mail, your local newspaper or cardboard, all can be used as an effective and inexpensive method of controlling weeds throughout your beds. If you have a shredder, you may choose to shred the paper creating a paper mulch. If you do not have a shredder, no problem, using sheets of paper is just as effective. Either form can be spread out into your beds, even around your flower bases. Although cardboard can be laid out between the plants, it must be kept further from the plant base as water may run off away from your thirsty flowers or the cardboard could smother your plant. Once you have a sufficient amount of paper, spread it out fairly thick in your flower beds. Next, water it down thoroughly with your garden hose to ensure the paper does not blow away. Add up to three inches of wood or other organic mulch on top, water again. The method for laying down cardboard is the same, just remember to keep away from any plant base.
Today’s printing inks use natural pigments and are soybean-based, making this weed control method safe to use around your flowers, family, or pets. Paper as a weed barrier also has another advantage, it is biodegradable. Its breakdown will provide food for valuable soil organisms, worms, and other soil friendly creatures. When it is time to change out your weed barrier (every year or two), scoop it up and replace with new paper.