« Nick's Notes

Nick’s Tip: Spray and Walk Away

by Nick Vitrano

Memorial Day weekend is the official kick-off to summer for most of us. It also marks the annual dandelion festival for residential lawns everywhere. Welcome to summer. Welcome to weed season.

With the warm, sunny days and cool nights, coupled with our damp spring, lawns and gardens and sidewalk cracks have exploded. Spot treatments are expensive as heck and contain plenty of stuff you don't want around your pets and kids. So let's look at some inexpensive and safer solutions to killing those weeds.

The best treatment for weeds is to prevent them in the first place. But take it from someone who spends hundreds of dollars each year in an attempt to make my lawn MLB perfect - the weeds just find a way. But just as a note:

  • Don't let bare spots in your lawn and garden linger. Overseed or cover with mulch or stone or whatever in the garden to help keep weeds at bay.
  • Keep your grass high. Instinct is to shave that lawn nice and low. After all, it grows quickly, right? True, but no more quickly than if it's a little longer. Keep the length at 2"-3" and that will help to deprive developing weeds from sunlight.
  • Mulch your lawn. The benefits of this natural mulch are endless, but in terms of weed prevention, the clippings help to keep weeds from germinating.

OK, so you did all that and you still have some pesky weeds. It happens. Let not your heart be troubled. Some things to remember along the way:

  • To avoid killing the grass or plants around the weeds, try to spray only the leaves of the weed itself. Use a toilet paper tube or a cardboard box (open at both ends) to help contain the spray.
  • Wet conditions will help. It seems backwards, but if it has recently rained, the weeds are actively drinking, aiding in the uptake of your treatment. If it hasn't rained in a while, consider watering the area an hour or so before applying.
  • After the weed dies, flush the area with water often if you want to plant in that area right away. Anything foreign will alter the pH of the soil.

On to the recipes:

  • Mix 1 1/4 cup of salt with 1 gallon of vinegar. Using a tank sprayer is nice since you can load it up in mass volume, or scale down the "recipe" for a smaller batch if you'd like.
  • Salt is a nice booster/accelerant, but not entirely necessary - just plain ol' vinegar in a spray bottle will do the trick.
  • Break out the Dawn. 1 part dish soap to 10 parts water...mix (don't shake). Soak those weeds and kick back.
  • Boiling water will scald the leaves of the weed, same as it does our skin. It may take a few days (and a second treatment) to see the results, but it should work.
  • Smother the weed with wet newspaper. Wet paper will suffocate the weed as it denies the leaves the sunlight they need to thrive. This takes a little longer and requires multiple applications, but it's about as green as it gets.

If those don't work, it's a sign from above that you need to move or learn to love your weeds.

Tease Image: By User:Dbin78 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons