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Sprays & Direct Controls

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1.Mix 1 pound of salt with one gallon of 5% acetic acid white vinegar.
2.Stir until the salt dissolves.
3.Mix in one teaspoon of liquid soap or two ounces of molasses to act as a surfactant.
4.Spray the foliage thoroughly or inject into the crown. You may have to repeat in a few days.

Using Vinegar on it's own: Vinegar is biodegradable. It can burn or even kill some weeds. Store bought vinegar contains about 5% acetic acid. It is produced from grapes, apples or grain via fermentation in anaerobic conditions. 5% vinegar works on some young weeds, but higher acetic acid concentrations produced by distillation (15%) and freeze evaporation (30%), are needed for effective weed control. Vinegars degrade after a few days and will cause a temporary decrease in the soil pH. Best results are obtained when using heated vinegar as a daily application for three days. If you use any vinegars with 15% to 30% acetic acid you must use extreme caution. Do not get breath the fumes, get it on your skin or your clothing and wear eye protection. Flush out your sprayer several times with water immediately after use. 

Update: 02/24/15

Sprays and Direct Controls

Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art. -Leonardo da Vinci

The most organic methods of weed control would not include some of the ones that follow. However they can be used in to spot treat areas or as you see fit. One method that can help when using a spray is to wrap plastic around the plant foliage, spray, then close the bag, let 'em cook. This way you keep the spray off the soil and only on your target. Anything beats using synthetic herbicides. We recommend never using them! That on, you may find something to help your situation.

Digging: From April through June dig perennial weeds like creeping charlie, dandelions, burdock, and thistles. This is the most effective time of year to hand weed since root reserves are at their lowest in spring.

Boiling Water: Obviously you must be careful where and how you use boiling water i.e.: it wouldn't be practical for weeds in the lawn area, but is ideal to use in concrete, paved and rock areas. This is simple and couldn't be more organic as an application.

  • Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Quickly pour it on the undesired plant. You may have to repeat this to insure results. Best to do in the heat of the day, however don't overheat yourself!

Corn Gluten: You may have heard of the product "Amaizing Lawns" or other corn gluten products which have a pre-emergent herbicidal effect on lawn weeds in the early spring when they are germinating. Don't apply a spring nitrogen fertilizer if you used corn gluten meal on weeds because corn gluten also supplies a source of slow release nitrogen. It works on the more common turf weeds and crabgrass. Corn gluten, a protein found in poultry feed, is a by-product of the corn milling process. You may be able to find a cheap source of corn gluten (like at feed mill companies) and you can try it yourself.
Here's how:

  • In April or early spring just when the grass is turning green apply 12 pounds of the powdery gluten substance per 1000 sq. feet of turf area, using a fertilizer spreader with the setting adjusted as needed. When you are done water the gluten lightly into the surface, which will help it latch onto the germinating seeds.

Flame Weeding: The idea behind flame weeding is to kill weeds with an intensive wave of heat, without disturbing the soil or harming the crop root system. Since all plants are composed of tiny cells filled largely with water, a thin blast of heat directed at the stalk will boil the water within the cell. The pressure generated by this expanding water will then explode the cell itself, rupturing a cross section of the stalk. When this happens plant food and water cannot move from roots to leaves and the plant withers and dies.

When flame weeding, the most effective method is to catch weeds early, from 1-4 inches. At this small stage, flaming is nearly 100% effective, whereas weeds over 4 inches are more difficult to kill without an extended dose of heat.

By destroying cell structure in the plant leaf, the weed will no longer put energy toward growth, so even on big weeds, you will see a stunting effect or even a kill, depending on how established the root system is and how long the plant was exposed to heat.

This method can be done with a small propane torch, however for larger areas one of the weed flaming torches is an excellent tool. Weed flaming has long been a practice on organic farms in Europe. The point of flaming is not to charbroil the weeds, but heat them just enough so that they wilt. This will heat up the cell sap in turn causing them to expand and rupture.
Flaming can be used as a spot treatment in lawns. The grass is going to get singed, however it will bounce right back. You may need to flame tough perennial weeds a couple of times to get rid of them. Do not use flame weeding on poisonous plants like poison ivy.

You will have to practice to get the technique down. On smaller weeds a slow walk is usually the best pace. Do keep some water handy when you are flame weeding just incase.

Soil Solarization
Using plastic to solarize the soil is an issue debated by many.
Does it destroy the soil structure? Can it be beneficial? It can be very useful in weed control and for clearing an area of vegetation without the use of herbicides. The beneficial soil organisms can take more heat versus the harmful soil pathogens allowing them to make a speedy return after solarizing an area. The way it works is the plastic concentrates the sun's energy which into turn heats the soil to a very high degree, sterilizing it. Thus killing off soil dwelling pests, disease and weed seeds.

Depending on your climate solarization has been shown to control Fusarium and Verticillum wilts, crown gall diseases, possibly nematodes, grassy weeds and weed seeds. As for the nematodes; they have the ability to survive higher soil temperatures. The deeper the heat penetrates the soil the better the results. With optimum conditions disease and weed control can last up to three years.

Soil Solarization Technique:
oil solarization is best done during the heat of the summer. To begin you want to till the soil to a depth of at least 8 inches. Rake out all debris, smooth the area so it is as level as you can get it. Proceed to soak the soil to a depth of 18 inches. Make a slight depression at the boundary of the bed. Stretch some clear 4 mil plastic over the bed as tightly as you can, adhering it to the soil. Then use rocks, more soil, landscape pins, whatever you have to secure it snuggly in place.   
Next step is easy; let the area cook for at least 4 weeks. In cooler zones allow a period of 6 to 8 weeks for best results. Remove the plastic. Till the soil lightly, you are ready to plant.

In more northern climates the addition of manures prior to putting down the plastic can help to speed the process via increasing the soil temps as the manure decomposes. This will increase the level of gaseous ammonia in the soil giving the solarizing process an extra kick. Maybe enough to control nematodes!
Another trick is to use two layers of plastic to create more of an insulating effect. This will trap more heat.
You can also incorporate shredded vegetables from the cruciferous family (broccoli stems, cabbage trimmings etc.) These vegetables have a known effect in ridding the soil of Verticillum and Fusarium blights. Let the trimmings dry out in the sun until brittle. Mix them into the top 6 inches of soil, proceed with the process.

Vinegar-Salt Spray: This combination is strong and the salt will sterilize the soil where you use it. Be careful. This is not recommended for concrete areas as it will corrode the concrete. What we find useful to give you control for spot application is to get a veterinarian type syringe and inject solution into the center of the vegetation you want to get rid of. For larger areas use as a spray. This is more potent when done during hot weather, avoid watering the area for 24 hours. Flush out your sprayer several times with water immediately after use. 


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