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Home & Garden
home : features : home & garden
June 18, 2019

6/6/2019 12:11:00 PM
Home & Garden
Mulch & Ground Cover
Mulch & Ground Cover

Is Roundup really safe to use around your children and pets? Since I have some concerns about using Roundup, I am going to present you with options to control weeds, thus eliminating the need for using Roundup.

Anyone who has gone to their local garden center, hardware store or big box store has seen prominent displays of the herbicide Roundup. It is the world’s most popular weed killer partly due to its intense marketing. Roundup is also in the news a lot but not always in a good way, like this latest headline: “A California jury has awarded a couple more than $2 billion in a verdict against Monsanto, a subsidiary of Bayer.” This is the third loss in a row on lawsuits claiming Roundup causes cancer. The main ingredient in Roundup (glyphostate) has been found in large numbers of people, even those who do not use it. A recent study attributed Monarch butterfly decline to glyphostate. On the other hand, the EPA claims that glyphostate is not carcinogenic. 

Mulching is your best defense against weeds, and it offers additional benefits. Mulching your plants, preferably heavily, prevents most weeds from germinating. A few weeds will still seed themselves in the mulch but can easily be pulled by hand as they won’t be deep rooted. Mulching retains moisture better than bare soil or grass. This helps your plants and saves money and time on watering. The mulch eventually breaks down feeding the soil by providing nutrients, microorganisms, and organic matter. This feeds your plants allowing you to avoid fertilizer which had been shown to aggravate the Red Tide and Blue Green algae problems we have been having in Florida.

A great source of mulch is your local tree company. Since they have to pay disposal fees, they are usually quite willing to bring it to your yard instead. This saves a lot of money over buying loads of bagged mulch and it is delivered to you. We spread our tree mulch as thick as we can. Where there are no plants you easily can put a foot or two. Where we have existing plants I try to put it as thick as possible without impacting the plant itself and our irrigation spigots. 

Planting ground covers is another option as they can crowd out the weeds. There are a variety of ground covers that can provide beauty, food, nitrogen fixation, and other benefits. Sunshine mimosa, sweet potatoes, and perennial peanuts are some that we like.

Another method is an alternative herbicide using natural ingredients. Regular 5 percent household vinegar can be used on its own against weeds. It’s even better mixed with salt and dish soap. Mix 1 gallon of white vinegar with 1 cup of table salt and 1 tablespoon of liquid dish detergent. Put the mixture into a plastic spray bottle and spray directly on targeted weeds. The oil in soap helps the mixture to adhere to the plant.

You can simply boil a kettle of water and pour it over any undesirable weeds to kill them. This works espically well for weeds growing in cracks of driveways or walkways. The water will cool as it runs off and won’t hurt any plants along the border.

Solarizing involves covering an area of weeds with a heavy plastic sheet. This works best in full sun where the heat will collect under the sheet and literally bake the weeds. Leave the sheet in place for 4 to 6 weeks. You’ll know it’s done when the weeds underneath are clearly brown and desiccated. Clear plastic is best but black also works.

Another option is not treating all weeds as the enemy. Many of them are medicinal or edible and can be put to good use rather than just exterminated. Learn about the weeds and perhaps you can find a place for them in your yard.

The use of Roundup is controversial. While some experts claim it is safe, many don’t. So why not be cautious and think of the environment when you deal with your weeds next time. Rather than use Roundup, please consider these alternative methods. I feel that it is our responsibility to our children to leave them a safe, less toxic environment and I hope you will too.

Greg and Linda Nelson are landscape designers who have transformed their Englewood yard using Permaculture techniques. They offer landscape consultations, design services, and free monthly tours through their business: Love Your Yard. Contact them at weloveyouryard@gmail.com, 207-449-9012 or visit their website at https://weloveyouryard.wixsite.com/swfl.

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