The Best Reason to Try Natural Weedkillers

Glyphosate. You may not have heard of it but you’ve probably used it. And you’ve definitely been exposed to it. It’s the most widely used herbicide in the world and it probably causes cancer. Can you think of a better reason to try natural weed killers?

Avoid This Toxic Approach to Killing Weeds

natural weedkiller

It's that time of year when the battle against weeds begins. If you arm yourself with Roundup you're exposing yourself, your family and your pets to glyphosate.

Glyphosate is a organophosphate pesticide that kills grasses, broadleaf and woody plants and it is the active ingredient in Roundup. It was recently named by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as probably carcinogenic to humans. But that's only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the dangers of using glyphosate.

Health Effects From Exposure

Animal studies and human studies of exposure have found that glyphosate can affect your health in a bunch of different ways. Exposure can:

  • Disrupt your endocrine system even at low exposure levels
  • Contribute to cancers of the liver, kidney, bladder/urinary and thyroid
  • Damage DNA 
  • Cause cell death
  • Kill the beneficial bacteria in your gut

If that list isn’t scary enough, glyphosate also messes with your body’s ability to breakdown the toxins you are exposed to everyday.

“Glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body.” (Samsel & Seneff, 2013).

How You Are Exposed

Glyphosate is a very common agricultural herbicide and is also widely used by homeowners, golf courses, towns and cities to control weeds. Because of its widespread usage you are exposed to it through food, drinking water, if you live near sprayed areas and anytime you visit a local park.

Research in the U.S. and other countries have found detectable and sometimes unsafe levels of glyphosate in urine and breast milk.

And contrary to claims made by Monsanto, which makes Roundup, glyphosate can build up in your body. Research conducted in Germany found similar glyphosate levels in the urine (which means it's on the way out of your body), kidney, liver, lung, spleen, muscles and intestines (which means it's being stored in the body)of cows.

What this means for you is that meat and dairy products are a source of exposure. It also means that the longer toxins remain in your body the more damage they can do.

How to Reduce Your Exposure

  • Filter your water with a good carbon filter
  • Eat organic fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid parks and public areas when they are being sprayed
  • Avoid using it in your yard by trying natural weed killers instead

Natural Weed Killers

There are two simple steps to natural weed control. Remove the weeds and keep new weeds from germinating.

Removing Weeds

I rely on physical methods to remove weeds. And by that I mean – hand pulling those suckers out. It makes no sense to me to go around my yard with a bottle of a natural herbicide spraying the plants and waiting hours or days for them to die. It’s quicker and more emotionally satisfying to yank them out.

My favorite garden tool is a Hori-Hori knife. It is an all-purpose weeding tool that makes it easy to get weeds out root and all. The easiest time to pull out weeds is after it rains when the soil is looser.

My second favorite tool is a shovel for digging out woody weeds.

Weed wackers are also an option. You can do a large area very quickly.

Hoeing and tilling will also eliminate weeds. However, it also creates ideal conditions for the weed seeds in your soil to germinate. So keep the hoeing and tilling to a minimum.

Finally, there are some citrus oil based natural weed killer sprays available. I haven’t tried any of them but some of them get good reviews. If you try any natural sprays make sure to read the ingredient list. Any company can claim their product is natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe.

Note on Using Salt as a Weed Killer

I see lots of forum and social media posts suggesting salt to kill weeds. Bad, bad, bad idea. Don’t do it. Dissolved salt can travel downward into the groundwater or sideways into other areas of your yard. When plants absorb this water they will dry out and die. If you use salt a lot as a herbicide you could create dead zones in your yard.

Keeping New Weeds From Germinating

Once you have a weed free area, applying a pre-emergent weed killer like corn meal gluten and a thick layer of mulch will keep new weeds from emerging. Corn meal gluten can be used anywhere you don’t want seeds to germinate, including sidewalks and veggie and flower beds. It’s also useful as a weed and feed for your lawn.

Once you’ve applied a pre-emergent it’s time to mulch. There are lots of mulch options. My friend, who’s a Master Gardner, swears by layers of newspaper topped with wood mulch. Because of the chemicals used in newsprint ink, I would avoid using newspaper in veggie gardens.

Other options include cardboard, straw, wood chips, landscape fabric and shredded leaves. I’m partial to straw for my veggie gardens and recycled rubber mulch for flower beds.

Ditching toxic weed killers like Roundup for safe, natural weed killers is a great way to protect your health. For more ideas on natural weed control check out Beyond Pesticides ‘Least-toxic Control of Weeds’.

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