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Post new topic   Reply to topic    Irish Gardeners Forum Home -> Organic gardening in Ireland / Alternative and Sustainable Gardening practices

Is weedkiller use a temporary solution?

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PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2011 10:48 am    Post subject: Is weedkiller use a temporary solution? Reply with quote

Is weedkiller use a temporary solution to a non existent problem..... We discuss.....

We have seen amazing progress in the garden this month. The warm sunny weather mixed in with showers has produced a profusion of beautiful spring growth. Not everyone sees the free flowing swathes of greenery as beauty though as a lot of gardeners and farmers seem to wage war against nature as soon as things start to grow by popping down to the shops and buying chemical weedkillers.

I was reading a gardening forum the other day; someone asked how to get rid of dandelions, daisies, thistles and moss from their garden lawn. They were going to use Hytrol, which is a total herbicide (kills everything) so there will be no grass, weeds or moss left after applying it. The other products on the market don't fare much better either. Selective weedkillers containing MCPA and 2 4-D, are used for their low cost, not safety. 2,4-D is toxic to the liver at small dosages and has been used in chemical warfare. My advice was to learn to love the weeds and cut the grass often.

Weedkillers are just a temporary solution to the weeds. Taking a bit of time (and effort) to change the environment where the weeds grow will be a far more long term way of dealing with the issue.

Mary, a keen organic farmer and gardener from Greenhill farm says: "If a weed doesn't like where it is, it won't grow! For example you will only see docks in a compacted field, or on paths. People feel they need to eradicate these more because of 'what the neighbours think' than anything else. If your soil is loose and fertile, the docks will find somewhere to grow more successfully. If you keep taking away their light supply (i.e. cut off the leaves) they will also die. It's the mindset that's important, not the method. If you have patience and wait for the weeds to decide they're not welcome, you have won!"

Moss on the Lawn
Another question asked at this time of year is about killing moss on the lawn. Should you spray? I don't think that's necessary.
Solutions that appear the easiest (such as chemical weedkillers) are not the answer.

Five easy steps are:
- Improve the drainage
- Mow often
- Aerate-adding sand into the holes
- Apply Sulphate of iron, mixed with organic fertilizer.
- Let nature do the rest

I guess you can tell I don't like weedkillers or the way that they are advertised like sweeties for gardeners with their colourful and amusing packaging promising us a life of weed free living. Applying chemicals to the garden are not a quick fix. The garden will need treating every year (poisoning wildlife, us and the land), unless you take natural measures to alter the way the land is working. As one reader observed "When you're in the garden centres it seems that there are more items to kill things than make them grow"

Question Time

I put the question about using weedkillers to my gardening chums and there are a few landscapers who would use chemicals as a last resort. They would always follow the instructions and NEVER spray on a windy day. Most would also clear the ground manually first before applying the chemicals. Most other gardeners I asked seem to go for a more natural approach. Some solutions were:
- Spending about 20mins EVERY day going over the garden with a knife and kneeler.
- Using a garden flame thrower.
- Using natural products such as vinegar.

Here are some more interesting comments from gardeners:

"Isn't that the challenge and the thrill??" referring to finding alternatives to weedkillers.

"We just have to learn to accept that nature is never "tidy, square monoculture." The more effort we put in to achieving this, the quicker nature will react to create the opposite"

"Outwitting nature as much as one can, yes that is a real challenge and gives great satisfaction. It will never produce the "perfect" solution but does that really matter as long as it gives you food and supports our striving for sustainability......"

"The proliferation of chemicals has largely occurred over the past fifty or so years and prior to that much more reliance was put on good cultural practices. Look at old gardening books, not a mention of pesticides! We should embrace and work with nature rather than against it, feed the soil and not the plants, recycle all waste, encourage natural predators and avoid at all costs, the use of chemicals, whether as fertilisers or pesticides.

"I have tried to minimise the chemicals I use in every way...whether in the garden, or home. I am a post-war baby and my life span has seen an explosion of chemicals being used for the most trivial of reasons."
" Take Roundup, the most used herbicide worldwide, making billions every year for Monsanto. It was for decades, heralded as having no negative effects. Now there are more and more coming out, thanks internet. Agencies all over the globe are looking seriously into this stuff and it is predicted that it will soon be banned in some countries. The conclusion: grow and eat only your own stuff, or buy real veggies, meat from an organic source, bake your bread with organic grain, enjoy cooking and baking and live happily ever after. You may not necessarily live longer, but you will certainly die healthier."

To conclude, here is one of my favourite quotes. "Man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself." -Rachel Carson."

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medieval knievel
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PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2011 11:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


i've managed not to have to use weedkillers, and i hate the idea of fertilising lawns; it always struck me as odd that man has reached a point where we can't even supposedly grow grass without help.

i do know someone who wants to kill off a sycamore stump; is it a case of nipping off growth as it appears to gradually exhaust it?
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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2011 9:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I did use roundup when we first moved in, as the garden was awful lawn, docks and dandelions. We needed to get rid of it all to make a veg/flower garden, and we were renovating the house at the same time. Since then, I have used light suppression, manual removal and hot oil/water to deal with weeds. Grasses, for example, hate a hot kettle. If i'm deep frying, the oil doesn't go down the sink, but get used straight away to "fry" weeds. It works very well as alternative to weedkiller.
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