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Organically Kill weeds, not grass?  RSS feed

 
Samsquanch Smith
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I'm struggling with some weeds within my lawn. I mostly see dandelions, crabgrass and clover. I have kids and a dog, so I don't want them rolling in Roundup. I know there are plenty of natural ways to kill weeds in driveways, etc, but vinegar solutions and the like would also kill the grass. I've been cutting my grass at a longer height for about a year and have also stopped bagging my clippings. I've used organic fertilizer and Potash (for pH) from AG Grand (but not yet this year, because I am struggling with a better way to get that sludge through a sprayer).

I know the best defense against weeds is healthy grass with a strong root system, but I'm working on that and it takes time. I'm hoping there is something I can do in the meantime...
 
Topher Belknap
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Location: Midcoast Maine (zone 5b)
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Think about what those 'weeds' are telling you.

Dandelions have long tap roots, bring up trace minerals from deep down, and thrive in compacted soil (and maybe do more things). If you want to get rid of the dandelions, you need to do the job that they are doing: Broadfork the lawn to reduce compaction, and make the deep soil available to the grass. Add trace elements to the soil.

Clover is a nitrogen fixer, taking nitrogen from the atmosphere and adding it to the soil, and making available to other plants. If you want to get rid of the clover, add nitrogen to the soil, using urine, or other natural sources of nitrogen.

Alternatively, cultivate a feeling of laziness, and let the plants do the work for you, and ignore the propaganda from chemical companies about what are weeds. Quite frankly, I am going to miss my dandelions once they are done with their work on my property. I may have to plant some for me and my bees. Clover, I plant all the time.
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I wouldn't consider eithers dandelions or clover "weeds" in a lawn. They don't interfere in anyway with your enjoyment of it, can be mowed like grass would be and both provide benefits to the soil ecosystem. I can't speak for crab grass as we don't have it here.

The only plants which I remove from our lawn are those that make it uncomfortable to enjoy in barefeet - thistles are the main culprits and we don't get many of those.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Crabgrass is a warm season annual that grows when your existing grass is stressed or going dormant in the heat. You need to find an alternative warm season grass to fill that niche.

I am considering PLANTING crabgrass ON PURPOSE for summer forage for my livestock. Yes, you can actually buy seed.
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Also, if you feel you must remove deep rooted plants like the dandelions I recommend the fiskars weed puller. It works a treat on our thistles and the dandelions I have tested it on.
 
Zach Muller
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Here is a thread that has some additional information on the topic of dandelions and compaction.

Rscott are you going to have them eating the grass as soon as the seed heads form or after it's ripe and dropping seeds?
 
Jami McBride
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Location: PNW Oregon
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I had a lawn with all of the same problems, in some patches it was dandelions only or nothing. Hard packed soil, that had a history of chemicals and neglect.
I was able to tern my lawn into lushness, which I hardly had to mow and never had to weed. However, I love clover and consider it the best lawn amendment as it requires less work and adds a lot to a healthy lawn ecology. Even our parks and rec dept. adds 20% clover to their reseeding mix.

I simply, naturally and slowly changed the soil php - and added no new seeds, even to the bare spots.

The methods I used may or may not work for you, you may need to modify it to fit your situation.
I got a couple of lawn ducks, and would water in their poo into the soil when watering the lawn in the summer (in live in the PNW with hard rains in the winter only). I provided a very small kiddy pool, that I would dump and move every other day in our the dry summer. And once a year I would collect the deep litter from my small chicken house and sprinkle it over the lawn, usually in the Fall when new leaves were delivered (I lived in the city). The chicken littler was not composted (no moisture added) just chicken poo, leaves and time. I did nothing about the weeds, bare soil or other problems except naturally changing the soil php with animal manure and shredded leaf litter - it was easy and we really enjoyed our 3 lawn ducks; they were the talk of ever BBQ.


I saw huge improvements each season. Here are some photos taken after a year and a half -
Spring-2010 059.jpg
[Thumbnail for Spring-2010 059.jpg]
09Spring- MarchApril 110.jpg
[Thumbnail for 09Spring- MarchApril 110.jpg]
 
R Scott
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Rotational grazing as the seed head forms/fills out. They are such prolific seed producers there will still be some viable seed produced after grazing. Guys are baling it (theoretically 100% seed head removal) and still getting reseeding. Think how hard it is to get rid of in a lawn? It goes to seed almost immediately after mowing. All that "invasiveness" sounds like permie resiliency to me.
 
Tom Bennett
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I have the same problem as the original poster... Loaded with dandelions and clover on 1.5 acres of lawn.
I live in Canada just above North Dakota with a mix of KGB, Creaping Red fescue, and Rye grass. This is my 2nd season of being organic and what brought this on was 6 years ago my 7 year old son was diagnosed with leukemia and while he was on treatment for 4.5 years I completely neglected my chemically treated lawn.
He is now 13 and been off treatment for 2.5 years. Prior to his diagnosis I used 24d to kill the weeds and I'm convinced that May have been what made him sick.

This is what I have been doing for the last 2 seasons...
Mowing at 3"
Watering 1"/week in the hot months
1"/month in spring and fall
Fertilizing with Aggrand Fish emulsion monthly

My soil test came back wit a PH of 7.8 so I have been trying to lower it with sulphur 200lbs/acre twice per year. But I don't think it's coming down? I also hit it with 250lbs/acre of gypsum to release the unavailable nutrients twice per year.

I have my own core aerator so I do that in the fall and spring as well, but not sure how much that is helping as I know that under the 4" of topsoil it's pure clay. I should also mention that my organic matter is a whopping 14.2% Phosphorus 27,Potassium 416,
Magnesium 1468, calcium 4868, sodium 194, c.e.c. is 38.5

The grass is getting waaaay better but I haven't seen a reduction in clover or the dandies. Any suggestions would be immensely appreciated!!!

Thanks
 
John Saltveit
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I'm trying to understand why you don't like the clover and dandelions. Clover fixes nitrogen and is a measure of the value of your pasture ( a positive measure). It has other positive attributes as well, not all of which I remember. Dandelion is an extremely nutritious vegetable as well as a fixer of about 6 healthy minerals in your soil. It decreases compaction and aids drainage. What is your goal with the terrain?
John S
PDX OR
 
Tom Bennett
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My goal is a thick "weed free lawn" dandilions and clover included. I don't like the look of these weeds and In a lot of areas of my lawn it is completely over run with clover, not 20% as recommended but more like a 100% . If it was 20% evenly throughout the lawn I might be able to tolerate it. Not many people appreciate it when their neighbour has millions of dandelions including myself.
 
leila hamaya
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i share in the confusion and bewilderment as the other posters. not trying to be weird or anything, but you might be asking the wrong folks these questions.

i cant be alone in more generally thinking something more along the lines of - how can i get a lawn thats all clover, dandelions, sorrels, and edible wild greens, etc, etc, all "weeds" AND GET RID OF THE GRASS?

i like edible/medicinal lawns, with very little grass, a yarden =)

obviously i cant speak for anyone else, but i cant imagine trying to grow grasses at all, or spending much time, water, or energy tending them. sorry not trying to be flip, just saying this is probably not the same goals as what most people are into here.

i suppose we are the rare people who actually appreciate neighbors who have millions of dandelions in their yard.

garden web might be a good place for your questions, those folks are more conventional gardener types with lawns....

here.... try here, under lawns and landscaping:
http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/

http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/lawns/

organic lawns:
http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/orglawn/

use the search feature, i'm sure these folks discuss this sort of thing more

or i dont know maybe there are some people here who have experience and goals like this, so not trying to be unhelpful.

kudos on your determination to not spread poisons on the ground =)
 
Jessica Gorton
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I'm also not sure you're going to get the response that you want on permies. For myself, I look at a lawn with only grass as a monoculture, and I think that that is an unhealthy state for any ecosystem. In permaculture, as I understand it, one looks to emulate nature when making yards and gardens. Show me a field in nature with only one kind of plant in it.

Dandelions are great food for the bees (and the humans!). Clover fixes nitrogen and adds to soil fertility. I find both to be beautiful and valuable additions to my local ecosystem, and I encourage my neighbors to have diverse yards without being overly concerned about the aesthetics of what anyone is doing on their own property. Spraying concerns me much more than overgrown weeds (though I do encourage my neighbors to help me in community to control our really noxious weeds, like poison ivy, bindweed, and the like, with natural controls, like goats and hand-pulling).

I also think that questions like these are an attempt at perhaps some magical thinking? I want all the "perfect" aesthetics of a grass monoculture, but don't want to employ the questionable methods of pesticide use and whatnot that have allowed that "perfect lawn" to become the norm.

I find that with regular mowing and a variety of plant species, no one plant tends to take over. I love the feel of moss in the spots that are shady and damp, and the minty smell of the ground ivy when I walk on it. And for me, grass is a more pernicious weed than any broadleaf plant in my vegetable garden. I'm actively trying to have less grass and spots that need mowing, which is why I encourage the "weeds" that I'd like to see thrive, like wild violets, lambsquarters (which don't really need encouraging), sorrel, st. john's wort, yarrow, etc etc.

I personally find a grass-only lawn to be kind of ugly. I think we need to re-think the aesthetic ideas that have gotten us to a point where spreading poisons so that only grass can grow on our lawns is looked at as a positive, and front yard vegetable gardens are outlawed.
 
Frank Brentwood
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Location: Long Island, NY (Zone 7)
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Samsquanch Smith wrote:I'm struggling with some weeds within my lawn. I mostly see dandelions, crabgrass and clover. I have kids and a dog, so I don't want them rolling in Roundup. I know there are plenty of natural ways to kill weeds in driveways, etc, but vinegar solutions and the like would also kill the grass. I've been cutting my grass at a longer height for about a year and have also stopped bagging my clippings. I've used organic fertilizer and Potash (for pH) from AG Grand (but not yet this year, because I am struggling with a better way to get that sludge through a sprayer).

I know the best defense against weeds is healthy grass with a strong root system, but I'm working on that and it takes time. I'm hoping there is something I can do in the meantime...


Tom Bennett wrote:My goal is a thick "weed free lawn" dandilions and clover included. I don't like the look of these weeds and In a lot of areas of my lawn it is completely over run with clover, not 20% as recommended but more like a 100% . If it was 20% evenly throughout the lawn I might be able to tolerate it. Not many people appreciate it when their neighbour has millions of dandelions including myself.


As someone else posted, your best bet might be a different forum.

A poster above suggested GardenWeb, but I personally find the lawn forums there to be a bit argumentative and a lot of semi-personal attacks fly around.

IMHO, I find BestLawn/AroundTheYard to be more helpful and friendly. They also have an Organic Forum.
 
Tom Bennett
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Back to one of my original questions about getting the PH down, is there a better way than sulphur or do I need to be more patient and keep applying sulphur?

I know from reading the cheap and lazy that sulphur will lower the PH but I haven't seen that yet.
 
John Saltveit
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I think it's best to think about why it is so acidic. Is it because you are in a high rainfall area? Then it's a good idea to have plants with deep roots, to help tap the calcium, boron, zinc, and other minerals that are probably washing away, that might turn the soil to a more alkaline condition. Is it because it was a long-term coniferous forest with a deep duff layer and lots of acidifying coniferous needles falling? Then it might be best, if you're trying to grow food, to mimic what naturally happens to a climax coniferous forest. Instead of the largest tree falling and opening huge sunlight to a different generation, chop one of the large trees and plant what you want to eat.

Also, certain soil additives tend to be alkalinizing, such as ash and borax, which can be useful if you know you're very low in boron.
John S
PDX OR
 
Troy Rhodes
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Sulfur is very effective at reducing pH, but it may take 2 or even 3 or more years to get the most effect.

Sulfur by itself doesn't do much to the pH of the soil, but when it combined with healthy soil life/bacteria/fungi, the end product of all that metabolism will be more acids, and more beneficial acids in your soil.

The more they used strong chemicals on the yard (in the past) the less soil micro organisms you will have to start with. That can make t slow.


Hope that was helpful,

troy


 
Mountain Krauss
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One other thing about sulfur: the better it is mixed into the soil, the faster it works. With your lawn in place, I can't imagine the sulfur is mixing in very well-- therefore, it would work even more slowly than usual. If you have a ready supply of used coffee grounds, you could apply them to your soil. They're mildly acidic (6.8 PH). Even better would be leftover coffee. Most of the acids wash into the liquid, so actual coffee is much more acidic than the leftover grounds.

All of that takes time, though. The fastest thing would be to haul off the 7.8ph topsoil (maybe to the backyard where dandelions and clover could enrich it out of sight of your neighbors), break up the clay subsoil, haul in some PH-neutral topsoil, and re-sod it. Not a very permacultural approach, but it would get you a lawn that looks like your neighbors without all the chemicals.
 
Jeff Reiland
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Spreading some coffee grounds would be great as a minimal pH reducer, lots of organic matter, not visibly noticeable, pleasant scent, would draw in earthowrms to feed on the decomposing organic matter and loosen the soil.
Also if soil life works in conjunction with the sulfur like Troy said, hit it with a compost tea to boost the soil life. That should help speed up the process.
 
Tim Wells
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Stop trying to derail the op and convince him otherwise. If we can find an organic solution then we can replace that technique with all the weed and feed that is such a common treatment here in the uk.

Permies are allowed a bit of bowling green/ golf course too!

I would vinegar/ sheet mulch/ chicken the 50-100% weed patch and reseed with grass.


1-50% weeds I would fork/ compost/ topdressing/ comfrey/ nettle tea.

I would let the grass really out compete the weeds by allowing it to grow really tall and cut it just before it seeds at the top mower setting, 7 inches for my mower.

Keep top dressing those prostate weeds with sand compost mix and brush it in so it smothers the weeds with the grass popping out.

Spot weed with a knife.

or Rip it all up and turf/ create seed bed, allow weeds to germinate, till and seed with grass really thick, hand weed
 
leila hamaya
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Tim Wells wrote:Stop trying to derail the op and convince him otherwise. If we can find an organic solution then we can replace that technique with all the weed and feed that is such a common treatment here in the uk.

Permies are allowed a bit of bowling green/ golf course too!

I would vinegar/ sheet mulch/ chicken the 50-100% weed patch and reseed with grass.



you know this is a good point. point taken, at least by me.
i personally have zero interest in bowling green, golf course lawn, and i find it very strange that many people do want that.

BUT....

this probably is a common issue for many people, even if its not for me, if there was a good solution for this it could effect how much yuck people spread on the soil.
its just hard to wrap your head around an issue when you think so differently, but i certainly cant say its ok to try to convince someone to think differently. but it is important, more important than it could seem, that people stop thinking in ways that convinces them its best to spread poison on the ground.

for some people...trying to convince them dandelions and clover, etc, arent that bad and to just live with them, might work...but for many people this wouldnt be their answer.

i dont know that my ideas would be appealing to someone in that different mindset, but i would suggest the reverse of what i sometimes do...for the opposite effect. which is wait till the grass is at its weakest, pull it up and go at it with a rake or other tool, and then seed other things on top.

so the reverse would be to wait till the clover/ other "weed" is at its weakest (right as it is starting to make seed, or after it has been water stressed in the hot summer, frozen in winter) and then pull as much as you can, then seed grass on top.

another option, probably even less appealing to those with aesthetic concerns...would be to let everything grow really long for a time, let the grass reseed itself, and pull the clover and other undesirable plants while spreading around the grass seed.

thats what i do anyway, reversed for the reverse effect, trying to get rid of grass and have all edibles/medicinals growing in a lawn like area that an be walked on
 
Penny Dumelie
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Maybe you can add in a couple of amendment areas for the lawn to draw from.

Is there a common path used through the lawn that can be mulched to provide nutrients to the lawn. Or maybe there are (dead/overrun) spots to add in a few small (temporary?)beds planted with soil fixers.
Can you add a perennial border that will grow soil fixers?
The smaller gardens can contribute to better soil which will spread from there with some weed management (that is, picking them) and patience and possibly some manual soil amendment as well. You get the lawn you want and your yard gets a few bonus features.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Hau, Tom,

You are trying to lower the PH of a soil that is slightly basic. Let me place a nice quote here;

"Organic substances frequently used to reduce soil pH are peat moss, rotted manure and rotted leaf compost. Canadian sphagnum peat moss, with a pH of between 3.0 and 4.5, can be worked effectively into the top 8 to 12 inches of soil, although it may be too expensive for large areas, and gardeners may avoid peat moss because of sustainability issues. Horticulturalists suggest that shredded evergreen bark, pine needles, home-composted leaf and vegetable refuse and even coffee grounds can increase soil acidity. Be prepared for some trial-and-error with organic acidifiers. Test soil pH before application, then at monthly or half-year intervals to determine change."

Now, you have spread some sulfur but did you use something like a broad fork to let this sulfur get into the soil below the grass roots? Mechanical methods of aeration usually don't go deep enough to actually loosed soil that has compacted. I am sorry to have to say that the broad fork is your best method to loosen the soil beneath the grass roots, and thus allow amendments of sulfur and or peat moss to work down to where it needs to be to actually start changing your soils PH. Keep in mind that what you are embarking on is at least a three year journey, soil PH can not be changed from basic to acidic as quickly as an acidic soil can be changed to more basic. It will most likely take one application of sulfur each year for three years to effect the change.

Once you get the soil PH to at least neutral then you will see some of the plants you are wanting gone, to start going missing on their own. If you would like more info on this subject, send me a PM and I will be happy to give you more detailed info on how to accomplish your goal.
 
Rhonda Mott
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I have a different problem with weeds. I have poke weed growing around my house and I have dogs so I really need to get rid of it. I've used boiling water out front in my sidewalk and driveway to kill grass in the cracks. Would that work for the pokeweed? If I cut it down then pour the water on the stubby, would that kill the root? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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best method for poke is to pull it, hot water will take at least two applications.
You can also eat it if you learn how to prepare it, it is good greens when done right.
 
Rhonda Mott
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Thanks, Bryant. I would be afraid to try cooking it because of the toxicity though 😁. I worry about my dogs eating the berries, I don't want to use poisons or chemicals because my dogs eat the grass also... Lol!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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WHEN THERE IS DOUBT, LEAVE IT OUT!

That was told to me by one of the great elders of my nation (and my mentor) a long time ago. He was referring to living off the land by foraging, as I went to seek my path on the red road.
It is wisdom to follow those things shared by elders for they have great knowledge.

Polk is safe if you boil it in salt water, rinse then boil in fresh water and rinse then boil in fresh water and rinse.
From there you cook like collards, mustard or turnip greens.
Only the young leaves are safe, the huge rule is if there is red in the leaf, let it be.
The poisons: there are three identified ones, the alkaloids; phytolaccine and phytolaccotoxin, as well as a glycoprotein.
Nasty compounds to be certain, but in young leaves not in so high a quantity as to be deadly when the aforementioned technique is used in preparation.
While these can not be fully removed by two boiling treatments, as most people seem to advise for cooking, they will be reduced so much by using the triple boil and rinse followed by actual cooking that occasional ingestion is safe.

Many are now saying "never eat poke greens" however this seems to be more "over caution" since poke greens have been eaten for many hundreds of years in what is now the Southern USA.
I've eaten poke, twice a year for so many years that if it were as harmful as the "many" are saying, I should be dead.

I think it is a matter of do you want to go to the trouble.
If not, then by all means, leave this plant to the birds, who relish the berries.
The berries have quite a bit less of the alkaloids and protienoid.
Never ever and I mean ever use the root or stalk of the plant for anything other than composting.

This is one of the few plants that I tell people to shy away from unless they take the time to gain full knowledge of how to cook it.
Of all the parts of the plant it is the roots that are most deadly (I have heard stories of medicine men using it as an herbal cure but they had great knowledge of this plant) with the stalk following and then of course those leaves with red veins.

When this plant grows where I don't want it, I rip it out and let it dry before putting it in to a compost heap. I also wear gloves when I am doing this deed. Caution is usually exercised by the wise, after all.

My wife learned from a friend of ours who had grown and prepared it for more than 40 years. He too only ate poke about 6 times a year.
My first experiences with poke greens were when I was a child, my grandparents cooked it up for very special occasions. This was the "greens" we ate along with black eyed peas on New Years Day. It was also cooked for summer solstice.
These are the two times a year my wife and I eat them. It happens that to eat them later in the year is an invitation to mishap since that red color starts to show up in the stalks just a few weeks after the solstice.
 
Rhonda Mott
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Awesome information Bryant! Thank you for taking the time to explain it. I had never heard of pokeweed until I moved to central Georgia, now I've got it coming out my ears, lol.
 
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