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A dead weedWeeds, every lawn has them. Our blogger, Dan Chilton examined some alternative strategies for killing weeds without resorting to the use of expensive lawn care chemicals. Based on Dan's inspiration, I thought I'd give you a look at one of my "stay green" strategies for dealing with the nastiest weeds that pop up repeatedly in the middle of your yard. The trick to permanently eliminating your toughest weeds is to make sure that any root which remains in the ground cannot regenerate.

Stop that weed(click thumbnails to view gallery)

The targetDigg it!Weed root stubSalt the stubAdd soil, salt again

With a shovel, I make a slice into the soil at the base of my target weed. I try to angle the shovel so I intersect the weed root at a point at least four inches below the soil surface. When I am certain the the weed root is severed, I carefully lift the shovel full of turf away from the hole. In the hole we see the severed end of the weed root. For weeds such as mature dandelions and thistles, that root stub could be as large as one inch in diameter and could extend as far as 24 inches further into the ground.

Next, I clear away the soil in the hole a little bit so the weed root stub is sticking out. I cover the root stub and surrounding hole area with a generous amount of salt. I then put enough soil back into the hole to cover the root stub and I apply another layer of salt. After the salting process is done, I remove the surface portion of the weed from my shovel full of turf and then put the turf back into the hole. Keeping the area lightly watered for a few days helps the roots of the grass to reestablish themselves after being cut with the shovel.

The salt has two effects when used in this manner. First, the salt creates a mini-environment which is extremely inhospitable to plant roots. Second, the salt binds and holds the nutrients that it comes in contact with, making them unavailable for use by an especially robust weed root. Therefore, by the time the salt has disbursed into the surrounding soil and become ineffective at control, the weed root has already withered and died. The nice part about this whole concept is that because salt is not a toxin, any trees or shrubs which have roots passing through the area of the salted hole remain completely unaffected by the presence of the salt because they have more extensive root systems to utilize.

  • cathy sutton

    I have agopodium---green bishops weed in my yard and garden that I have learned to live with. Any suggestions? Since agopoduim has roots that branch out and keeps branching out, I think this method would not be as effective as a dandelion which has that one taproot.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated!!! I even tried a think layer of shredded documents, wetted down. They eventually came up through even that!

  • Patrick

    Shredded paper makes a great mulch to help anything grow/holds moisture.I would try to prevent germination early in spring or use a winter fertilizer/preventer as well.Depending on how bad your problem is there are sprays etc. that only target the weed & there are pet friendly products out there as well.If you have a well,then extra care is needed when choosing products,certain zones are phosphate free.The thicker your grass is the less chance of weeds being able to grow,you will have to mow more often if you overdo it on the chemicals so use sparingly& allow about 3 weeks for results.Weeds should wither in less than a week if you find the right product. Good luck

  • Dave Morgan

    I have wild blackberry vines growing among my ivy. How can I kill the blackberries and not harm the ivy?

  • jan

    I use a propane powered Red Dragon- available a most hardware stores.

  • Gary E. Sattler

    For the blackberries among the ivy I would recommend using a systemic plant killer similar to Preen. You use it in spring when the plant is actively growing. Wear rubber gloves and apply the product directly to the leaves of the blackberry plants with a foam brush being careful not to contact the ivy. A systemic plant killer should allow you to selectively destroy one plant without disturbing the other.

    Please consult a plant nursery professional to verify this information and for additional product and technique suggestions.

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