Everyone appreciates a tidy garden that isn’t overgrown with weeds, right?
But I’m sure you’d agree that it’s better to achieve that without the use of harmful chemicals.
So, if you’re wondering whether there is a safe alternative to Roundup, then you’re in the right place!
It is definitely possible to maintain your garden without resorting to harmful chemicals. Keep reading to find out the best alternatives to Roundup and other chemical herbicides.
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- Key Points
- Why Should I Consider an Alternative to Roundup?
- What are the Best Alternatives to Roundup?
- A Few Tips for Maximum Effectiveness
- Roundup is a harmful mixture of chemicals that is best avoided in your home garden.
- There are plenty of safe alternatives to Roundup that are effective and very affordable.
- The best natural alternatives to Roundup include boiling water, salt, vinegar, and borax.
- Manual removal via hand pulling, a flame weeder, or weed whacker are also great alternatives.
- If possible, avoid letting weeds grow out of control in the first place by avoiding bare soil and using lots of mulch.
Why Should I Consider an Alternative to Roundup?
There are many reasons to think seriously about finding an alternative to Roundup for your weed control.
The main reasons for concern surround the environmental and human health risks of glyphosate, the active ingredient. The World Health Organization has listed it as a probable human carcinogen while a host of other health risks, including fertility and immunity issues, are suspected.
However, since the entire ingredient list is not disclosed and legally is allowed to be kept a trade secret, scientists have been unable to study what else might be included in the mixture. Some have proposed that the cocktail of chemicals together once the whole solution is considered might actually be more harmful than glyphosate by itself. Scary, right?
Consequences for the environment include impacts on the local ecosystem and its waterways. Studies have found traces of glyphosate in many waterways throughout the United States, including rainwater!
But even if these risks don’t concern you, there are significant ethical issues in supporting a large multi-national corporation that has the power to win almost any legal battle that it’s threatened with through sheer money-power and is therefore rarely held accountable for its actions. Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, is still facing millions of dollars worth of lawsuits in the US.
What are the Best Alternatives to Roundup?
Aside from the organic alternatives that should be available in your local garden store, there are also some DIY options that can be safe and effective.
Hand Pull Regularly
In most parts of your garden, but especially your vegetable garden, the safest and most reliable form of weed control is regular manual removal. If you can stay on top of the weed population by removing weeds as they arrive, while they’re still small and before they establish themselves and spread seeds, then weed management will never be a huge issue for you.
Giving the top inch of soil a quick hoe once per week is enough to dislodge any small weeds that are starting to grow. Often you don’t even need to remove them with this method.
Boiling water works really well in places like the edge of a driveway or cracks between paving slabs. Simply pull up what you can and then pour boiling water on the remaining stems.
You can also simply pour boiling water on the leaves of smaller weeds but for bigger weeds, it may not successfully kill the roots if you do this.
If you’re looking for more options for managing weeds on your driveway, I have an article dedicated to that here.
Vinegar, ideally at 20-30% acetic acid concentration, makes for an excellent homemade weed spray. Mix it up in a spray bottle with a little dish soap and a pinch of table salt and then spray on the leaves of the weeds that you want to remove.
Borax, or sodium borate, is a naturally occurring substance that dissolves in water. Mix about 10 ounces of the powder in 2.5 gallons of water and spray on weeds as required.
Salt is a highly effective weed killer. It will happily kill all but the most resilient coastal plant species so you will need to be really careful how and where you apply it. It is not good for soil health or for surrounding plants when used in excess.
To make a spray solution, mix 1 part salt with 8 parts warm water and a little cooking oil or dish soap. Spray the leaves of the plant that you want to kill.
Corn gluten works as a preventative measure for weeds that haven’t arrived yet, though it doesn’t do anything for weeds that are already established. The application prevents seeds from germinating while not having any effect on surrounding plants. It can be a good option in rock beds or gravel paths.
Flame weeding is an excellent chemical-free option for killing weeds while not compromising soil health in any way. You do need to be careful about not hitting any plants that you want to keep alive, but flame weeding is easy and effective and a great option for places like rock beds and pathways.
Last but not least, another great non-chemical option for weed removal is a trimmer or weed eater. They won’t kill the weeds down to their roots but semi-regular trimming can keep everything under control to the point where a few weeds aren’t really an issue.
Note: Even though these methods are much safer than using Roundup, you still want to protect yourself and be careful not to get the mixtures on your skin or near your eyes, especially with borax and high concentration vinegar.
If you choose to go for the weed eater, you could also be interested in learning more about different types of lawn mowers, that could allow you take care of your lawn in different situations.
A Few Tips for Maximum Effectiveness
Once you decide on the natural Roundup alternative that you want to use, there are still things you can do to maximize its effectiveness.
Hot and Dry Works Best
Choosing a hot day is a good idea, the plant will already be a little stressed from the heat and generally speaking, adding heat to any scenario makes the results more dramatic.
Waiting until the morning dew has dried out and applying your Roundup alternative to dry leaves will also make it more effective. If you’re wondering whether this rule applies to the grass too, I have an article about whether you can spray weed killer on wet grass that will answer all of your questions.
Mix Up Your Approaches
It pays to be flexible in your approach and use a combination of methods depending on your situation. Boiling water and salt is an excellent option for pathways and driveways and places where you don’t want anything to grow.
Meanwhile, manual removal is a better option in vegetable gardens or flower beds, and using a weed whacker or flame weeder is a great choice if you have a large patch of overgrown weeds.
Know Your Weeds
It also helps to know what weeds you’re dealing when deciding how to approach them. Some weeds, like crabgrass, spread underground via their root system so manual removal will not be possible. There are still natural ways to control crabgrass though!
Other weeds you may find yourself facing include dollar weed and Bermuda grass. I have a guide to the 6 most common lawn weeds here if you’re still not sure, and a guide to proven ways to rid your lawn of weeds without chemicals here.
Prevention is Always the Best Solution
Last but not least, preventing weeds from becoming an issue in the first place is always the easiest approach!
There are many things you can do to limit the weed load of your garden.
- Avoid bare patches of soil – keep all soil planted with ground cover plants or covered with a thick layer of mulch.
- Only watering where you want plants to grow – the best way to control where your irrigation ends up is to use soaker hoses instead of sprinklers. Weeds are much less likely to grow on pathways that don’t get much water.
- Staying on top of the weeding with regular hand pulling while weeds are small and easy to remove.
- Keep your lawn mowed so that weeds don’t get large enough to produce seeds.
Are you relieved to find there are lots of options when choosing a roundup weed killer alternative?
It pays to be flexible in your approach and maybe experiment with different options in different parts of your garden. One safe alternative to Roundup may work better in one situation than another. For example, flame weeding is excellent for rock gardens but not so much in an area of dense vegetation with lots of plants that you want to keep.
What option did you find worked best for your situation? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!