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Hands with red gloves digging out dandilion

Weeds are a headache for most gardeners. If you don’t want to dig them out by hand, you may be tempted to reach for a store-bought weed killer to get the job done quickly. But studies have linked common herbicides to a variety of health problems, including cancer, reproductive toxicity, and respiratory damage.

Avoid those hazards and try one of these natural solutions to keep your lawn and garden looking great.

Douse with boiling water. This is particularly effective for weeds that have grown through cracks in patios, driveways, and walkways. The water will cool as it runs off the surface, and it won’t damage any of the plants you want to protect.

Spray with vinegar. Mix 1 gallon white vinegar with 1 cup table salt and 1 tablespoon dish soap. Pour into a spray bottle and soak weeds thoroughly. This mixture will harm anything green, so consider covering nearby prized plants to protect them.

Let your grass grow higher. Weeds, like all plants, need sunlight and water to sprout. Strategic lawn mowing (maintaining a height of 2 to 4 inches) will encourage thick, healthy grass, helping to block the sun and moisture weeds need to thrive.

Smother with corn gluten meal. Corn gluten meal (which contains no actual gluten) is a byproduct of the milling process. You can spread it in your garden as pre-emergent weed control: It won’t kill weeds that have already sprouted, but it will prevent new growth. (It can also be used in organic lawn care at a specific application rate.)

Learn to love them. Consider your weed problem from a different perspective. Most of them are native plants that are meant to thrive — which is why they’re so hard to kill. Some weeds, like alfalfa and chicory greens, are actually edible. Others, such as forget-me-nots and chickweed, will improve soil fertility as they decompose.

This originally appeared as “Minimize Weeds, Naturally” in the April 2019 print issue of Experience Life.

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