NOT EVERYTHING ORGANIC IS SAFE!!! There are many books on gardening on the market and not all have recommendations that are backed by research so you know they are effective and safe. Most of us like to go organic as we are concerned about the health of the soil and our own health. I have written this article about a few organic solutions that can be misused and if not used properly are not safe in your garden and may not be effective.


1. SALT ON ASPARAGUS: The use of salt to control weeds in a garden goes way back to the time when we did not have the herbicides we do now. Salt will work to control weeds but after a number of years the salt builds up in the soil to the point where nothing will grow. Salt once every few years works but make sure you thoroughly flush it out with water.


2. VINEGAR AS A WEED KILLER: A number of people have asked me over the years about the use of Vinegar as a weed killer. Industrial strength vinegar (20%) makes a good organic weed killer that will kill everything. It is not selective so should not be used on desirable plants or in the lawn unless you want to get rid of grass as well as the weeds like glysophate (Round-up or Kleen-up) does. At this strength the user needs to be careful because it will burn your skin if accidentally spilled. Regular household vinegar (5%) is not strong enough to really get rid weeds.


3. BORON FOR CONTROL OF CREEPING CHARLEY: Boron was recommended in the past for the control of Henbit and Ground Ivy (creeping charley). When used correctly it will help and it is easy to mix using “20 Mule Team Borax” soap and water. Iowa State University researched the use of Boron on creeping charley and recommended its use and a recommendation about the amount of soap to a gallon of water. They stopped making this recommendation and encouraged others to stop using this mixture because consumers had a strong tendency to misuse the recommendation by mixing the solution too strong or applying too much or too often. The use of this solution too often or too strong meant the addition of too much Boron into the soil. We want weeds to be die right now and not come back next spring. When this does not happen we make the weed killer stronger or apply the solution more often.

          Boron is a micronutrient needed by plants but it can be toxic to plants and kill what you are trying to save. Most of us are impatient when dealing with weeds in our garden. It takes about two or three years to really get rid of Creeping Charley regardless of the chemical used. The current recommendation by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln turfgrass specialists is to use a herbicide containing Triclopyr in the fall. I use three applications of a Trimec solution containing Triclopyr starting in early October. The second application is put on about two to three weeks later and the third two weeks later. The air temperature needs to be at least 50 degrees F. when applied and for at least 4 hours after application. I also use a sticker/spreader to help the solution stick to the leaves of the plant.

          Once you see the flower on Creeping Charley in the spring, no matter what you do, the flower will produce seeds that will germinate in the fall and produce small plants that will grow all winter under the snow and flower in the spring. Spraying in October will kill those new little plants along with the “mom” plant and in two to three years you should have it under control. This is also the best time to go after dandelions for the same reason. When using a herbicide, find out the best product to use and the best time of year to use for maximum effectiveness.


4. NICOTINE AS AN INSECTICIDE: Nicotine is a chemical found in tobacco. The use of nicotine as an insecticide also goes way, way back to an era before we had the insecticides we do now. It is an effective insecticide on many insects. However, there have been restrictions put on its use because it can be very toxic if misused. We still have some products on the market with nicotine in it so be very, very careful if you choose to use them. Some writers and radio horticulturists still recommend the use and the mixing of tobacco juice with other products for the control of insects. The problem with many of these home remedies is from the reality we do not know how strong the solution is so it can be so strong it is very toxic or is so weak that it is not effective. With an unknown strength we also do not know what effect the solution will have on the plant. You could kill the plant you are trying to save.


5. SALT AS A DEICER: Salt (Sodium Chloride) is effective to melt ice, is the most prevalent deicing chemical, and in general, has the lowest price tag of all deicers. Rock Salt is Sodium Chloride (NaCl) and best saved for use next 4th of July when you make home made ice cream. Also be careful using a deicer product you get at the hardware store or grocery store that is high in Sodium Chloride (NaCl) as one of the listed ingredients. Above I talked about the harm salt can do to your asparagus garden if you are not careful so will not repeat here. Apply what I said to your lawn or plants next to the drive or sidewalk if you are not careful in the use of deicers.

          If you choose to use a deicer make sure you use it properly. According to the University of Nebraska -Lincoln Extension the primary function of deicers is not to completely melt snow and ice but can facilitate snow and ice removal by lowering the freezing point of water. Deicers melt down through the ice or snow to the hard surface, then spread out underneath. This undercuts and loosens the snow making shoveling and plowing more efficient. Once the ice is undercut, mechanical removal is more efficient. Try to slope your drive or sidewalk so any melting with deicer on it will drain away and not onto the lawn or a flower bed. In a future article I will spend the whole time talking about the different compounds and the pro and cons about each.

Copyright 2014