In a hot and humid climate such as we have here in Georgia, it’s more important than ever to maximize the time we spend outdoors on lawn care tasks. An increasing number of health-conscious homeowners are gravitating towards organic lawn care methods, including natural methods of weed control. 

But many individuals, however eco-friendly they may be, are equally dissuaded from this chemical-free approach to property maintenance, as it conjures up images of backbreaking — and sweatbreaking — hours under the sun. But with proper education and preparation, the toil and trials of organic lawn care can be minimized and made less cumbersome.

Whether it’s just a few pesky plants or a yard full of unwanted dandelions, an organic approach to weed control can be made more efficient without resorting to harmful chemical means. In this article from Restoration Landscape Company, we’ll address three of the most effective ways to keep your lawn healthy without the aid of toxic solutions or synthetic herbicides. 

It’s Always Sunny . . . When You Solarize Your Soil

Weeds can be effectively and organically controlled with the help of the sun’s thermal energy, and this success is demonstrated extremely well by an environmentally friendly method known as soil solarization. This approach is considered a preventive weed control method, and therefore it is best suited for lawns with minimal weed coverage or for plots that will be completely cleared and re-landscaped in the future. 

To get your lawn feeling and looking better than ever, solarizing your soil is the way to go. 

To successfully complete this organic method of preventive weed control, you’ll need to do the following:
  • Clear the targeted area of land to the best of your ability; do this until all unwanted plants, weeds, and debris are removed to the greatest extent possible
  • Generously water the soil and remaining plants or weeds until the ground is saturated in a sufficient and equal manner
  • Apply a 1-to-4-millimeter-thick layer of plastic — such as a transparent polyethylene cover or a painter’s plastic tarp — over the area, ensuring that all spots you wish to weed are covered with the heat-generating material
  • Do not use white or black plastic, but rather a clear or neutral-colored plastic; white and black will not allow sufficient heat to reach the soil and kill the weeds
  • Take the edges of the plastic film or tarp and bury or stake them into the ground to hold it in place and to trap the underlying heat
  • Leave this plastic layer in place for about four weeks, and ideally during the hottest part of the summer
  • After four weeks or more, remove the plastic
  • Clear out the now-dead remnants of the unwanted weeds and pesky plants
  • Start anew with your refreshed and weed-free organic soil!

Lay Down The Law (Of Your Landscape) 

An alternative approach to organic weed control involves the use of landscape fabrics. These may either be implemented as a starting point for more significantly weed-infested lawns, or they may be used as a supplementary tactic for lawns that did not respond in the desired manner to the soil solarization strategy. Fortunately, regardless of how advanced your weed problem may be, the act of laying down landscape fabrics is practically as simple as turning down a bedsheet. 

Depending on the success of your past procedures and the severity of your weed growth, landscape fabrics will either be step one or step two in your organic weed control process. Landscape fabrics — which should not be confused with plastic and chemically-based barriers — are actually a bit more technologically advanced than their name suggests, with a foundation spun from synthetic-fiber, then mechanically woven and integrated in order to create a semipermeable membrane of ground cover.

Layers of landscape fabric are designed to block or deflect sunlight and to prevent the majority of water and air from reaching the underlying area. This effectively chokes out the weeds and unwanted plant matter until they’re dead and gone, while still allowing enough “breathability” in the fabric to allow the flow of essential nutrients to existing, recently transplanted, and/or newly seeded plants. 

If you use the landscape fabric tactic, be sure to use a decent grade and high quality of fabric — avoid any plastic or  materials — and opt for a reusable variety, if you can find one available. With the landscape fabric method, you’ll inevitably obtain a sense of satisfaction from the act of laying down the reproductive “law” of your lawn. 

To properly and effectively install landscape fabric for the purposes of organic weed control, you will need to do the following:
  • Using a hoe, shovel, or comparable land-processing tool, dig out any existing weeds, plants, grass, or residual debris in the soil
  • Take time and care to remove fully the roots of the vegetation, as these may be able to continue to grow even after the application of landscape fabric.
  • Once all vegetation and debris has been removed, level the soil with a bow rake (also known as a steel garden rake) until the soil is distributed along a plane of equal height
  • Roll out the landscape fabric and cut out a piece slightly larger than the surface you plan to cover (Tip: use small rocks or bricks to weight down the roll and hold it in place as you cut)
  • Using a hammer or heavy mallet, secure the cut piece of landscape fabric with staples driven into the soil, placing the staples about 10 or so feet apart
  • If you intend to place new plants or sow any seeds in the covered plot of soil, make incisions in the landscape fabric to create appropriate openings for these future flora 
  • Lastly, cover your section of landscape fabric with some kind of weed-preventing land cover, such as organic soil or natural wood chips 

Mulch Ado About Nothing

Last but certainly not least, you may wish to use garden mulch as a final step in your weed control process. Mulch is extremely effective in halting the growth of many unwanted weeds and can even stop a fair number of invasive grass species. If you have applied any landscape fabric or heat-generating plastic film, you can feel free to leave these structures in place and cover them directly with your mulch. If you wish to add transplants or seeds in the future, just be sure to cut out any sections of the land-covering material prior to adding the mulch layer.

When using this particular approach to weed control, you will have your pick between two primary categories of material: inorganic mulch and organic mulch. Organic mulches are, as the name suggests, made from ingredients found in natural environments. As a result, their nutrients can improve the composition and health of soil over time, so unless you’ve applied an extremely effective underlayer to halt the growth of weeds, you may wish to opt for an inorganic kind of mulch. 

Inorganic mulches are labeled as such when they are made from pulverized stone, minerals, or manmade materials. Although some inorganic mulch contains petroleum-based particles, many products classified in the same group do not contain harmful chemicals. In general, varieties of inorganic mulch are more effective than organic counterparts in controlling the spread of weeds — and they make for some pretty eye-catching decoration as well! 

The steps to laying mulch, organic or not, are simple: 
  • If needed, remove weeds to the greatest extent possible or apply a landscape fabric layer to the weed-affected area
  • Ensure any other beds of soil you plan to mulch have been cleaned out and watered generously
  • Pour your selected mulch onto your desired plot and spread it evenly in all areas until the average thickness rises to a minimum of 2 inches and a maximum of 4 inches
  • Water your freshly applied mulch until moistened and well hydrated. That’s it!

Work With Restoration Landscape Company For Effective & Organic Weed Control 

Now that you know the general methods behind chemical-free, organic weed control, you may be a bit overwhelmed by how much there is to do, or you’re uncertain how to go about it in the most efficient way. If you’re seeking further assistance, guidance, or expertise in your weed control efforts, or for information about our comprehensive lawn and property management services in the Athens area, please contact our top-rated team of local lawn care professionals at Restoration Landscape Company today!