Can you control weeds without using chemicals?
Yes, you certainly can, and should.
Best Maintenance Practice (BMP)would first be able to identify that weed to find out why it’s growing there, and adjust your practices. Second would be remembering, “If it’s green, mulch it, if blooming, bag it”. That would be “mechanical removal” of your weed issues. Removing the bloom, no future seeds to spread as you cut or pull them. Green weeds can go in the compost if they are annuals. Never put perennial weed in compost, they will root and love the compost!
First part would be the ID of the plant. There are several websites that give a good ID of the weed and what it likes to grow in. One in particular is, http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/lawn-care/lgen/what-the-weeds-in-your-lawn-are-telling-you.htm
With this information, simply correcting your feeding times, cultivation, and maintenance of a lawn, garden bed, etc., can help eliminate those “out of place plants”. Timing is a factor, as well as watching the climate around you. For example, those who feed anything after first freeze, or before last freeze, the fertilizer is not taken up by the plant intended, and could in fact, run off into areas not wanted by rain or snow melt, feeding areas where weed seed is waiting. Lots of rain or snow provides excess nitrogen as well as acidic conditions, lowering the Ph of the soil, allowing certain weeds to germinate. Heavy rain and snow also aid in compaction of soil, and some weeds love that and propagate well.
Infrequent or erratic watering and feeding out of sync, can let certain weeds grow, only to try to correct the conditions around them, so are Dandelions and Clover actually bad? They are just trying to help, and are markers telling you what’s up, or down, really. Adjusting your mowing habits like changing direction each time you mow, can increase the lawns growth and health, as well as lessen compaction. Crabgrass, Bermuda and Moss, are great indicators. Think about it, most folks start in the same spot, and end in the same spot. The weight of the mower on those slim wheels and your footprint, compact the soil. I have shown some clients to go 90 degrees the next mowing, and could feel the “wagon rut” feel in the lawn from their past cuttings. The other mistake some make, is confusing the timing of aeration and de-thatching. Aerate in the early Fall and de-thatch in Spring. Get it wrong and weeds will love you.
Winter time, if you use any form of Ice Melt on your sidewalks and driveways, apply some gypsum as well. If you live where the county plows roads, and spreads chemicals, watch your property line at the road. The salt in the chemicals tightens up the soil and squeezes the roots until they die. Then weed seeds will scream up from the ground. Gypsum will help keep the soil “perking” to allow the soil to drain down to the roots, works great on your hilled veggies and slopes too.
Applying too much lime or washing a deck or patio with bleach…. Both will raise the Ph and cause your acid loving plants to become Chlorotic, and stop feeding, allowing the Alkaline weeds to germinate, like Spurge and Chickweed. Watch your slope run-off towards these shrubs as well.
If you take a moment, and walk your property, you will not only see the slope, sunlight, shade, differences in soil composition, you will understand what weeds grow where, because they are, there. As always, soil samples are a huge tool in getting things under control. My recommendations to clients is get a few samples done in different areas, sun, shade, bottom and top of slopes. Different things happen in those extremes, and a “one thing cure” just isn’t reality. So use the chart on the link I provided, or find your own in your zone, it will help you lessen the chemical usage on your property just by watching those plants that don’t know how to grow in a straight line, aka, weeds!!
BTW, I am here now. Kevinsgarden