As Colleeen noted in her top 35 ways to succeed at organic gardening, obsessing about being "weed free" will not only drive you crazy, it's also a sure fire way to deprive butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects of a diverse range of food. Nevertheless, most of us do want to undertake some form of weed control--after all, leave nature to its own devices, and soon everything would be a forest.
In veggie and flower beds, it's easy enough to mulch, hoe and hand weed your way to a tolerable balance. (Check out Josh's advice on how to make mulch from fallen leaves - Fall will be here before you know it!) But what about driveways, paths and other hard surfaces? Surely, that's where the roundup comes in useful?
Not so fast - even here you have some alternatives. If it's simply a case of a few weeds between pavers, you can try digging them out with a knife, or pouring boiling water over them. For larger spots you might try Burnout - a natural weed and grass killer made from clove oil, vinegar and lemon juices - but be warned, it takes repeat applications and is best used on young plants. I've had little luck once the suckers have got established.
IF the above solutions still ain't cutting it, it might be time to get industrial--organic farmers have been using industrial-strength propane torches for chemical free weed control for years. Models range from the cheap ($30), to the expensive (several hundred dollars)--but from reviews on the internet, it seems like it is worth splashing out on a unit that has some kind of system for transporting the propane tank. Red Dragon is a leading brand of flame weeder, and their range includes a backpack model that I have my eye on. Something about strapping a tank of flammable liquid to my back appeals to the boy in me...
Of course it goes without saying that flame weeders are not without their own impact - propane is a fossil fuel and burning it releases greenhouse gases. But it avoids the chemical runoff associated with herbicides, and the energy involved in manufacturing them.
But before you decide that eco-friendly weed control gives you the excuse to let your inner pyromaniac free, consider one more option - EcoGrid permeable paving allows a durable hard surface for walking or driving, and yet allows plants to grow right through--essentially you could have a whole driveway full of weeds if you want!
Want to create the perfect eco-nest? Get the nuts and bolts (pun intended!) on building green on Planet Green TV's Renovation Nation.