Natural lawn care

The winter rains brought beautiful wildflowers, blooming cacti and Palo Verde trees, right along with all those weeds.

by Doreen Pollack — 

The winter rains brought beautiful wildflowers, blooming cacti and Palo Verde trees, right along with all those weeds. It may be tempting to eradicate them using a simple application of herbicides — harsh, toxic chemicals used to kill weeds in agriculture and household gardens — but the adverse environmental effects far outweigh the benefits.

Herbicides are toxic to most mammals (meaning you, me, your dog and your kids), and they are also toxic to the beneficial insects that help keep away harmful pests in your yard and garden. Sometimes herbicides seep into the groundwater causing contamination, the long-term effects of which are not known.

You may instead prefer to pull the weeds by hand or use a hoe. But if there are simply too many or too much physical labor is required, consider trying one of these natural solutions.

Please test any product you are unfamiliar with in an inconspicuous place to be sure it does not negatively affect your lawn or the plants you want to keep.

Natural herbicides

  • Pour one ounce each of gin, dish soap and vinegar into a 32-ounce sprayer, and fill with water. Shake well before each use. Spray mixture only on the weed. Do not spray the grass. The vinegar kills the weeds; the dish soap holds the vinegar in place so it does not run off. This works great on grass or weeds in cracks. The best time to spray is in the middle of the day when the sun is at its peak.
  • Put baking soda on weeds; it will cause them to turn black and shrivel up.
  • Pour boiling water or vinegar on weeds in sidewalk cracks.


  • Make your own compost for the garden. Use an organic citrus fertilizer for grapefruit trees and Epsom salt for hibiscus and roses.
  • Use this solution to water the plants. Combine one tablespoon Epsom salt and one gallon water. Epsom salt is made up of magnesium and sulfate — both vital plant nutrients. Some magnesium-loving plants include houseplants, roses, peppers, tomatoes and potatoes.
  • Recycle eggshells to use on your plants. You have likely heard of “liming” the garden and lawn. Eggshells are 93 percent calcium carbonate (lime), about 1 percent nitrogen and a half-percent phosphoric acid, and contain other trace elements that make them a practical fertilizer. Calcium is an essential plant nutrient that plays a fundamental part in cell manufacture and growth. Most roots must have some calcium at the growing tips. Plant growth removes large quantities of calcium from the soil, so it must be replenished.
  • Recycle your coffee grounds to use in the yard. They contain nutritious sediments that are about 2 percent nitrogen, a third of a percent phosphoric acid and varying amounts of potash (generally less than 1 percent). An analysis of coffee grounds shows that they contain many minerals, including trace minerals, carbohydrates, sugars, and some vitamins and caffeine. They are particularly useful for blueberries, evergreens, azaleas, roses, camellias, avocados and certain fruit trees.

There are many other eco-friendly solutions to keep your yard and garden healthy. Proper plant care will always help alleviate the need to use pesticides and herbicides. And in the long run, these safe and easy solutions mean less time and money taking care of your property. Happy gardening!


Doreen Pollack is the Garden Goddess and owner of Down 2 Earth Gardens, LLC. or 602-275-5368.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 2, Apr/May 2010.

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