Rejoice! I Finally Found a Chemical-Free Way to Combat Weeds


I’ve reached a new state of being, and I owe it all to my front yard. I call it “peak curmudgeon.” Because there’s one soul-sucking Sisyphean home task that drains me like no other — the endless loop of pulling weeds. I try to keep on top of them, but no matter how often I deal, they are there waiting for me again the following week. Weeds leave me muttering and cursing mess. I recently finished a backyard makeover, and at the very tippy top of my must-have list was a weed-free existence. You feel me, I know you do.

As my front yard demonstrates, landscape fabric is a truly terrible non-solution. And since I hate using chemical-y weedkillers, I went in search for something else that actually works. Here’s what I did:

The first step was digging out the old weeds and dirt. Keep in mind that my gate is too narrow to bring in any machinery, so it all had to be dug out by hand. Boo.

This was a big job as we had to go down a number of inches so that, when we later filled in the space with gravel, it wouldn’t spill out onto the sidewalk.

At one point it was all cleared out, then I went away for a couple of weeks, and boom. This happened. Oops.

Good tip: To make sure the ground is even across the yard, stretch some string across the area, securing each end so it’s about an inch or so above the dirt. If it’s really long you might have to use a wooden stake in the middle. Then attach a handy dandy string level (buy one for a couple of bucks at Home Depot) and you can tell if and where you need to dig more.

Finally, the space was all ready to go and we were ready for the crucial next step.

And then here comes the magic: I laid sheets of corrugated cardboard (I’ve also heard that thick piles of newspaper also work well) on the ground across the entire yard, covering as much of the dirt as I possibly could. The more layers the better.

If you come up against an obstacle in your yard, cut a hole in the cardboard. Try to leave as few gaps as possible, because weeds are insidious and will try to escape from any hole, however small.

Once you’ve done that, it’s time to fill er back up. Spread your ground cover of choice right on top of the cardboard. I chose gravel and used the edge of a long 2×4 to spread and smooth the material as it went down.

Speaking of gravel, I went with what’s called screen —it’s the stuff used on Victorian garden walkways and American driveways. The bits of rock are pretty small and interspersed with dirt, so it packs down really well and is easy to walk out.

The final step was packing down the rock with a tamper I rented for the day for about $40.

It’s been about six months since I did the work, and I’m happy to say the weeds are virtually non-existent. Every once in awhile, a little something might pop up — mainly around the edges of the yard, or next to the hedges I’ve since planted (you can see a tiny offender above). I’m in love with it, and couldn’t be happier with the whole thing.

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