What is a weed?

Pick the Weeds; Ditch the Weed Killer

As spring arrives and the plants wake up, many will be discouraged by the growth of plants they call weeds.  

I recently had an amazing weed volunteer in my yard. The beautiful Desert Globe Mallow produces apricot flowers all season. This one is attracting bees which I have been actively trying to do for the past 2 years to help pollinate my garden. The indigenous people of the southwest used nearly all parts of this plant as medicine.

Of course this plant, like all plants is sequestering carbon from the atmosphere and bringing life to the nearly dead clay soils around my home. So, I have chosen to let this volunteer remain and give me flowers and attract bees all summer long.

But sometimes weeds grow where we don’t want them and we have many options. If you have a landscaping company, they may put down a pre-emergent which prevents weed seeds from germinating, but does not affect plants already growing. When weeds escape this treatment, toxic chemicals are often sprayed directly on these plants.

So-called pet safe weed killers and pre-emergents are not always safe! Do your research! In fact there are very few commercial weed killers that I am aware of that are truly safe. Unfortunately I have seen the effects of these products on some of my patients.

Pet Safe Weed Control Options

If you must get rid of weeds, the safest thing to do is pull them the old fashioned way. But you can also use non-toxic options like boiling water. Vinegar is effective for some weeds as well.

To prevent weeds seeds from sprouting, you can apply a weed barrier which may be a bio-degradable cloth or a layer of wood chips, mulch, leaves or straw. Be sure not to choose cocoa bean mulch as some dogs find his yummy and end up with chocolate toxicity!

Corn gluten meal is something you can apply once your garden is fully established. This one is non-selective so it will kill grasses along with the broadleaf plants. Since it is an ingredient in many pet foods, it is non-toxic (though certainly not species appropriate). In fact using it in your garden is a much better use than in your pet’s food!

Of course, you can do what I did and enjoy those helpful weeds. You can even eat some weeds once you have pulled them. Dandelions, purslane, clover and yellow dock can all be eaten and some of these are very nutritious. Just be sure the area has not been treated with any toxic chemicals recently if you are going to eat your weeds!