Kill weeds without killing bees
Weeds. They're a challenge that every gardener faces. But before your pick up that bottle of Round Up, let's have a look at some weed management strategies that will kill weeds, not bees.
1. Boiling water
After your morning cup of tea or coffee, take the kettle with any remaining boiling water and pour it over any weeds you'd like gone. This method is great for weeds growing in paths or cracks in concrete. Be careful, boiling water will kill any plant it comes in contact with including those you want to keep.
Selectively burn weeds using a propane flame wand similar to this one sold through the Diggers Gardening Club. Once again, you're not using any nasty chemicals and the weeds will instantly be killed. Don't use this method during the Fire Danger Period, and be sure to have a source of water nearby to be able to quickly extinguish any unwanted flames.
Fill a spray bottle with neat vinegar, pump up to pressurise the bottle and spray directly on the weeds. Weeds will start to die off within 24 hours.
This method is great for larger areas. Use a whipper snipper or brush cutter to cut weeds right down to the ground. Cover the area with flattened old cardboard boxes or newspaper (5 or 6 sheets thick). Mulch can then be applied over the top of the newspaper or cardboard if desired.
This method works best in a full sun area during summer. Cut down weeds to ground level as per the previous method and cover the area with sheet plastic from the local hardware store (or if you're able to recycle some even better!). Any plastic including clear will work. Use bricks, timber or other heavy objects to keep the plastic in contact with the ground and leave in position for about 6 weeks.
After this time, the plastic can be removed and what's left of the weeds can be tilled into the soil. Cover with mulch to avoid the weeds coming back.
6. Elbow Grease
Labour intensive but effective. The key here is to stay on top of the weeds. Remove a few every day. Pull them out completely or if they are young till them back into the soil. If you remove the weeds before they go to seed, you'll significantly reduce the effort required next year!
If you must spray your weeds, please consider the bees by following these tips:
- Don't spray weeds that are flowering. Bees will likely be collecting pollen and nectar from these flowers.
- Don't spray on windy days where the pesticide could drift to other plants which are flowering and bees could be working.
- Spray late in the evening when bees have finished their foraging for the day.
Bees are so important to our environment and food chain and are already under significant pressure caused by pests, disease and climate change. Next time you're doing some weeding give one of the techniques above a try.
If you have any other tips please leave them in the comments below.