5 Cheap Weed Barrier Alternatives


5 Cheap Weed Barrier Alternatives

I’m very forgiving when it comes to weeds. But because I use the square foot gardening method and garden in raised beds, I rarely have to deal with many invading plants.  Still, there are some spots in my garden when I need to keep weeds out. Since landscaping fabric is pricey, I stick to these cheap weed barrier alternatives instead.

Cheap Weed Barrier Alternatives

Here are some of my favorite cheap weed barrier alternatives—some won’t even cost you a dime!

What’s a weed barrier, you ask? Weed barriers are often placed at the bottom of a garden box or bed. After you place the barrier, you pile on the dirt, plant your seeds or starts, and you’re all set. The barrier ensures that weeds and grabby nearby tree roots don’t invade your garden and steal nutrients.

But weed barriers, especially landscape fabric, can be expensive. So here are a few frugal ways to keep out weeds without hurting your wallet.


When I started my current garden, I was so excited to add dirt to my brand-new raised beds that I completely forgot to add a weed barrier layer. Fast forward a year or two, and my plants ended up battling nearby cedar roots for nutrients.

What a disaster!

Over time, as the dirt level decreased, I decided to add a layer of cardboard and start from scratch with a new batch of soil, compost, and vermiculite. Since then, I’ve had way fewer problems with nutrient deficiencies. I also learned a valuable lesson: always use a weed barrier!

Plus, using cardboard is a great way to get rid of boxes piling up in your house. If your recycling bin can’t handle the volume of packages you receive in the mail, consider using that cardboard in the garden. Ideally, you’ll add a few layers for good measure.


If you don’t have access to cardboard or can’t afford landscape fabric, mulch is a great way to keep weeds at bay. My favorite type of mulch is straw or coco coir. By suffocating weed seed, mulch ensures your plants get all the light and nutrients.

If you want free mulch, consider asking nearby farms if they have any extra straw they can give away. Or, shred fallen autumnal leaves for mulch. Leaf mold is both a free and eco-friendly mulch!


Another cheap weed barrier alternative is newspaper. Of course, you’ll need to be getting the newspaper for this to be a cheap solution. You wouldn’t want to have to subscribe just to use the weekly news report as a weed barrier in the garden.

(But I’m strongly for supporting local journalism enterprises! So if you’re on the fence about subscribing, you should know that you can indeed use newspaper as mulch and a weed barrier.


When I moved into my home, the front yard garden was filled with small rocks. I hated them with a passion. I tried hard to remove them, but I quickly realized that doing so was going to be harder than I thought. Since then, I’ve used the tiny rocks as a weed barrier for smaller garden areas. What I like about rocks as a weed barrier is that they are great for improving drainage in an area that’s otherwise prone to getting waterlogged.

If you have an abundance of gravel from a landscaping project, consider using it as a bottom layer for your garden beds. If you use rocks, though, make sure you’re sure about your garden’s placement. They’re a pain to remove!


Burlap is a little pricier than the other options on this list, but it’s more eco-friendly than landscaping fabric. And, if you know someone who has recently had a shabby-chic wedding, ask them if you can have their leftover burlap tablecloths. Order Burlap here.

Should You Use Diesel To Kill Weeds?


Should You Use Diesel To Kill Weeds

Should you use diesel to kill weeds? Short answer: Nope.

Weeds can be annoying. They compete with other plants for nutrients and can turn a pretty, organized garden into a patchy mess. Still, I’ll continue to stand up for weeds. Some of the plants we consider weeds are actually beneficial. They offer up food to hungry pollinators and beneficial bugs. True weeds are plants that have been introduced to an environment in which they have no natural competitors or predators. That means they grow unchecked and sometimes harm habitats and ecosystems.

BUT. Even with true weeds, I’m wildly hesitant to recommend something toxic like diesel. As someone who tries to do their best to grow organically, the thought of using diesel anywhere near my garden fills me with dread.

Can you use diesel to kill weeds?

Some people might recommend that you use diesel to kill stubborn weeds. This tactic is often recommended for lawns littered with weeds. I don’t think we should be wasting valuable resources on curating green lawns that have no purpose. Second, even if you’re using it on a non-edible surface, know that diesel is highly toxic and can contaminate nearby areas.

If you’re growing anything edible, stay away from toxic substances like diesel.

You also run the risk of harming animals and beneficial insects like bees and butterflies. With bee and pollinator populations on the decline, it seems incredibly risky and irresponsible to use a toxic substance just to get rid of a few weeds.

“But my weed problem is terrible, and I heard I could use diesel to fix it!”

There are plenty of other ways to tackle pesky weeds. Getting rid of weeds isn’t easy, but if you want a hobby to replace your leisurely walk in the park, gardening might be the wrong choice. Additionally, diesel is pricey and flammable! You’ll do better by spending your money on something else for the garden.

Gardening is an approachable hobby because it’s simple to get started with some dirt and some seeds. But to turn a landscape around involves a lot of work. You can be a frugal gardener, but any kind of digging in the dirt requires some form of effort.

Other ways to get rid of weeds

If you can’t use diesel to kill weeds, what else can you do?

Here are a few ways to get rid of weeds in an environmentally friendly manner:

  • Mulch. My favorite way to suppress weeds is mulch. It not only suffocates most weeds but also helps beautify beds and provides a uniform blank slate.
  • Stop over-digging and tilling. Most weed seeds sit beneath the surface and won’t sprout unless exposed to sun and moisture. Minimize digging and tilling to prevent unearthing hidden weed seeds.
  • Target your watering efforts. Get rid of the sprinkler. It’s a waste of water and money. Use targeted irrigation systems to get water to your plants. No desire to budget to set up an irrigation system? When you water by hand, don’t water where there are no plants. Empty spaces don’t need moisture! All you’ll do is help the weeds along.

Read More

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Ten ways to get free plants for your garden

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How to Use Baking Soda for Weed Control


How to Use Baking Soda for Weed Control

I’ve dealt with some nasty weeds in my day. I’ve also tried a lot of methods to get rid of said weeds. A lot of those so-called “tried-and-true” methods are actually bogus. Like so many gardening pieces of wisdom, a lot of weed control tricks aren’t really useful. What about baking soda for weed control? Does it work?

Baking soda’s many uses

always have a box of baking soda in my cupboard—usually two, in fact. Baking soda has many uses. It’s a frequent baking ingredient. It’s great for sopping up urine stains (something I have to deal with sometimes as a dog owner) and it deodorizes almost like magic. I also always have a box in the fridge to deal with stubborn smells that permeate from containers of leftovers.

But does it work for killing weeds? Can you use baking soda for weed control?

Baking soda in the garden

I have a love-hate relationship with weeds. I genuinely believe that some weeds are lovely. Dandelions, for instance, are a treat and I love how they attract dozens of bees to my garden. Invasive vines, on the other hand? Kill them with fire! Or maybe baking soda?

Here’s the deal. Baking soda is not a magic weed killer. Don’t believe the hype. It contains sodium, which will surely kill weeds if you pile on the stuff. But, salt is also going to harm other green living things around your garden. Salt can also leech into your soil and can cause harmful runoff.

TLDR: It works but it can also cause problems.

It seems like a harmless substance, but I don’t recommend it for use in the garden. There are plenty of better ways to deal with weeds.

Baking soda alternatives

Here are a few alternatives to using baking soda for weed control.

  • Landscape fabric. Prepare beds with landscape fabric to prevent weeds from popping up in the first place.
  • Plastic mulch. Plastic mulch is another easy-to-use alternative that can easily suffocate weeds.
  • Organic mulch. Good ole’ organic mulches like wood chips and straw can help prevent weed growth. If you have a bed infested with weeds, though, don’t use mulch until you’ve pulled out most of the invading plants.
  • Your hands. If you’re dealing with a minor weed infestation, just use your hands or a trowel to dig the weeds up by the roots. Remember to dig up the whole plant or else it’ll pop up again.
  • Cardboard. Lay down cardboard before planting to prevent weeds from growing back.
  • Get some chickens. Chickens won’t selectively pick out weeds for you but they will eat the remnants that you’ve pulled up. That way, you won’t have to find a way to dispose of them.

Quick tip: Never toss weeds into your household compost. You can contaminate your garden this way!

While I have you here: if you really hate those dandelions. I suggest not letting them go to waste. Pick them and use them to make tea.

5 Ways to Banish Weeds Without Breaking the Bank

ways to banish weeds

I’ve got a little bit more work to do than usual this spring because of the mistakes I made when installing my raised beds five years ago. I was eager to get started and didn’t think I’d have issues with weeds since my beds were waist-high. I assumed I’d have to deal with the occasional weed, but in my haste, I never thought about what the roots of nearby cedars might do to my precious growing space. My initial error meant I needed to come up with cheap ways to banish weeds. 

Dealing with Weeds in my Garden

Fast-forward to last season, when I dealt with nutrient deficiencies. I was left scratching my head. What was going on? Why was my soil quality so poor? I spent plenty of time amending the soil each season and made sure to add compost and never over-fertilize. What was I doing wrong? Why was one bed more affected than another? It turns out the cedar hedge roots that border my garden were infiltrating one of my garden beds (the one closest to the hedges). I needed to find a quick solution to a problem that would only get worse over time. 

First, we trimmed back the hedges significantly, and then I got to work devising a plan to create a whole new layer of healthy soil. Last fall, my husband helped me cover the existing earth with leftover garden stones (cracked and broken and no longer of use in the yard). We layered stones, dead leaves, and cardboard, leaving a few inches that would need to be filled with soil mix in the spring. These past few weeks, I’ve slowly been topping up the raised beds with soil and compost. Here’s hoping I don’t encounter any issues this season! I trust I’ve rectified my mistake.

Don’t make the same error! Banish weeds and tree roots with the following tips:

Use Elevated Planters or Containers

Are you worried about tree roots getting into your raised planters? Don’t set them right on the ground. Build elevated, table-top planters or use movable containers to grow edibles and ornamentals. 

Put Down Cardboard

Cardboard will eventually break down, but it’s a useful tool for blocking out pesky weeds like dandelions that seem to pop back up each year without a care in the world. 

Use the SFG Method

If you’re looking for a planting method that limits weeds, try the square foot gardening method. The close spacing between plants acts as a kind of mulching mechanism to block out weed growth. It’s also super easy to spot weeds in an SFG plot because the invader is clearly the odd one out.

Mulch, Mulch, Mulch

Mulch with wood chips, coco coir, straw, leaf mold, or shredded paper to conserve moisture and eliminate weed growth around your plants. Careful, don’t mulch too much. Too-thick a layer of mulch can suffocate plant roots in addition to weeds. 

Lay Down Newspaper

Don’t have cardboard boxes lying around and need a cheap, easily accessible alternative? Use shredded newspaper as mulch or sheets of newspaper to block out weeds when starting a new garden bed.