Asked on Apr 09, 2015

Ragweed patch, not garden!

by Bunnie
We have a (somewhat large) expanse beside/behind our barn that was formerly cattle feedlot (maybe 10-12 years back). The soil (ok, mostly "natural fertilizer" that's been becoming potting-soil-consistency over the last decade) seems perfect for growing a garden. HOWEVER, every year the entire expanse becomes completely overrun with ragweed and burdock plants!! We've tried tilling and using straw/mulch, and nothing stops them. If it rains for any amount of time (a day or two is enough), the ground is soggy and difficult so I don't go back there, and a day or two later when it's dried a bit and easier to walk on, the ragweed & burdock "plantlets" hare literally a blanket!! Pulling them is futile, they're like the Borg...
Is there ANYTHING that's relatively safe to put on this ground to kill these pesky plants before they become a problem, before planting a proper garden of vegetables? Or do I have to spray repeatedly for an entire season and wait to do my garden there next year? Hubby works for the farmer's co-op, and they don't recommend any of their products for vegetable gardens (and our plot isn't very large, roughly 80' x 120') :(
I know our local farm & home store sells a variety of weed-killers, but this is a widespread epidemic, not just a few random squirts from the hand-sprayer of Roundup will control! There's a product my dad suggested called 2,4-D (an ingredient in Agent Orange - yikes!) but I am still searching for info on whether it's safe to use prior to vegetable planting or not.
Any alternatives or information you may have on herbicides (Iowa, US here) I could use safely would be GREATLY appreciated!!
  20 answers
  • Tammie Housley Tammie Housley on Apr 10, 2015
    Go into your local farm/garden, Co-Op or Tractor store and tell the problem you're having. They should be able to recommend something that would kill the ragweed but leave the ground safe for a garden. You could also try contacting your county agriculture office. Good luck!
  • Janice Victoria Hart Janice Victoria Hart on Apr 10, 2015
    You would be best advised to get a knapsack sprayer and a bottle of roundup or any other glyphosate based weedkiller, to dilute into the sprayer, not the 1 litre spray already mixed ready for use. Glyphosate only works on greenery, once it hits the soil it becomes harmless and you can plant anything you like in the soil. That way you can really go to town spraying it all off and killing it. Have the plants seeded there? If so one years seeding is seven years weeding, so you will have to be determined to get rid of it all. Good luck.
  • Norma Jean Savitsky Norma Jean Savitsky on Apr 11, 2015
    Round up and other products with glyphosate as an ingredient are carcinogens. If possible boiling water will kill them and not poison the ground or the user. Maybe if you have a grill or campfire to boil the water on, it might be an easier task.Good luck and stay healthy.
  • Leslie Hess Quigley Leslie Hess Quigley on Apr 11, 2015
    If you don't want to use chemicals like round up go for borax that stuff kills everything.
  • Sherry Stow Ryan Sherry Stow Ryan on Apr 11, 2015
    Get a pig, really hey will root out even te tinyist bit of any plant. You could also dig up the whole plot and sift it. If you pull ou t the burdocks in the spring bfore the green starts you should get th whole tap root. it can be more than a foot long.. health food store might tell you someone that wants the burdock,it ha any medicinal uses. They would have to dig it all out and you give it away. Ragweed is not native to Maine no I do no want t.
  • Sherry Stow Ryan Sherry Stow Ryan on Apr 11, 2015
    Really a pig would get every bit. fence t I, then sick a pig or to in it about a week, they have tilled it up for you !!
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    • Lois Franklin Lois Franklin on Apr 17, 2015
      @Bunnie As soon as we started moving in (June 20th) and started caring for the pig, my then 4 yr old grandson named him Wilbur and my 15 yr old granddaughter took on the job of feeding him. That was dandy until September. She got off the bus after school and I asked her if she'd fed Pork Chop yet. The look on her face was priceless!
  • Annula lou Annula lou on Apr 11, 2015
    maybe u could borrow a pig, lol but I would suggest covering the plot with a heavy mil of black plastic or tarps... weight it down no sun atr or H2O, soon dead
  • Shirley Midgett Shirley Midgett on Apr 11, 2015
    Unless your county agent has a miracle cure, this is a long term project. Mow it like lawn grass, not as often but stop it from blooming and seeding. Start your garden plot small, weed as needed, and gradually increase it each year while still mowing the remainder.
  • Dorothy Collett Dorothy Collett on Apr 11, 2015
    Here's what I did in our corral to grow cut flowers. First use a no-till method. Every time you till, dig or pull a deep rooted weed, you will be bringing up more seeds into that 3" germination zone. We're talking about seeds that are viable for up to 90 years, they evolved to survive 100,000 stampeding buffalo. I'm not up to that! Second use the black woven landscape fabric on the paths to block weeds. The compacted soil in the path will be easier to walk on and will hold moisture for the plants longer that loose soil. It will not hold water. It will warm the soil in early spring. Do not cover it with mulch or gravel. You will want to pull it up to level the soil every couple of years (footprints, vole and mole runs, tire tracks, etc). Any depression will collect airborne soil and seeds. Pulling large weeds through it is a nightmare. Third plan your beds very narrow and paths very wide. Large plants will shade the plastic. The 3' paths I laid out in the spring were usually about 1' by harvest time in July. Go with wider paths for work carts. Forth consider soaker hoses for watering. Plan the length of your bed to the length of the hose, but not longer than 100'. If you have the water pressure, it is possible to water 2 100' beds at a time using connectors. This is more work to start but very little in the heat of the summer and will be ready for the next spring planting. I did start covering the beds over the winter to prevent chickweed from taking over before planting time. Good Luck!
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    • Dorothy Collett Dorothy Collett on Apr 17, 2015
      @Bunnie I'm glad my experience was helpful for you and brought back those memories. So many times when I tried to explain I get such a blank look. It's not a perfect system, not maintence free (no such thing) but does keep most of the visits to the garden short and enjoyable. I did mulch the beds at least every 3rd year with either straw (put down wet so wind won't move it), or fine wood chips. Now I'm using pine shavings used for animal bedding. Easier to get from farm supply. Packages are easier to haul and handle too. When I shaped my beds and paths, the beds ended up a little higher from mulching every one to three years. So when it rained the water would flow, stand on , finally soak in on the paths. This might explain some of the problems I had with low spots in the plastic. If the beds were lower the water would go there and could cause problems early in the season: would be great during a drought. Over all I did not do much watering. The soil had enough organic material to grab and hold the moisture. I could dig potatoes and garlic without tools. Can you tell how much I loved my gardens? Bet you grandmother did to.
  • Rosemary Hesse Rosemary Hesse on Apr 11, 2015
    I agree Boiling water will do the trick however that is a lot of work to boil and walk back and forth. Get a bottle sprayer from home depot or other that will attach to your hose, and fill with Listerine Mouth wash and Dawn dish detergent. May require several applications or cut down the size of the weed first. This is safe for the ground and any animals. Good Luck.
  • Lisa Sharp Lisa Sharp on Apr 11, 2015
    Vinegar or boiling water will kill most anything.
  • Stella Love Stella Love on Apr 11, 2015
  • Ella Greene Ella Greene on Apr 12, 2015
    I would use round up. It may need applied more than once but does not stay in the soil after seven days, so I think its safe.
  • New Life Nursery New Life Nursery on Apr 13, 2015
    I would put ground cloth down and plant your veggies in raised beds. on top of that. The ground cloth (maybe double it) will keep down the weeds but you can still garden with raised beds.
    • Bunnie Bunnie on Apr 16, 2015
      @New Life Nursery I want to do raised beds eventually, when we can afford it. Too many in-house major projects need finished first! The ground cloth was an idea I'd had as well, but wasn't sure if I was crazy to think it (it's worked great in my flower beds around the house in the past). Seen the idea twice now in the comments, so apparently I'm not crazy after all! :) Good to know!
  • Tam Castro Tam Castro on Apr 13, 2015
    maybe if you covered the area with plastic so the sun could cook it and its seeds...mite take a month but would be worth it in the long run
  • Bunnie Bunnie on Apr 16, 2015
    Thanks everyone. My dad was a chemistry teacher, and a farmer. My husband works for the co-op. I am very educated about the different types of post-emergent herbicides on the market, and their potential dangers. However, Round-Up, etc. ARE post-emergent, meaning you have to spray the foliage AFTER the plant has already begun to grow. I'm actually looking for PREVENTATIVE measures to keep them from growing in large portions of the area so I can limit my need for the sprayed-on chemicals to the few that persevere or are in areas where my desired plants are growing only. The landscaping fabric seems like a viable option, maybe I can find it in bulk somewhere LOL I'm sure after our recent rains I've got quite a few seedlings already growing, however, so I suppose resorting to spraying a few times this spring/summer will be my best course of action, and I'll invest in the fabric covering for next season. I plan on having just a small patch for some tomatoes where I had a garden a couple of years ago near my clothesline (was hoping to either make it flowers, or let it become lawn again after moving the garden, but that can wait a year!). Will leave this question open in case anyone else has an idea, but technically it's solved.
    • Dorothy Collett Dorothy Collett on Apr 26, 2015
      @Bunnie About fabric coverings: Woven plastic mulch can be purchased by the roll (choice of widths ) from FarmTek or length at Morgan Seeds, Fortuna MO. But you can use newspapers or cardboard (less print) with mulch. I liked the rolls of corrgated cardboard used in turkey brooder barns. You do this now after you cut/hoe/clean up the weeds. Just mulching now will help. Mulch: straw (I like to install it wet), fresh animal bedding from farmer's supply, wood chips from the power line company or city maintence yard.
  • Donna Donna on Apr 24, 2015
    Hot white vinegar works wonders, I heat up vinegar and pour it on weeds, they die and do not come back, the vinegar soaks down in soil and the fumes kill off a lot of the seeds, works wonders for killing ants too, we had an infestation of fire ants, in Calif and this is what I use. The black plastic tarp is a great idea too, maybe in combo with the vinegar
  • Robin Miller Cresci Robin Miller Cresci on Apr 24, 2015
    We use Apple Cider Vinegar to kill weeds around our place. Works great. We have found that it works better for us than white vinegar. We have not tried heating it like donna suggests. I have also read and have tried using baking soda on areas where you do not plants to grow. We use this on the cracks in the sidewalk, and it seems to work. We have also read that corn meal works the same way. Have not tried that yet. We do use Corn meal for the slugs and snails though. That does work. I like the suggestion about using weed block on the entire patch. And then use raised beds. Good luck to you!!
  • Ricardo Smith Ricardo Smith on Jul 22, 2020

    One of the tough weed is ragweed that ruined a beautiful garden. but this weed can prevented from growing. If you can stop this before its flower bloom and produce mature seeds then it ca be prevented. If you properly apply fertilizer and weed killer in your lawn this ragweed will go away. There is a popular killer for many types of tough weed made by compare n save, model is 016869. You can try this. To get more information and tips about gardening you can visit