April 30, 2009


When we moved into our house, we inherited a beautiful yard maintained by the president of the neighborhood gardening club. Now, I don't have a black thumb but it's not green either. Maybe yellow? The first summer we were in the house, maintenance was easy. But as time has gone on, well, the pressure is mounting for me to maintain the yard and it's getting a little tougher. And this spring, the weeds have moved in and taken over.

I decided to nuke the yard. I did a little research and found the recommended weed killer at Home Depot, got it home and read the label. And, of course, what I read horrified me.


That's when I decided that I didn't want to put this shit on my lawn.

I'm not green. I like to think I am, to say I am, but I will admit to you now - somewhat ashamedly - that I am green when it is convenient. I want to be greener. I actually have this grand plan to put solar panels on the house, start composting and setting up a system for gray-water reclamation. And if it weren't such a pain in the ass, I'd do it tomorrow. But reading the back of the weed killer bottle kinda freaked me out. I hate the weeds, yes, but I'm not sure poisoning my backyard - to the point at which I have to dress in a nuclear fallout-safe suit - is the way to go.

So I've got some questions for you:
- How green are you? And do you strive to be greener?
- What the fuck is this weed and how do I kill it and it's brethren without nuking my yard or killing all the furry creatures who inhabit my neighborhood?


Posted by Chris at April 30, 2009 8:16 AM

T and I are moderately sustainable. We recycle everything, carpool a lot of the time and are not wasteful when it comes to water, plastic, etc. There are a LOT of things we could be doing a LOT better, but we strive for that each day.

As for your weed, I don't know the variety. It looks like stuff that used to grow in the fields around my house growing up. An eco-friendly solution is extra strong vinegar. Use the stuff straight up, right at the root and don't be afraid to use a lot.

I can't wait to hear what other people say they use!

Posted by: Arwen at April 30, 2009 8:40 AM

I try to be green, but I think I would be greener if some of it wasn't so darned expensive! We are installing rain barrels this week, and I try to be green at least in my cleaning supplies and body care. The chemicals we put on our body to look pretty can be a little frightening!

I think that weed is creeping charlie, it looks like what we have in our yard (in Minnesota). If you find a way to get rid of it, let me know, I've been fighting it for 4 years now...I think I will try the vinegar thing!

Posted by: Colleen at April 30, 2009 8:52 AM

I get that crap from time to time in my yard...it's very invasive VERY!! ya kinda have to napalm it, but seriously I used scotts weed and feed that attatches to your hose and it killed all the bad stuff and my yard rocked! not sure how green it is but I don't remember wearing a condom...lol

Posted by: becky at April 30, 2009 9:10 AM

I'm super green. I spent twelve years working in a flower shop and love gardening and flowers both, but we have a water shortage in our city and the price of tier 2 and above water usage has tripled. As a result, my lawn is now mostly bark and tinder.

Posted by: Writer Dad at April 30, 2009 9:17 AM

That green stuff is what we lovingly refer to as creeping charlie (or chuck if you're on friendly terms with it) in Iowa. The only way you can get rid of it is if you NUKE it not once...not twice... but 3 times waiting 14 days between each dose. Round-up will not work - you will have to go to a lawn specialist store (we have whats called Earl May here... dont know what you guys have in the big city) and tell them you need the really REALLY potent stuff.

Just a warning though... dont get even get a drip on anything you want to save that isnt grass because it will die instantly. The spray we use doesnt hurt the grass but will kill hosta like its been blasted with agent orange.

Posted by: Laurie at April 30, 2009 9:20 AM

I must say, at least from the photo, it looks like a very pretty weed to me. Maybe you can just say you are growing wildflowers? Too lazy?

We are moderately green. We recycle, try to use cloth napkins and towels instead of paper, bring our own bags to the grocery store (not as good about it with other shopping), get to work via public transportation (him) and good old-fashioned walking (me), and try to freecycle or donate rather than trash a lot of items. We also live in a "green" apartment building, but didn't choose the building on that feature or seek it out for that reason.

Posted by: stephanie at April 30, 2009 9:25 AM

I'm fairly green in some respects. Wish I were greener. I don't always remember to take my mug with me to starbucks. Sometimes I enjoy the ten (plus) minute shower. I can't give up my dryer in favor of line drying my clothes (allergies).

But, beyond that, I am the QUEEN OF RECYCLING.

Posted by: sarah at April 30, 2009 9:51 AM

Ha! I loved that! Especially the "Danger Will Robinson!"

We haven't owned our own place in a few years, but when we did, we hired The Green Drop to help us with weeds. They sprayed something on our lawn that would supposedly kill weeds AND not poison us, our offspring, or the environment. They also had some kind of guarantee and were pretty cheap. I just checked online and they have locations in the states so maybe check into it? It's www.greendrop.com. Best of luck!

Posted by: Shannon at April 30, 2009 9:54 AM

I agree creeping charlie... we have in Indiana too. My son like to pick and give me the flowers. Why do weed flowers draw small children to them??? Smart weeds, eh?! Any who, we have also been fighting this and oy the dandilions/"puffy dandilions" (that's a technical term) are horrible this year. Basically my husband just mows them down. I do some weed pulling when I see a particularly henious weed taking root but the most part I read or heard somewhere that weeds are actually okay. That killing them all is like killing a habitat. What habitat that is, I do not know BUT in nature there are no perfectly GREEN grass fields so it is natural to have some weeds. I would pull them at the root as you can. The crappy part about that creepy charlie stuff - the root system is f***ing nutso.

Green. Hmm, well we do not use weed killer though every neighbor around us seems to which sucks. I am more of the pulling of the weeds kind of gal as I suggested. We compost like mad from Spring through the fall. Love it. Cuts your garbage by more then half! I want a rain barrel so badly but our drains are all buried which would mean riping things up and out and we have no desire to do that so I must let that one go. I use green cleaning products in the house and I use clothes to windex the windows rather then paper towels. We reuse a lot of stuff, recycle as much as we can and limits the air/heat being on if it does not need to be. We use those scary mecury long lasting light bulbs. I buy mostly organic... I tried doing local or just US produced materials but it is hard and time consuming which is something I do not have right now. We hit the farmer's market and the local co op for a lot of food. That is about it.

I ebb and flow with the green thing. Some times I get hard core and other times I have no energy for it and I just do what I need to do. I would say I am moderately green in the house and probably more hard core outside in our yard.

Posted by: Christina at April 30, 2009 9:59 AM

I TRANSPLANTED Creeping Charlie into my lawn. A friend had it, I admired it because I assumed it was a groundcover, and the I planted it in one of my beds. It is everywhere now. I can attest that even a molecule of the root turns into a new creeping Charlie the next season.

Posted by: TheQueen at April 30, 2009 10:07 AM

Quite green, but probably not green enough. We do NOT put non-organic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers on our lawns. Just look at the Mississippi River Delta and the oxygen-smothering bacteria there for proof that non-organic chemicals are horrifically bad for the ecosystem. Good job for not doing it, Chris!

As for me and my household, we get out there on our hands and knees with a trowel and I sever the roots on the weeds. I do it several times per week, and I enjoy it because it soothes my OCD.

Posted by: Casey at April 30, 2009 10:12 AM

See, this is how you know I'm a city girl through and through, because I see that picture and I think it just looks pretty. Seriously, I wouldn't have known it was a weed if you hadn't said something.

And I'm only kinda sorta green, mostly when convenient, like you. :-( But yeah, label warnings like that freak me out too.

Posted by: Fraulein N at April 30, 2009 10:16 AM

We're average green. We recycle, save energy and water where possible. Essentially we're just conscious of our actions.

One thing I heard from a lawn service was that some weeds need to be roughed up (like rubbed with your foot) before spraying. I know that sounds kinky, but I'm sure you're not opposed to that type of thing.

Posted by: Brad at April 30, 2009 10:17 AM

Without chemicals, the only you thing you can do is to remove it by hand....that is what we do. That kind of weed may not respond to any organic chemical. Is it in your lawn or in your flower beds? If it is in the flower beds, remove as much of the roots as possible, dig out the dirt, and refill. If it is in the lawn, pull up as much roots as possible and get your grass growing strong to choke it out as much as possible.

We stopped using chemicals on our lawn many, many years ago. Our lawn is not a brillant green hue like our chemlawn neighbors, but it is nice and I feel better about my kids playing in it and the run-off water that goes into our drinking water.

Posted by: Jen at April 30, 2009 10:25 AM

Here's some food for thought: First, a recent tweet from a local environmentalist, @tomkimmerer. "Want to rid your lawn of weeds instantly? Declare all plants in your lawn desirable, ergo they are not weeds."

Second, here's a link to an article in our paper about an author who grew up here. I think you'll find it interesting. http://www.kentucky.com/150/story/765248.html

We try to be as green as possible. We could do more by, say, walking to the grocery (but hello, gallon jugs of milk, half a mile) and using our bikes more, but here's what we do do: compost, use reusable shopping bags, recycle, participate in a CSA, shop locally as much as possible. I plan to set up a clothesline soon, and we're thinking about a rain barrel too.

We have dandelions, clover, and violets in our yard. And we really like to watch the rabbits eating the stuff. There's one especially who's not afraid when we go outside. Sometimes we just hang out in the yard together. That's priceless.

Posted by: Alison at April 30, 2009 10:34 AM

well, http://www.extension.umn.edu/gardeninfo/weedid/idlist.html says that a chemical free way is to "Increase sunlight to improve turfgrass growing conditions and competitiveness" and basically to yank it up as often as possible.

If that's not working for you, I suggest turtles. Buy a big bunch of turtles and have them live out there and eat it.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 30, 2009 10:46 AM

We are very green in some aspects, others not so much. We have stuck with a lawn company for years to do all the tending, spraying, to have a nicer looking lawn. I hate the darn chemicals, but I haven't gotten around to investigating how hard it would be too go green with our lawn.

We recycle everything. Cans, bottles, plastic, cardboard, plastic bags, and anything that we no longer need. I hate throwing anything in the trash that someone might be able to use.

We haven't gotten around to composting yet and I have dreams of a environmental friendly home someday.

Can't you just chop that weed down and rototill it?

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at April 30, 2009 10:57 AM

It looks a little like stink weed, but I don't really know. Roundup & "weed n feed" doesn't work. It works temporarily, but they come back. Like OCD Casey up there, I get down on my knees & pull the crap out of my dandelions. It's the only way. Plus it's satifying (right up until you go insane b/c they JUST DON'T STOP).

You could just tell the neighbourhood kids that it's highly addictive & hallucinogenic and not to touch it. That should make it disappear fast.

Posted by: harmzie at April 30, 2009 10:59 AM

Chris, We are very green around here and you can be green and lazy (like us!) As for the weeds you can go old school -- get out there and pull it up (by the root) do it after a rain so the ground will be soft and work early in the morning so it's not too hot. You can also use vinegar to treat the area after you pull the weeds. I would also recommend that you start applying Corn Gluten to your yard Spring and FAll. It doesn't hurt anything (get it at Merrifield) and studies in the Midwest showed that after 3 years of regular application weeds were eradicated by 80 or 90%. You could also get some goats :) I'll be posting green living tips over the next couple of weeks.

Posted by: marylea at April 30, 2009 11:01 AM

i have similar thoughts. as much as a nice yard looks good, if i can't feel good about my kid rolling around in the grass, i don't want it. i spend the extra time weeding the yard just to not have to spray it.

and yet, after switching to all "green" laundry products that are clearly shredding my clothes, i am tempted to go back to the good old fashioned "toxic" products that leave clothes feeling soft and keep the color on them. sorry, planet :)

Posted by: kati at April 30, 2009 11:17 AM

that looks like something we have in our backyard... I had heard the same thing about vinegar so I'll be trying that soon!

Posted by: Sue R at April 30, 2009 11:22 AM

I apparently am more green than I think I am, cause it's such a huge thing in Portland. I'll find a link to good article with some easy was to go greener for you :)

Posted by: Katie at April 30, 2009 11:26 AM

I think you mean,

What is this "native plant" and how do I properly thank Mother Earth for a leafy friend that thrives without any unnatural efforts?

Posted by: Rachel at April 30, 2009 11:30 AM

I have never had my own garden, I thought people just pulled the weed out... isn't that what they do?
Well done for not using the ultra poisoning stuff, that's very green of you!
As for my green lifestyle: I cycle to work, I use green cleaning products, I chose the products I buy according to the amount of packaging (I buy soap instead of shower gel, etc), I take my shopping bags with me, I buy mostly organic and local for food and cosmetics, I don't tumble dry but I hang my clothe (which incidentally makes them last longer), I wash on cold unless my clothes are really disgusting and I don't eat anything that farts or that comes from something that farts (that's called vegan I believe)... hmmm... I still haven't started a compost bin but will do soon... promised :)

I don't wear sandals and hemp clothes, I'm green but I am cool!


Posted by: Alex at April 30, 2009 11:31 AM

The only way to get away from the nasty weed is to PACK UP AND MOVE. Seriously, the "earth huggy" type of sprays just won't do it. Sorry dude.

Posted by: Tricia at April 30, 2009 12:23 PM

I like to be as green as I can be. I recycle and take back my empties. I try to use reusable containers. But I know I could be and should be greener. I've also started to be aware of how much packaging some things come in and would like to try and stop purchasing those items.

Posted by: Adi at April 30, 2009 12:25 PM

boiling water kills weeds - just get one of those spray steamer things and zap your weeds with it. No harsh chemicals. I read it in a housekeeping magazine.

Posted by: Punkinnoodle at April 30, 2009 12:39 PM

Aaron and I are much greener then the average American. You could say that I'm a bit of a fanatic.

My yard is taken care of completely organically. I generally pull weeds or leave them be. Our garden is completely organic as well. :)

Posted by: Jen R. (aaron-n-jen.com) at April 30, 2009 12:54 PM

Let me put it this way- I work at an office with a solar powered roof, but at the same time, the plants I got from my boss for Admin day died 24 hours after they arrived at my house. So no, I'm not green, but I still work here so I think I should give myself credit for at least working at a place that is.

Posted by: La Petite Belle at April 30, 2009 1:01 PM

Sorry but you must yank them.
I get them in my garden and it's yanking time. Which sucks, but the alternative is roundup, the devils weed (and everything else) killer. Yank 'em and burn 'em.

My dad had a some kind of weed burning device, with was like a mini-flamethrower. I wish I would have inherited it, but alas I didn't. It'd be very handy.

Posted by: Amy at April 30, 2009 1:04 PM

Yep. Creeping charlie. I don't envy you.

I won't purchase any product that has more than "Caution" on the label. (And remember - the label is the law!) Pretty much everyone around here is pro-organic and willing to put in the extra labor that requires.

And I'm thinking that after your big project from hell, a little time sitting on your butt in the yard pulling creeping charlie, would be very therapeutic. And knowing that by enjoying that meditative time you were also protecting your children from harm - priceless.

Posted by: bhd at April 30, 2009 1:43 PM

I had a friend who told me he was all about being green until he bought a home. Then he was all, damn those weeds! and had to get that killer spray stuff that destroys our rivers. Then he was all gotta improve my resell value! and he had to get all new kitchen cabinets when the old ones were perfectly up to the job. I laughed, but I think he is telling the truth.

It's easy for me to spout off about being green, but I drive a pick-up truck and don't own a home. I'm useless.

Posted by: NGS at April 30, 2009 1:45 PM

It is not creeping Charlie, its Henbit.

Posted by: Skye at April 30, 2009 2:21 PM

We don't have any weeds that don't respond to Roundup, so I've got nothing on that front.

We are kinda green. We recycle, we have reusable grocery bags for Ralphs, Target AND Costco that we often forget to use. But we do take the plastic ones back for recycling. When we added on to our house last year, we had the new roof pitched to take advantage of its southerly orientation so we could put panels on the roof. Now we are trying to a) decide whether to lease or buy and b) figure out how to pay for it. I scan my FreeCycle digest every day for things to give away; I have a bunch of stuff to post there and on Craigslist (any one looking for a Pottery Barn couch/chair/ottoman in Ventura County, CA?). I'd like to do more, but I don't know what. I drive solo to work, but I hate people, so pooling doesn't do it for me. My husband works from home, so there's that. We used cloth diapers for 9 months.

That's all I've got.


Posted by: Brooke Habecker at April 30, 2009 2:35 PM

Weeds? Out west, something that green and flowery is called beautiful and we leave it alone.

That said, we have used an Ortho product ...groundclear killer. Kills ALL vegetation it touches. Works like a charm. Totally worth it.

I tell my husband that from a distance, the clover in our yard looks greener than the grass and maybe we should just have a clover lawn. He puts groundclear down anyway.

Posted by: rebecca at April 30, 2009 3:26 PM

I recycle as our town voted that in instead of curb side pick up. We have a great center and sell a lot of our recyclable trash.
I use reusable grocery bags, (cloth ones) because I like them better.
But Hubby is a fruit grower and we do use pesticides on the trees to insure a good crop. Hubby is licensed, and he had to go to school for that.
So we are not really good greeners. But we try.

Posted by: Maribeth at April 30, 2009 4:04 PM

We had that in Michigan. Buy some Scotts Turf Builder with Plus 2 and apply it to the lawn. If you don't want it everywhere on the lawn, then put it in a coffee can and poke holes in the lid. Then go sprinkle it all over the individual plants. This all works best if the lawn is slightly damp so that the grains stick to the plants.

Posted by: Jon (was) in Michigan at April 30, 2009 4:12 PM

Haha! When I first read "how green are you" I was going to tell about our neighborhood which is really old and there's old houses and no sidewalks and my house has been here since 1923 and the grass is the same grass that's been there since then and no one in the neighborhood really gives a shit as to whether they have actual grass or is the crab grass so green that it just looks like grass. And then I realized it was "how GREEN are you" like in an environmental sense!
So I guess you can actually go right back to the first paragraph about how we don't give a shit whether it's grass on our lawn or crabgrass giving it that green-ness!
The most my husband does/did was use his spreader a few weeks ago to kill the grubs. Because with the grubs come the moles who burrow in the lawn for the grubs and then leave these little tunnels that your foot sinks a few inches into the lawn.
So since we do NOTHING to our lawn except mow it, I guess you could say we are SUPER GREEN!
And I don't know what that is, but it's pretty! Can't you just keep mowing over it?

Posted by: NancyJ at April 30, 2009 4:29 PM

I am not green. I drive my car six blocks to work. And mostly, I hang my head in shame. Then I light up a cigarette, pollute the air and forget about it.

Posted by: k8 at April 30, 2009 4:30 PM

Use Scotts weed and feed....and elbow grease and knee cartilage. :)
Seriously, the Scotts sticks to broad leaf weeds and kills them without killing your grass.

I try to be as green as I can...I compost, garden, can food, recycle, and understand your hesitancy to use poisons. But sometimes, especially just to "get a grip" on the weeds I'll use some of the chemical crap and feel bad about it until I notice it working.

Posted by: connie daggett at April 30, 2009 4:52 PM

My husband works for an oil company, I bring my own reusable shopping bags to the Target for groceries. It all evens out, right? Yeah, or something.

As far as weeds, you could do what the cute little old Asian lady who lives down the street from me does. Sit out in the yard in a funny little gardening hat pulling weeds one by one for 19 hours a day.

A few years ago my husband and I bought our first house. It was in mid-town Tulsa, OK. We only ended up living in it for 6 months. The owners before the people we bought it from were gardners. Award winning garden club gardner actually. He had planted all kinds of amazing plants, put in a lovely little koi pond, made it fantastic. Then he sold it. The people we bought it from had done nothing with it and it was a mess. The funny thing was, a few months after we moved in amazing things started sprouting up from the mess, like colorful little aliens. It was great fun.

Posted by: Amanda at April 30, 2009 8:35 PM

Its creeping Charlie if you ask me. And if you ask me how to kill it, I have an answer, but you won't like it very much....

My husband and his brother rented a sod cutter from Home Depot and cut through an entire 20 square yards of our side lawn and then proceeded to roll up all the weeds, the grass and a good 2 inches of dirt. In the fall. In Minnesota. Where is was 20 degrees with some frost but no snow. And in the places that they couldn't get to with the sod cutter, they came inside to use two steak knives to do the rest.... See, you wouldn't like it.

Posted by: nora at April 30, 2009 9:32 PM

Its creeping Charlie if you ask me. And if you ask me how to kill it, I have an answer, but you won't like it very much....

My husband and his brother rented a sod cutter from Home Depot and cut through an entire 20 square yards of our side lawn and then proceeded to roll up all the weeds, the grass and a good 2 inches of dirt. In the fall. In Minnesota. Where is was 20 degrees with some frost but no snow. And in the places that they couldn't get to with the sod cutter, they came inside to use two steak knives to do the rest.... See, you wouldn't like it.

Posted by: nora at April 30, 2009 9:33 PM

I'm green when convenient too, I guess. I care more about what goes in my family's mouths than what I use around the house, so we shop at Whole Foods ...but I still use Cascade dishwasher soap and non-biodegradable furniture polish wipes because they work the best.

As for the weed thing, I'm the wrong person to ask. I'm still trying to find out what these teensy-tiny red bugs are that have taken over my back porch.

Posted by: Amy at April 30, 2009 10:40 PM

I do my best. We recycle, use Method and Seventh Generation cleaning products. I'm far more "natural" when it comes to putting stuff in my body and on my body. Check out www.cosmeticsdatabase.com it's a nice little website that tells you about the chemicals in our products (soap, shampoos, suncare and baby care) the baby section and suncare are particularly frightening and I'm not an alarmist by any means. I have a subscription to Natural Health magazine and it gives a ton of great ideas to go green. I love the idea of the rain buckets under the gutters etc. If I ever buy a house, maybe they will be a part of it.

Posted by: Dee at May 1, 2009 7:56 AM

Get a weed whacker.

But what do I know- I don't have a lawn.

Posted by: jessica at May 1, 2009 11:15 AM

Fucking creeping charlie! We live in Georgia now, but were from Iowa, where it's rampant. The only weed-killers that actually destroy it are the ones that kill everything. We didn't want to use them because of our kids (also our stupid cats who don't seem to understand that they're indoor pets) who love to play outside, so we ended up pulling it up. Slowly, painstakingly yanking out all of those stupid runners. If you have Kentucky Blue or Ryegrass (the most common) you could also overseed to help choke it out. However, without using a toxic fertilizer I know of no way to get rid of it other than pulling it out.
Gabe loved to help us pull it out, he'd full his five-gallon bucket over and over. Go figure.

Posted by: Alicia at May 1, 2009 11:43 AM

I have a floral designer friend who so rightly says that weeds are quite simply regular-old-plants growing where we don't want them to.

My husband is all about the "kill 'em all and make it hurt" weeding mentality. I derive much more satisfaction from pulling them by hand. It feeds my OCD. And hey - it is the hands-down greenest way to weed on the planet! I've got this nifty little hand tool that works like a charm to get at the stubborn roots.

Otherwise, not so green - disposable diapers, chemical cleaning products, food from the supermarket. I am a fanatic about reusable shopping bags, though. And recycling - we have a 95-gallon toter from our village that goes out every week for pickup, while our 65-gallon garbage toter goes out every other.

Posted by: kate at May 3, 2009 3:01 PM

Some time ago, I needed to buy a car for my firm but I did not have enough money and could not purchase something. Thank God my comrade adviced to take the loan at reliable creditors. Therefore, I did that and was happy with my secured loan.

Posted by: RochaThelma at March 14, 2010 6:29 AM

This works pretty well on evil huge tuber weeds and everything else. I grow edible things in my garden and refuse to use chem on my patch earth. Take your boiling water after you make pasta and dump it on the plant. all over it if your lazy or carefully on the roots if you feel up to it. I just huck it out my back door on the worst offenders.

Posted by: Andi at December 18, 2010 3:43 PM