Frugality in Practice: A Cheap Defense Against Weeds

Spring is here, and that means lawn chores. “Grass is a weed,” my wife and I tell each other. But with 3/5 of an acre, much of it lawn, we have a lot of grass to care for.

Aside from mowing, one of my first tasks every year is weed control. I'm not anal-retentive about this — though I used to be — but I do like to eliminate most of the worst offenders. Dandelions are my nemesis.

A dandelion may look pretty, but it's really a vile fiend.

Many of my friends use Roundup to control weeds in their lawns. I use a weedpopper. People think I'm crazy, but I love the thing. Here's why:

  • It's cheap. Mine cost me something like $5 a decade ago. It's still in excellent condition. How much does Roundup cost?
  • It's quick. It takes no more time to remove a dandelion with my weedpopper than it does to spray it with an herbicide.
  • There's no setup. When you spray weeds, you've got to get your equipment out and fill the tank. When you've finished, you need to rinse everything. With my weedpopper, I pick it up and go.
  • It's safe. Here's the material safety data sheet for Roundup (PDF). I love the “decrease in survival” for the rats. Translation: it kills them. (See Angie's comment below.) I wouldn't let a four-year-old play with a weedpopper, but it's quite safe for adult use.
  • It's effective. It takes a couple days for weeds sprayed with Roundup to shrivel and die (along with the grass around them). The weedpopper targets the weed precisely and removes it immediately.
  • It provides exercise. Yes, to use a weedpopper, you need to be able to crouch and stand, crouch and stand. It's not a lot of exercise, but it's more than I'd get carrying a sprayer.
  • The sense of satisfaction. When I pop a dandelion from the ground, it makes a pleasing ripping noise. I then toss the weed into the bucket with its mates. It's a dandelion graveyard.
Victory!

A weedpopper isn't for everyone, but I do think it's an excellent choice for those with small lawns. (And, obviously, I use it on my very large lawn.) I have a friend who is anal-retentive about his lawn — it's a thing of beauty. He uses a sprayer. I gave him a weedpopper for his birthday last year thinking it might be handy for spot weeding, but he won't use it.

“It puts divots in my lawn,” he says. I've been using a weedpopper for fifteen years (this is my second one), and have never been bothered by unusual divots. But if these might bother you, then a weedpopper isn't a good choice. For everyone else, it's a cheap and useful tool.

More about...Frugality, Home & Garden

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Gaming the Credit System
Gaming the Credit System

I thankfully don’t have a lawn yet, but when I get one, hopefully it will be out in the country where I won’t have to deal with zoning laws and such, and therefore won’t have to worry about the weeds. I like the idea of a natural lawn. Rather than spending a whole lot of time, money, and effort sculpting the lawn into a perfectly flat, evenly green square of grass, I’d rather have the variety and color that comes with letting nature take care of it. If I want to look at a perfectly groomed lawn, I’ll go play… Read more »

Alan Bluehole
Alan Bluehole

And for extra-frugality, you can eat the dandy greens (and everything else, apparently): http://landscaping.about.com/od/weedsdiseases/a/kill_dandelions_2.htm

3 Things About Money
3 Things About Money

I’m with you on the weedpopper, and murdering dandelions is my idea of A Very Good Time. For those of us with cranky backs, there are weedpoppers with long handles – no crouching. Love my weedpopper!

Debbie
Debbie

I’ve never heard of these. I’m going to go look for one. Currently I just yank on weeds with my bare or gloved hands. Unless I let them get too big; then I cut them down with a saw. Currently dandelions are some of the best plants in my yard. I keep the ones that look like yours, though I do pull the ones with much smaller flowers and gnarlier leaves. Gaming the credit system – sometimes you can’t just let your lawn grow wild if you want a variety of plants because some plants will take over your entire… Read more »

J.D.
J.D.

I didn’t have space to expand upon this in the main entry, but in the comments, I can ramble on! When we bought our first house, I was obsessed with keeping our lawn completely weed free. Every week, I would get down on my hands and knees to pull out the minutest weeds. I would cover every square foot of the lawn. It took me an hour or two each time. It was futile. The weeds always returned. Eventually I came to realize that my time was worth more than that. I refused to give into the broadleaf weeds (like… Read more »

Quinn
Quinn

My family was even cheaper. Dad would round up the kids Saturday afternoon, issue a steak knife to each of us, and send us marching into the yards to kill dandelions. Weedpopper? Not in my day!

Allie
Allie

I love dandelions. You can’t get any more cheerful than a bright yellow dandelion.

My horse’s vet recommends leaving dandelions on the lawn so that my horse can eat them. He LOVES them. The vet assures me they are very good for him. I would never go dig them up. My horse would be very annoyed. 🙂

CptofMySoul
CptofMySoul

My yard is all gravel, but I still get weeds! Can you believe that? I don’t think a weedpopper would be efficient since I would have to dig up an area around the weed to get to the dirt. Nope, I’m a Roundup guy.

Angie
Angie

JD, my friend, I have the utmost respect for your financial writing, but you clearly need some help interpreting MSDSs. This chemical is NOT highly toxic to rats, nor any of the animals tested as listed on the MSDS. Of course animal studies are used in order to get a sense of how humans might respond to a chemical exposure. Whatever the shortcomings of that assumption, it’s at least a ballpark figure to consider. Let’s look at the numbers in this document. The only mention of “decrease of survival” is in the studies of pregnant rats and rabbits. The value… Read more »

J.D.
J.D.

Angie, my wife is a chemist, and she’s always telling me that I’m a “soft scientist”. That is, I studied psychology. She makes fun of my lack of science knowledge. I stand corrected.

🙂

Angie
Angie

Didn’t I tell you guys over at the forum that I’m quantitative? Like I was sayin’.

I commend your excellent taste in women, and your wife’s taste in vocation. Please ask her to gently beat you about the head and neck with a graduated cylinder on my behalf.

Adam
Adam

Looks good. Where do I buy one of these on the cheap?

Zachary
Zachary

I also strangely enjoy pulling weeds. It is quite therapeutic, both for the lawn and for me!

Roy
Roy

The lawn was about four acres, I was with my parents and at the time, I had a part time job. Mowed four days and worked three. My view of lawn maintenance was simple. If the green stuff, bluegrass, crabgrass, dandelion and UGP (Unidentifiable Green Plant)was under a certain size, it got mowed. Over a certain size, and with bark , not. I never watered,weeded, or fed the lawn, that would just encourage it and it would have to be cut even more. Always looked forward to a drought season. Somehow, it stayed mostly green and choked out most of… Read more »

savvy
savvy

If you are really cheap, or just misplaced your weedpopper, you can use a medium-large flat screwdriver. Works almost as well, but might leave a bit of a divot.

Sven
Sven

Dandelions are not the enemy… actually, they can be used in the kitchen, which makes them an excellent friend for frugal living. Even better: Since you get them fresh off the land, they’re even healthier than most things you can buy at the grocery store… Let me show you 2 things to do with dandelions: 1) Use the leaves as a replacement for lettuce. Make sure to only use the young leaves, the old ones get bitter. My favorite: Collectthe leaves, wash them, add a little bit of balsamico and walnut oil. Done. 2) Something very few people know, but… Read more »

Adam
Adam

Just work at night and sleep during the day, that way you can’t see them.

brad
brad

If you’re eating lots of dandelion leaves, just be aware that they can be a fairly powerful diuretic, hence the French name for dandelions: pissenlit (literally “pee in the bed.”) 😉

losingsanity
losingsanity

My dad had a weedpopper. He was out in the yard all.the.time the first few years, popping weeds (and he loved it!) After those first few years, there was a dramatic reduction of weeds in the yard – there just wasn’t many seeds to grow into weeds, since the parent plants were gone before they could seed the yard!

John K
John K

I have to say that the weed popper is not for me at this time, but I will certainly keep it in mind. I live in North Central Florida with a sand lot for a yard. I am attempting to start a centipede grass lawn, but it has been slow going. I can only use sulpher once every 60 days to try to lower the pH from its old 7.0 a year ago to a range of 5.0-6.0 So, until I get more grass, if I took out the weeds, I’d have nothing to hold down the soil!!!! LOL! But,… Read more »

Dickey45
Dickey45

Does the popper work on wild green onions? I’ve got a million. Everytime we mow it smells of serious onion.

Angie
Angie

Dickey45, that’s kind of a cool problem. (Have you ever read the young adult novel Holes? I think it was also made into a movie, with ?Sigourney Weaver? Wild onions figure heavily in the plot. You might enjoy it!) The popper is especially good for getting rid of dandelions because those plants have a long, deep tap root. Grabbing the leaves and pulling will generally only net you a handful of leaves, or maybe just a tiny bit of root. I’m guessing that wild green onion is like any other member of the onion family, with a bulb at the… Read more »

Ben
Ben

My parents gave me one of these last year but I’ve been to busy to use it, the weeds are winning 🙂

Christian Pöcher
Christian Pöcher

What is wrong with dandelions? They are really nice and you can even make a delicious salad from the green leaves, when they are still young.

If you want a quick solution for weeds, try a daisy cutter: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/blu-82.htm 😉

SCNR,
Chris

travis
travis

I used to dig them, but they grow in clumps and I couldn’t seem to get them all.

I’ve discovered that the onions can be killed with any of the standard broad leaf weed killers. Before spraying, drag your foot across the plant in order to break the surface of the plant a little bit so the chemical can get in. If you don’t crush it, the onions are fairly resistant, and your spraying will be largely ineffective. You don’t have to do this with other weeds.

Asha
Asha

I just spent yesterday weeding. I was going to pay a gardener to do it, but then my Dad asked me: “Weeding gives you exercise, gets you outside, and is satisfying. Why would you pay someone to do that for you?” Thanks, Dad. Today, my shoulders are pleasantly sore, my yard looks beautiful, and I’ve still got money in my pocket.

pam
pam

Just to play devil’s advocate a bit – I also have a weed popper, but I spray too. In fact, I *have* to spray. I have this tree that dumps literally thousands of seeds on my yard. I mean literally thousands of seeds. I started counting once. I said to myself I’ll pull up a hundred weeds and then I’ll take a break. I barely cleared a couple sqaure feet of garden. The tree is like 80 feet tall so removing it wouldn’t be easy.

pam
pam

Oh!! And one other thing I forgot to mention – I don’t recommend the cheap weed popper. I bought the cheapest one and the head on it broke off. So next time I bought a more expensive one and it’s holding up so far.

Greg C.
Greg C.

I dont care about weeds, but my wife does. If we get any dandelions in the front it is embarassing. I grew up with over an acre and lived down a dirt road. Every lot had at least an acre so we had no neighbors or “street” to impress. I also had to cut the grass with a push mower when I was a kid and I didnt like it too much. I hate all things grass, weeds, plants,etc. My dad made us stay outside all day and do work. So now I like to sit on the computer. Here… Read more »

steve shea
steve shea

If you really want to save money, after you weedpop the dandelions, you can save a few leaves and put them in your salad (they’re really bitter if it gets into summer time though)

Yum!

Or make dandelion wine.

How’s this

Dave
Dave

Dandelions are a plant brought originally from Europe as an edible. They taste great.

The American obsession with laws is ridiculous, however. My opinion is to turn the front lawn into a food garden. If you’re going to weed, at least you’ll get something out of it. zoning reg’s be damned.

Pam
Pam

You’re not make divots. You’re “aerating.” 🙂

Megan
Megan

My feeling is that if you can grow grass, you don’t have enough trees. I have a lot fewer weeds in the lush, shady, fern and moss and azalea areas of the yard than I do in the sunny corner…

Plant some deciduous trees, and save on the weeding, mowing, and your electric bill!

Beth
Beth

Or you could cut the leaves off the dandelions and feed them to your iguana. Leaving the root in the ground means you get harvest after harvest. I am SO jealous of people who have lawns full of dandelions. They’d save a ton of money on iguana veggies. Have you ever looked at the prices on dandelion greens at the grocery store?! (I suppose you could feed the greens to people, instead. They’re a particularly healthy green, full of vitamins and protein, and they’re great in salads.) I’d love free onions, too. Apocryphal fun fact: the idea of having a… Read more »

BillinDetroit
BillinDetroit

In addition to my own yard, I maintain 15,000 sq ft of lawn at our Kingdom Hall. That’s a lawn that I need / want to keep looking like a park all season long. It’s too far away to take care of the weeds manually, so I use a weed & feed in the spring and fall. Weed control is helped by keeping the grass strong. Part of this is to water properly. Part of it is to fertilize properly (NOT heavily … properly) and part of it is to mow at the correct height for the species and time… Read more »

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