Organic Broadleaf Weed Control

Controlling broadleaf weeds organically in your lawn and garden can be challenging, but with the right techniques and tools it is very achievable. Organic weed control focuses on cultural practices that prevent weeds from establishing while promoting healthy turfgrass or garden plants that can outcompete weeds. Strategies like proper mowing, irrigation, fertilization, overseeding, mulching and using corn gluten meal address underlying causes of weed growth and strengthen desired plants. Targeted organic herbicides derived from natural ingredients like acids, oils and plant extracts provide additional control when needed. With a little knowledge and effort, you can keep broadleaf weeds at bay the natural way.

Why Control Broadleaf Weeds?

Broadleaf weeds like dandelions, plantain, clover and creeping Charlie can quickly infest turfgrass and garden beds. These aggressive plants compete with desired plants for water, nutrients, sunlight and space. If left unchecked, broadleaf weeds can take over, reducing the health and aesthetic appeal of lawns and gardens. Controlling broadleaf weeds promotes:

  • Healthier, thicker turfgrass and garden plants
  • More vigorous root systems and drought tolerance
  • Uniform green color without unsightly weeds
  • Soft, lush grass for recreational use
  • Prevention of weed seeds that continually replenish the seed bank
  • Elimination of difficult perennial weeds that spread aggressively

Controlling broadleaf weeds allows the desired plants in lawns, flower beds, vegetable gardens and other cultivated areas to thrive. A variety of organic methods can be used to prevent weeds while eliminating existing infestations.

Cultural Practices That Prevent Broadleaf Weeds

The best organic weed control starts with cultural practices that prevent weeds from getting established while promoting healthy, dense desirable plants that can naturally compete against weeds. Here are some key practices to use:

Proper Mowing Height

Mowing the lawn higher improves turfgrass health. Set mowing height for the particular grass type – around 3 inches is optimal for cool season grasses like fescue and bluegrass. Higher mowing height encourages deeper rooting, retains moisture and shades out weeds. Avoid cutting more than 1/3 of the blade height at each mowing.

Proper Irrigation

Water infrequently but deeply, providing 1 to 1.5 inches per week from rain or irrigation. This encourages deep rooting, which makes grasses more competitive against broadleaf weeds. Avoid frequent shallow watering, which favors weed germination.

Core Aeration

Puncturing the lawn with a core aerator reduces soil compaction and allows air, water and nutrients to penetrate the root zone. Do this at least once per year to encourage healthy turfgrass.


Apply an organic weed and feed fertilizer when grass is actively growing. Look for products containing corn gluten meal, which prevents seed germination of broadleaf weeds. Apply based on label directions.


An annual overseeding improves turf density to crowd out broadleaf weeds. Use a mix of perennial ryegrass and fine fescue grass seeds suited to full sun or partial shade areas. Rake seed into the top 1⁄4 inch of soil in the fall.

Topdressing and Overseeding

Adding a thin layer of compost combined with overseeding improves soil while thickening turfgrass to prevent broadleaf weed germination.

Garden Mulch

Apply 2-3 inches of organic mulch like shredded leaves, grass clippings or wood chips in garden beds. This smothers existing weeds while preventing new weed seeds from germinating. Replenish as needed.

Edge and Define Beds

Cleanly edged and defined garden and turfgrass areas prevent weeds from encroaching where they are not wanted. Use manual or power edging tools to maintain edges.

Following these best practices creates optimal growing conditions for desired plants and limited opportunities for broadleaf weeds to establish themselves.

Organic Herbicides for Broadleaf Weed Control

Inevitably, weeds will germinate and cultural practices alone may not fully prevent infestations. When broadleaf weeds pop up, there are a number of OMRI listed organic herbicide products that can be used to selectively control broadleaf weeds without harming lawns and ornamental plants. These natural weed killers act as plant growth regulators that interfere with processes in broadleaf plants but do not affect monocot grasses. Here are some of the most effective options:

Corn Gluten Meal

This is a natural pre-emergent herbicide derived from corn. It inhibits root development in germinating seeds and small seedlings. Annual application in spring prevents broadleaf weeds like dandelions and clover from establishing. It does not kill existing weeds.

Acetic Acid

Horticultural vinegar containing 20% acetic acid provides non-selective contact weed control. It injures the leaf tissue of existing broadleaf weeds, resulting in desiccation and plant death within hours to days. It must be sprayed directly on actively growing weeds.

Citric Acid

Some products use citric acid from lemons for selective broadleaf weed control. It offers similar contact weed control as horticultural vinegar but is less likely to harm desired plants. Avoid contact with plant leaves and roots of wanted vegetation.

Clove Oil

Clove oil interferes with cell division and other plant growth processes. Spray on actively growing broadleaf weeds. It often requires multiple applications for control. Take care to avoid ornamental plants which can also be damaged.


This chelated iron organic herbicide solution injures broadleaf plant foliage but does not harm monocot grasses. Yellowing occurs within hours and tissue death within a few days. New growth often requires retreatment. Avoid desired plants.

Fatty Acids

Soap-based fatty acids like pelargonic acids disrupt cell membranes causing foliar damage. Effects are often rapid with plant death in 1-4 days but repeated applications are needed. Avoid contact with desired plants.

Boiling Water

Pouring boiling water directly on weeds in sidewalk cracks and driveways provides effective control. It cooks and kills plant tissues. Avoid spreading beyond targeted weeds.

Spot treatment using these organic herbicidal products can provide selective broadleaf weed control in lawns and ornamental plant beds when applied carefully. Follow all label directions and precautions.

6 Must-Have Tools for Organic Weed Control

Having the right tools makes controlling broadleaf weeds much easier. Here are 6 essential tools for organic weed management:

1. Corn Gluten Meal

As a pre-emergent organic herbicide and fertilizer, this is a must-have for spring application to prevent broadleaf weeds. Espoma, Preen and other brands offer good products.

2. Selective Herbicide Sprayer

A spray bottle or pump sprayer designed for herbicide application allows efficient spot treatment. Choose quality to avoid leaks.

3. Weeding Fork

This long handled fork allows removal of dandelions, thistles and other taproot weeds with minimal lawn disturbance. Get deep under the roots.

4. Hula Hoe

Also called a scuffle hoe, this oscillating cultivator easily takes out small weeds by cutting just below the soil surface while Aerating soil. Great for garden weeding.

5. Weed Popper

This tool cleanly removes weeds by using foot pressure to drive a tined head into the ground around the plant to loosen the roots for easy removal.

6. Stirrup Hoe

For larger garden weeding, this hoe blade efficiently slices weeds off at the soil line with a back-and-forth skimming action. Long handles reduce back strain.

Investing in quality tools makes weeding easier and more efficient. They also reduce reliance on herbicides. Keep tools clean and sharp.

7 Key Tips for Organic Broadleaf Weed Control

Controlling broadleaf weeds without chemicals requires integration of several practices. Here are 7 tips that lead to successful organic weed control:

  • Start with prevention – use corn gluten meal and cultural practices that promote healthy, dense turfgrass or garden plants.
  • Hand pull small weeds before they establish deep roots or go to seed. Get the entire root.
  • Use an oscillating hoe or stirrup hoe to quickly take out emerging weeds.
  • Apply organic herbicides selectively during active weed growth and avoid drift onto desired plants.
  • Spot treat larger established weeds with appropriate organic products targeting broadleaf weeds.
  • Follow label directions closely for products containing plant oils, acids or other natural herbicides.
  • Repeat applications of organic herbicides may be needed for perennial weeds or hard-to-control species.

Integrating these tips into a complete weed control regimen can significantly reduce reliance on synthetic chemicals for unwanted vegetation.

Common Lawn and Garden Broadleaf Weeds

Knowing the most common broadleaf weeds in lawns and gardens helps guide appropriate organic control methods. Here are some of the main offenders and how to tackle them:


Dandelions establish from wind-dispersed seeds. The taproot must be completely removed by digging or using a weed fork. Pre-emergent corn gluten meal prevents new seedlings. Selective herbicides containing iron HEDTA or clove oil can be used to spray rosettes.

Creeping Charlie

Also called ground ivy, the vining stems root at nodes. Hula hoe frequently to prevent establishment. Dig out small patches. Use corn gluten meal to prevent seed germination. Acetic acid or citric acid herbicides can be sprayed for control.


This winter annual spreads aggressively by seeds and roots near the soil surface. Hand pull or hoe early. Prevent seeds with corn gluten meal. Iron HEDTA and clove oil herbicides provide control.


Clover spreads by seed and creeping stems (stolons). Mow frequently to prevent flowering. Pull small patches by hand and dig out larger patches. Use acetic acid herbicide on difficult infestations.


Broadleaf and buckhorn plantain spread by burred seeds. Eliminate plants before flowerheads mature. Pop out small plants. Spray rosette stage leaves with citric acid organic herbicide.

Wild Violet

Violets establish from seeds and creeping roots. Hand pull or pop out using a weed tool. Keep mowed to prevent flowering and seeds. Use corn gluten meal as preemergent. Try clove oil sprays.


Bull, musk and Canada thistles have deep taproots and spread aggressively by windborne seeds. Dig out plants just before flowering. Prevent new plants with corn gluten meal. Vinegar can be spot sprayed.

White Clover

Clover spreads by above ground stolons and seed. Remove patches by hand or using a weed popper tool. Use corn gluten meal to prevent seed germination. Try clover-specific organic herbicides.

The key is properly identifying broadleaf weeds and using the right organic control option at the optimum growth stage to prevent establishment and spread.

Tips to Avoid When Using Organic Herbicides

While organic herbicides derived from natural ingredients are far safer than synthetic chemicals, they still require careful use to avoid damage to lawns, gardens and the environment. Here are some key tips to avoid:

  • Do not apply on windy days when spray drift can harm desired plants.
  • Avoid using horticultural vinegar products when air temperatures exceed 85°F which increases likelihood of damage.
  • Do not allow sprays to contact leaves, stems or exposed roots of garden plants and lawns to prevent possible injury.
  • Refrain from using heavy applications of plant oil based products like clove oil which can sometimes damage nearby plants.
  • Never apply acids, oils or other herbicides over or near ponds, streams or other water sources.
  • Follow all label directions for correct dosage, timing of application and any other precautions.
  • Avoid inhaling sprays or mists – use a protective face mask if necessary.
  • Keep kids and pets away from treated areas until products have dried.
  • Wear gloves and long sleeves when handling concentrated products to avoid skin irritation.

While organic herbicides are derived from natural materials, they still must be used properly to ensure safety, efficacy and avoidance of unintended consequences. Following label directions and sensible precautions allows them to be used successfully in an organic weed control plan.

FAQs About Organic Broadleaf Weed Control

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about controlling broadleaf weeds the organic way:

What is the Best Organic Weed Killer for Lawns?

The best organic weed control starts with practices like mowing high, aerating, overseeding and applying corn gluten meal to improve grass health and prevent weeds. Selective spot sprays containing iron HEDTA, clove oil, citric acid or fatty acids can be used to safely eliminate broadleaf weeds in lawns.

What Kills Weeds Permanently Organically?

There is no guaranteed permanent kill of weeds using organic products. However, reverting to healthy lawn practices and addressing the growing conditions that favor weeds provides long-term prevention. Perennial weeds may require repeated application of organic herbicides like vinegar or clove oil.

What is a Natural Weed Preventer?

Corn gluten meal provides natural pre-emergent weed control by inhibiting the root growth of newly germinating seeds. A spring application prevents many summer annual weeds in lawns and gardens. Healthy plants, proper mowing, irrigation, fertilization and mulching also prevent weeds.

What Home Remedy Kills Weeds?

An effective homemade weed killer is horticultural vinegar containing 20% acetic acid which provides non-selective contact weed control. Clove oil, lemon juice, salt or boiling water also provide spot control options. Improved cultural practices are still needed for long term prevention.

What Kills Weeds and Not Grass?

Selective organic herbicides like corn gluten meal, clove oil, pelargonic acid, citric acid and iron HEDTA target broadleaf weeds and do not kill monocot grasses when used as directed. Also hand removal, hoeing and digging only eliminates weeds among grass.

How Do I Get Rid of Broadleaf Weeds Naturally?

An integrated organic approach incorporating cultural practices, corn gluten meal, hand weeding tools, selective herbicides and improved lawn or garden care provides the most effective natural broadleaf weed control over time without the use of synthetic chemicals.

Controlling broadleaf weeds organically requires diligence and repeated effort, but the results – a lush lawn and weed-free garden – are well worth it. A focus on building healthy soil, selecting competitive plant varieties and addressing conditions that favor weeds will provide long term weed prevention safe for people, pets and the planet.


Controlling broadleaf weeds without synthetic herbicides is challenging but very feasible. The key is focusing first on organic cultural practices that strengthen lawns and gardens while preventing weed issues. Supplementing the soil biology, microclimate and plant health makes it harder for weeds to establish. Targeted application of OMRI-listed organic herbicides derived from natural acids, oils and plant extracts can selectively remove unwanted broadleaf weeds in turf and ornamental plantings. While repeated effort is needed, the investment in organic weed control pays dividends through protection of family health, the environment and the sustainable beauty of your landscape. With smart integrated tactics, savvy selection of organic products and consistent effort, you can eliminate reliance on toxic herbicides and enjoy weed-free lawn and gardens using natural methods.