I think we can all agree that chemical warfare sucks. I mean, things like anthrax, smallpox and sarin gas are nobody’s idea of fun. So why, I ask you, do we feel it’s okay to spread neurotoxic chemicals in our yard? Monsanto’s Roundup contains glyphosate, which has been associated with tumor-producing activity in lab animals, so the jury is still out on the potential carcinogenic properties of this chemical. Other brands contain 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, commonly abbreviated as 2,4-D. You know what that is? One of the primary ingredients of Agent Orange.

I feel like there’s an “Apocalypse Now” joke in there somewhere, but this stuff is no laughing matter. If you’re like me and want a chemical-free yard and garden, here are some tips that will get you on the right track.

Don’t Try To Achieve a Golf Course Lawn

Perfectly manicured lawns come at a price and that price is often introducing toxic materials into the environment. Let a few of the “weeds” grow. They’re not hurting anything. Take clover (sometimes called microclover) for example. It pops up when there is a lack of nitrogen in the soil. The cool thing is, according to the experts over at Penn State, clover reduces the amount of fertilization needed to make grass grow. When clovers get mulched up when mowed, the clippings release nitrogen into the soil, helping to enrich it. So the theory is: if you let the clover grow, you’ll eventually be rid of it. If not, then what harm are from a few bunches of clover?

Use Pantry Items To Ward Off Pests

I’m sure you’ve already seen my piece on adding coffee grounds to your garden to keep pests away. There are other things right in your pantry that ward off insects and help control weeds. Squirrels and bunnies — and dogs for that matter — hate cayenne pepper, so if you have furry pests eating at your greenery or garden vegetables, sprinkle some cayenne on them. Wildlife Animal Control lists cayenne pepper as one of the best ways to eliminate a squirrel problem and you better believe they will leave that stuff alone. Plus, if you sprinkle it on edibles, it’s perfectly natural and washes off when you’re ready to eat it.

Many garden departments sell chemical-free, garlic-based insect repellant. The Gardner’s Network has a great at-home version: simply purée a whole clove of garlic with a couple of cups of water. Let the mixture rest overnight and then strain it into another container the next morning. Mix the garlic “tea” with a gallon of water and douse plants with it to repel pests. Plant oregano or basil (or both!) close to other plants; the strong scents repel most insects.

Try Natural Remedies for Weeds

For weeds that just won’t die, Natural News suggests you spray them with undiluted white vinegar. Just be sure not to spray too much; vinegar doesn’t discriminate between weeds and grass. It will just kill everything it’s sprayed on. Dandelions can be totally annoying, so in the spring before they start growing, sprinkle corn gluten on your lawn to prevent them from germinating. Corn gluten also prevents the growth of crabgrass. If you’ve missed the window on preventing dandelions, go the vinegar route. It’s safe for kids and pets.

Each of these methods still allow good insects — pollinators like bees, ladybugs and butterflies — to hang out in your yard. You also won’t have to worry about your kids or pets getting near these all-natural remedies; when everything’s natural, there’s no need to worry.

By Megan Winkler

Eco-nerd, solar power enthusiast, DIY diva and professional coffee drinker, Megan has written everything from courses in healthcare and psychology to interior design and cooking advice. She has a master’s degree in military history, owns two chainsaws, is a collector of strange trivia and a world renowned Pinterest pro. She is constantly looking for better ways to do things.