Friday, August 9, 2013

Round Up Your Weeds Without Toxic Chemicals!

By Joey Shea, Public Health Writing Intern

Everyone likes the look of a tidy flowerbed, surrounded by golf-green grass and pristine sidewalks.  When crabgrass and dandelions sneak in, it’s tempting to nuke them with herbicides like Roundup.  But every time you spray weeds, the chemicals you leave behind wind up on the bottoms of our shoes as we walk by, and come right inside with us.  Indoors, there is no rain and wind to break down herbicides.  They stick to the carpet and to house dust, where we are exposed to them over and over again—especially little ones who spend lots of time on the floor and putting things in their mouths!

Weeds are a pain because they compete with the plants you’re trying to grow.  They can also make your garden look untidy!  Getting rid of weeds makes the garden look better, but it should be done without the use of harmful pesticides.

Step 1: Prevention—keep weeds away before they grow!
Photo by Amit Patel via Flickr
  • Keep your “good” plants healthy…
    • Healthy soil comes from composting or using organic fertilizer;
    • Make sure that water can drain away easily;
    • Garden with native plants that do well in local conditions.  You can learn more about native plants here.
  • To keep weeds down, use barriers like…
    • Newspaper.  A layer 3-6 pages thick breaks down in the soil in a few weeks;
    • Mulch.  About 2-4 inches thick helps soil retain water moisture and decreases flooding;
    • Corn gluten meal (sold under brand names like BioWeed).  This adds nitrogen to the soil but prevents new growth.  So, make sure you add it after your good plants are growing, and before the weeds come in!
Step 2: When weeds attack…
  • Pull!
    • Pulling up weeds is a time-honored tradition, and a great job for kids.  Pull out the whole weed - if the root systems are left intact, the weeds will come back.
  • Heat/Boil
    • When pulling isn’t enough, pour boiling water onto weeds.
      • Excess heat causes plant cells to rupture.  But this can hurt your good plants, too, so be careful where you pour!
  • Vinegar
    • Vinegar also kills both good and bad plants, so be careful.
    • Toxic Free NC has a recipe for vinegar-based weed-killer that you can find here.

Keep these tips in mind as you plant, and keep your gardens free of weeds and nasty chemicals!

Joey Shea is a volunteer intern at Toxic Free NC, and is very excited to be working with a group so dedicated to the health of the planet and its communities.


Did you find this article helpful? Approximately once a month, Toxic Free NC volunteers or staff write a newsletter-ready article, focusing on children's environmental health, that we send to child care centers across North Carolina.

These articles contain helpful tips on ways child care centers, staff, and the children's parents can reduce kids' exposures to toxic chemicals and pesticides...we also think they're great for using in your home, too!  We hope you find the article useful and feel free to share.

If you would like any of the past articles, please email Lynne Walter for copies or to be added to our Child Care News list.  Examples of past articles include:
  • Having Fun in the Sun: Avoiding Sunburn, Skin Cancer, and Toxic Chemicals, too
  • Toxic-Free Gardening with Kids: 5 Tips for Gardeners at Home, School, & Child Care on Getting Rid of Bugs Safely
  • Insect Repellent and Kid Safety
  • Get Pesticides Out of Your Kids' Classrooms: It's Easier than You Think!
  • Mosquito Management in Child Care

1.   Toxic Free NC fact sheet for weeding.
2.    Info on native plants, how to grow them, and where to get them!

Text, Copyright 2013 by Toxic Free NC.  NC Child Care centers have permission to use text and photo for educational purposes with their parents and staff, provided full credit is given to Toxic Free NC.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Farewell to a great summer intern!

Summer Intern Mervin Davis
My name is Mervin Davis, and I hail from the beautiful archipelago of the Bahamas. I am a graduate student at Shaw University in Education. One may ask, What attracted you to Toxic Free NC? Well, having been a Health Officer for a number of years, I developed a consciousness for the protection of the environment and those who live in it.

During the preparation for summer break I decided that I would not take a trip home to my wonderful country, but instead would seek an internship here in Raleigh. I was delighted when I saw a post at Shaw’s Career Center advertising Toxic Free NC’s need for a Community Leadership Council intern. I eagerly started my research on the organization, which described itself as a mover and shaker for social justice in North Carolina. Having always been driven by a desire to campaign for a healthy environment and the creation of healthy food systems, I determined this was a fantastic opportunity.

I consider the environment my first love, which was developed through thirteen years of professional service with the Department of Environmental Health of the Bahamas. During this time I petitioned to have not just political and governmental entities determine best practices, but to have truly concerned citizens join the movement to create proposals for best health practices. I found this at Toxic Free NC.

During this summer internship I looked forward to my days at Toxic Free NC. Eager to assume all duties as outlined in my work plan, I knew that every time I completed a task it was supporting those at the forefront of the fight for health justice: the members of Toxic Free NC’s Community Leadership Council.  I have developed a great respect for every CLC member – they work tirelessly to promote best health practices for their communities.

The Community Leadership Council is a group of exemplary and upstanding individuals throughout North Carolina who campaign in different ways for healthy food, water and pesticide-free environments in their communities. CLC members all give of their time, talent and energy in spite of busy schedules, family and miscellaneous duties for a cost that counts: food and health justice. One member I have gotten to know well is Connie Schultz, who works with NC Community Garden Partners, among other organizations. Connie has been exceptionally friendly and always eager to be of assistance to me. Connie has a strong desire to educate and share relevant information, and thanks to her I learned about the Endocrine Disruption Exchange. Thanks Connie for being such an ambassador for health justice.

I am exceptionally grateful that I was given the opportunity to be a part of the movement that unselfishly educates and empowers the community for health justice with no ulterior motives. Toxic Free NC in her quiet yet strong stance acts as a watchdog; and exclaims to all systems that affect the environmental health of those in North Carolina, “You are accountable and someone’s watching!”

Special thanks for the donors who made this internship possible; it won’t be forgotten. To Toxic Free NC’s staff members, “you guys make it easy to fit in.” Last but not least the Community Leadership Council, thank you for allowing me to serve you.

Toxic Free NC's Community Leadership Council is taking applications for new members through August 13th! If you're a local leader for Food Justice, please apply!