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Kill Weeds Without Chemicals or Money, Part 1 (Photosynthesis 101)

July 28, 2009

Ah, gardening. Although I love spending time outdoors, I do not enjoy pulling weeds – I would much rather relax with a margarita and enjoy my beautiful plants and flowers. I hate weeds, and with good reason. Weeds grow fast, they grow everywhere, and they spread like wildfire.

Many people use herbicides (chemical weed and plant killer) to do the dirty work of making weeds shrivel up and die. However, these chemicals can be ingested by animals, and will also eventually enter our water supply. Not good. Herbicides also cost money. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to keep your garden weed free that does not involve chemicals or money? Keep reading to learn about photosynthesis, and you’ll learn how to make a better garden.


All living things need to grow, which requires carbon. Carbon is a key component in molecules that are essential for life – proteins, fat, carbohydrates, and nucleic acids (like DNA!). Humans and animals get their carbon from this substance known as food – broccoli, jelly beans, sourdough bread. Our bodies can break down this food and use the carbon to help us grow bigger and stronger.

Plants are a little different. With the exception of Audrey Two and other carnivores (like the venus flytrap), plants are out of luck when it comes to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But, they can do something much cooler – they literally make food out of thin air. Plants take carbon dioxide gas and turn it into sugar, which they use to grow.

Photosynthesis is the process of converting sunlight and water into sugar and oxygen. You’ve probably heard people taking about “fixing” carbon from the atmosphere. Carbon fixation is simply a fancy term for taking carbon gas from the atmosphere (carbon dioxide) and turning it into organic solids (like sugars). Carbon fixation is important for a number of reasons. As mentioned before, plants rely on carbon fixation in order to grow. Carbon fixation can also help fight global warming. Humans use fossils fuels to power cars and homes, and by doing so we’re dumping tons of carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which is the main cause of global warming. But through carbon fixation, plants are removing some of the extra carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (although not quickly enough).


Image credit: Click

So, when the sun shines on a plant, photosynthesis occurs mainly in the leaves. Here, the carbon dioxide enters the leaf, and it is converted to sugar. In order to deliver this sugar to other parts of the plant, there is a network called phloem (pronounced flow-em) that carries sugar up to the flowers and down to the roots. Photosynthesis also requires water. There is a separate network called xylem that brings water from the roots of the plant up to the leaves for photosynthesis.


So how does this help your weed problem? After reading this, you may have already how to kills weeds without chemicals. All you have to do is keep them away from sunlight. They won’t be able to make food, and they will die. Check back for part 2, and I’ll give you detailed instructions for weed maintenance.

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