What are some organic-friendly ways I can manage the staggering weed problem in my banana crop?
Answer: Generally in organic systems, preventive weed control is the most effective method of dealing with weeds. But as for what can assist you now, I have found that a combination of approaches is necessary. I’m sure that’s no surprise to you as you almost certainly have some weeds that you can control with mulches, while others probably “eat that mulch for lunch!” Various approaches include the use of geotextiles (fabric mulch), wood chip mulch, mowing, some hand weeding around young trees, flame weeding, chickens or weeder geese, and some of the organic herbicides. Try everything you can to keep from disturbing the soil with cultivation, but if you simply can’t manage that, you may find the Weed-Badger to be effective with minimal soil disturbance.As for organic herbicides, some find a citric acid-based one to be most effective, but soap-based and vinegar (acetic acid) based ones also do the job. Of course there is no systemic organic herbicide, so all of these organic herbicides are “contact” herbicides only; i.e., they only work on what they hit. These don’t work especially well on any established weeds–the sprayed part wilts, but the weed sends up new growth almost immediately. As a consequence, to really get decent weed control on established weeds can be prohibitively expensive. However, if you time the use of these organic herbicides so that they’re being employed against small, young weeds, you can get some decent control from them. See the ATTRA publication Tree Fruits: Organic Production Overview for information on weed management both prior to orchard establishment and in established orchards. Also see ATTRA’s Biorationals: Ecological Pest Management Database for more information on organic herbicides and ecological pest management.