Any Natural Solutions for Weed Control? | Seventh Generation
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Any Natural Solutions for Weed Control?

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42 comments
Author: abbybrooks

Flower GirlLast year, we had beautiful flower beds that were the envy of the neighborhood. OK, maybe they weren't exactly envied, but they were certainly very nice and my husband and I took pride in them.

Fast forward a year, however, and the flower beds are now weed beds. What changed? Well, this year I invaded hubby's territory and made a stand regarding weed killer. The ground might have been cold when I began my campaign for going au natural, but my passion was heated: I talked (and talked) about how toxins can harm local waterways. I painted a picture of our 2-year-old traipsing through a yard sprayed with chemicals. And, in what now reveals itself as a moment of lost sanity, I even promised to pull the weeds myself.

My arguments won. So now, a couple of months later, I am here in the dirt, experiencing more than the peaceful afternoon of yard grooming I'd imagined. Seems that I've cleared the flower beds twice already this year, but after each session we got a good rain, and all of a sudden it's like a weed jungle out there! And the neighbors are talking. We've become "those people," the ones with the out-of-control weeds.

I've poured salt on a patch to test it as a killer, but it didn't work. (Plus, the husband gloated. A lot.) Next up is vinegar, but the hubby is as dubious about my success as he was when I proposed the salt cure. HELP! Does anyone have a natural solution to offer up, or am I destined to pull weeds EVERY weekend for the rest of the growing season?

photo: Nicholas Manuel

42
Comments

Dave picture
Dave
06/29/11
Well, there are two methods which could potentially work. 1. Pull them up yourself with the help of weed forks. 2. Use weed control fabrics
landborg picture
landborg
07/08/10
I recommend using whatever sort of mulch you can get your hands on! I use grass clippings from my yard (which works great if your husband hasn't fertilized or used weed killer on your lawn). I am lucky enough to live near a wild rice processing place where the hulls are removed and the rice parched. The company makes a pile of the hulls and they are free to anyone who wants to take them. The more mulch the less weeds you will have just make sure to leave some space around the stems of the plants so they do not rot off. It makes it alot easier to pull the occassional weed then to spend your entire day manually pulling weeds. If you mulch right at the beginning of the year it makes the rest of your year much less back-breaking!
CarolJC picture
CarolJC
06/28/10
Try lasagna gardening! It is a layering technique where you put layers of newspaper, peat, compost, soil, etc. And you don't need any tools as you build up instead of digging down. You can even start your beds on top of a lawn without digging out the grass. It is the easiest and one of the "greenest" ways to garden, too. You will have a few weed seeds that the wind will blow into your beds, but they are easy to pull as they won't have a deep root system. You can find lots of resources on a google search. Here's a link to get you started: http://organicgardening.about.com/od/startinganorganicgarden/a/lasagnagarden.htm. Hope this helps!
hbradford picture
hbradford
06/28/10
I order my lawn care products from Gardens Alive at www.GardensAlive.com. You might want to give them a try.
kimberlyjt picture
kimberlyjt
06/27/10
What about filling in the flower bed full of flowers and shrubs you love, and use a ground covering plant to fill in the bed around the roots and bare spaces. The house we moved into last winter has a flower bed that has strawberries growing and there are no weeds to pull.
abbybrooks picture
abbybrooks
06/25/10
I used the vinegar, salt, and soap solution and... the weeds are dead! I need to reapply to hit spots I missed and I wonder how long it will last, but guess what! My husband is impressed! I've spread the word and I am SO excited! Thank you everyone for your interesting responses... so cool all these options are out there! Go Seventh Generation Nation!
plalbrecht picture
plalbrecht
06/25/10
I underscore what susaniskowich wrote earlier. Depending on the desired appearance, you can mulch with shredded leaves, grass clippings, wood chips, various commercial mulches, salt marsh hay if you're near the coast. Old newspapers between rows of vegetables work well, and you can cover them with hay or grass clippings. Plastic poses one problem: it's impermeable, so you can't count on rain. One solution: dripper hoses under the plastic.
Sassy and Green picture
Sassy and Green
06/25/10
Hello! All the weed killers out there are mainly just salt and water mixed together! My husband has used it on many occasions to get rid of the weeds under the steps out front and around our house. However, nothing will grow there afterwards.It just lasts a couple of months. It is a retreatment type of deal.If you put soap in with it, it will help the mixture stick to the weeds. If it stays on longer, it will kill it better. With your flower beds, the best thing to do is not to just plant them straight in the ground. You want to get rid of the weeds first. Then lay a thick black plastic down(like a trash bag.) The size you want and shape of the garden. This will keep new weeds from growing into the flower beds! They won't have any sun to grow! You can then cut holes the size of the flowers into the plastic, plant them and then hold the plastic down with bricks or whatever other pretty heavy thing you can think of! Works like a charm everytime. Good luck to you! Elizabeth
SusanIskowich1 picture
SusanIskowich1
06/25/10
Just thought I'd mention that our service does the application on our yard twice during the early spring. From what I understand it prevents the growth of weeds by killing the seeds, so for your existing weed problem, the gluten probably won't help all that much; you'll have to get rid of those then next spring apply it before the weeds have a chance to grow. But if you plant flower seeds, don't use it there because corn gluten can't tell the difference between "good" flower seeds and "bad" weed seeds, so it will kill all the seeds. Also, we just had some landscaping done by the same lawn service and one of the areas we had done was a natural wildflower/rain garden area to help the flooding issues we have in our backyard. I asked the landscaper about weed control back there where the plugs are and she talked to her boss who said NOT to use the corn gluten back there. Instead they are just going to lay down a thin layer of mulch. My guess is that he advised against the corn gluten to avoid accidently killing the newly planted flowers, even though they aren't seeds, they are still small and new.
SusanIskowich1 picture
SusanIskowich1
06/25/10
We use an environmentally friendly lawn service and they use corn gluten to keep the weeds out of our lawn and our lawn looks just about as nice as our next door neighbors who use the icky stuff (must admit that we have a clover problem, but doesn't bother me quite as much as the dandelions). Also mulch will keep weeds down. Here in the Chicagoland area there are several municipalities who offer free mulch from city trees that they have cut down, and from what I have read, that mulch is no worse then the stuff you buy.
cchowdhu picture
cchowdhu
06/25/10
Hello, In our municipality, pesticides and non organic weed killers are not allowed, so many of the weed control companies (e.g. WeedMan) have switched to a product called Sarritor. It was developed at McGill University in Quebec, Canada and is essentially a fungus that kills broad leaf weeds. Here is a link to the Companies' website: http://www.sarritor.ca/ The product isn't perfect and it usually takes several applications before your broad leaf weeds are reduced. Also like many organic products, you will need to water for 10 minutes a day for at least 3 days for Sarritor to work. It takes about 14 days for the broad leaf weeds to die out. Unfortunately it doesn't work with non broad leaf weeds as Sarritor needs to be able to stick to the weed to be effective.
myownhealth picture
myownhealth
06/25/10
They have a new product this year called Iron-X that we have tried on weeds. It is non-toxic and so far it has been very effective. It has even taken out the horse nettle that I have been digging repeatedly out of my garden for two years. I finally have time to garden again instead of weeding. The instruction say that repeated applications may be necessary, but I don't mind given how well it seems to be working. It may take more than one application to deal with the roots. I am careful not to over-spray on to desired plants. Now, why would anyone want to kill lambs quarters? I let them grow in my garden to harvest them. They are delicious steamed with a little balsamic vinegar. Just get them young. Very desirable plants. I also have a pet 2nd-year mullin plant dead center in my garden and it attracts all kinds of pollinators with its beautiful flower stalk.
nicoler picture
nicoler
06/25/10
I got an eco weed product at my local home depot, it smells great and actually works better than the old stuff I used to use.
rutheileen picture
rutheileen
06/25/10
I have gardened in a number of states and climates, including the southeast for many years...where the semi-tropical climate makes weeding a daily possibility for 9 months out of the year or more. True to other comments posted, the earlier you get serious weeding done the easier it is throughout the season. Mulch helps also. But weeding is the root of gardening...the zen quiet where we focus on nothing but the earth and the health and beauty of the lands we tend. Now back in my homeland of the Northwest where weeding is an easy dream by comparison, I can still spend timeless time picking the tiniest weeds out of my gardens and enjoying the air, the beauty of the flowers, the magic of new blooms, new growth and the endless discoveries of wonder that life--botanical (including "weeds"), insect, avian and other (squirrels, deer, rabbits, bears!) bring to our immediate environment. Breathe deep and enjoy weeding as a meditation! Namaste.
sylviaanne picture
sylviaanne
06/25/10
Timing, is everything, when dealing with weeds the earlier you address the problem the better. mulch is good the gluten works, flaming is a item you may want to try, but again the earlier the better. The vinager,orange extract with soap works when plants are young, you need 100 grain vinegar for best results.JUSTGET THEM WHEN THEY ARE SMALL.
Mary Fox picture
Mary Fox
06/25/10
After ten years of perennial flowers, rotation crops of fruits and vegetables in our 500 sq. foot garden, I am amazed at the lack of weeds! Compost, pete moss and Milorganite spring and fall (some extra for edible plants in the summer) complete our additions to the soil...a very sandy soil. Now, black as gold. To decrease weeds, I make sure and get into the garden once every seven days. Pull any significant weeds, which are few, and till the top soil to stop emerging weeds from growing. We opened a new plot of soil last year. It looks a weed bed. The soil is brown with a lack of nitrogen. I know the weeds will not last. The worm population will grow. We add leaves and remains of perennial flower/stems to the soil. Coffee grounds, egg shells under peppers and squash. Plus, the compost, pete moss and Milorganite. A healthy soil and weekly tilling of the top soil works. My neighbors are huge chemical users. When they saw our soil flourish they started changing their gardening to organics. Proof before their eyes!
ramarkel picture
ramarkel
06/24/10
D-limonene is an all natural ingredient made from orange peels, it's 100% natural and from a renewable resource. It works like nothing else I have ever used to kill unwanted weeds, it kills on contact. This is the all natural equivalent to round up! I get mine at www.GreenTerpene.com
Stephanie Bartek picture
Stephanie Bartek
06/24/10
I too prefer organic weed block, and enjoy gardening and landscaping. I learned many years ago that the best natural weed block is newspaper the regular non shiny kind. If you use 6-8 sheets thick to cover the beds then put your mulch over it to hold in place and to make it pretty. It really works!! I invested the time to do it when we moved in but it lasts longer than any other method. It proven to be more effective than chemicals, weed cloth, and any other blocks. We finally last year after 6 years, had to redo it. I read it in a magazine that explained it's the most effective thing per square foot. I highly recomend it!! It's not 100%, nothing is, but it's close!
colette51 picture
colette51
06/24/10
Colette in TX posted at 05/29/2010 06:44:00 PM CDT I was looking for a way to kill the weeds that grow between the bricks in my patio a few years ago. I have pets and didn't want to use any chemicals. Guess what! I poured several gallons over the surface and used a wide broom to spread it around. The weeds were dead within 2 days. If you start before they pop up they won't. I usually do it 2-3 times each summer. Source: http://www.aarp.org/online-community/groups/index.action?slPage=showDiscussionPost&slGroupKey=Group4602&slForumPostKey=Cat%3AprivateForum%3Ad81669dd-fafc-40f2-adf8-1839017e2866%40D|9%3B9|CommGroupGroup4602|Discussion%3ADisc8948742&onPage=2
willowsprite picture
willowsprite
06/24/10
I used to have a weed garden...literally. The next door neighbours always had cedar mulch on their beds and never did any maintenance on it. I went out and bought bags of the stuff and spread it on the garden. No weeds! Every one in a while I have to pick one out that managed to poke through.
bbrulotte picture
bbrulotte
06/24/10
I bought Ruth Stout's book some time back about using old hay flakes (4-6" thick, laid like floor tiles) to mulch with and it does work. She recommended using rotten or very old hay. Another reason to use old hay is that it is tan colored (not green) which makes for a more natural looking mulch. I think a modified version for today's use of combining hay flakes with a biodegradable landscape fabric (this is a new product that I saw at Lowe's this year) may work nicely. One caveat is that you may need to add back some nitrogen since as hay decomposes it will leach nitrogen from the soil - you may need to investigate natural sources of nitrogen in your geographic area. I can tell you from experience that this method of mulching may look a bit unsightly at first until your plants mature some and fill in (give those neighbors something to REALLY talk about) but I used it in perennial beds and when the plants filled in some you did not notice the hay mulch as much. You can still find her book on Amazon, and maybe on Ebay, but I would recommend getting your hands on one of the original or older copies if possible since these have not been updated since her death. The book is quite entertaining in that she was definitely a crusty old gal. Here is an online link for a preview to the Ruth Stout method: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/1999-02-01/Easy-Garden-Hay.aspx Hope some of you get a few new ideas from this.
emilyvaillpfaff@sbcglobal.net picture
emilyvaillpfaff@sbcglobal.net
06/24/10
Boiling water will kill worms and other helpful insects in the soil...my tree guy recommended the "weed barrier" plus mulch and he said newspaper or even cardboard will work well since it biodegrades, again as mentioned before, brown or black and white, no colors in the paper. My preference is to use composted manure since that feeds whatever is underneath. Some mulches can change the ph of the soil, affecting the plants. And remember that weed pulling is great exercise, and made easier if you have a little rolling seat that you sit on to save the back. Step 2 made mine. Have fun!!
atpeters picture
atpeters
06/24/10
At the beginning of spring, before the grass starts growing in well, I pull out the weeds with a garden claw and my hands. Yes, it's not fun but it really does work. I only do this at the beginning of the summer, before the grass grows in well. A healthy lawn should take care of the weeds, so we water well when we water, and get a load of good dirt put on it once a year. As far as the flower beds, at the beginning of spring I hand pull weeds, then put down newspaper and cover that with mulch. I still go around about 2x/month and pull the few errant weeds. It takes time, but I'm also teaching my little children which things to pull and which to leave. I have to be prepared to lose some flowers, though.
Mary Frances picture
Mary Frances
06/24/10
I haven't found anything you can spray on your garden, however, I invested $25 at ACE Hardware and purchased a Hula Hoe. It is the most organic way to rid you garden of weeds!!! No need to get on your hands and knees anymore! Two Sundays a month, I spend 15 minutes a day, turning over the top soil of my garden bed. This exposes the roots of the weeds and the sun kills them. I like to walk through and pick up any large items so that my soil looks fresh and clean, clear of any debris. Purchase it, your husband will become you biggest fan! Happy Gardening, MaryFrances
annebelley picture
annebelley
06/24/10
I am surprised that so many have had trouble with regular vinegar. It works great for me! Pour it on one day, and weeds are dead the next! I DO NOT used it in my flower beds, however, non in my vegetable gardens, and the vinegar would kill those plants as well! Corn gluten works VERY well if applied BEFORE the weeds have started, but then you can only add transplants to the area, as the corn will also affect germination of the seeds you are TRYING to grow! The best solution, I agree, is the weed barrier and mulch. After you weed (remember to save and eat the consumable weeds, such as lamb's quarters), cover the area with several layers of newspaper (the ink is soy based) or weed barrier cloth (the thicker the better) and then mulch with a natural wood bark or chipped (undyed). You can cut through the newspapers or cloth first to leave a circle for each seed, but it is probably best to have plants growing first, either in the area before laying down the barrier, or as transplants. Then, simply cut an X through the fabric or papers where you want the plants to sit, dig down a bit, plant the flowers, water well, and cover with bark or chips, or, for that matter, if yu like the look, lava rocks.
hasdancer picture
hasdancer
06/24/10
I heard that if you plant English Ivy, it will eat up the weeds. English Ivy is a small ivy so it's not supposed to take over like the other kind of ivy. Give it a try and let us know what happens!
FightForKids picture
FightForKids
06/24/10
In the flower bed, if you pull them when they are baby weeds, it comes out very easily. And plant more plants or some native groundcovers and that will leave no space for the weeds to take over. We planted some oregano and strawberries with runners. In the grass, we've already tried everything, vinegar and flame thrower - clovers just came back and the dead grass looked worst. Really the best thing for the grass is to overseed according to Paul Tukey's Organic Lawn Care book, tips also on http://www.safelawns.org . For small clover patch, we used a hand cultivator and pull out the clovers, very easy. Dandelions come out really easy with a weeding tool. I know that the minimum mowing height is about 3" for grass. But for heavily clover covered grass, we mow low enough just to cut the flower heads off so it doesn't offend the neighbors so much. And if you leave in an area without an HOA, don't worry about the neighbors, your kids are so much more important than what the neighbors think. You think your neighbors are going to really care when your kids get leukemia from the weed-killers? No.
heatherhoag picture
heatherhoag
06/24/10
I used to pull weeds every week until I invested some time in laying out landscape fabric in my flower beds. A little prevention will cut out a lot of weeding!
NoTill picture
NoTill
06/24/10
Right on Lyahdan and ljamie: Please keep in mind that a weed is nothing less than valuable nutrients in a despisable form. Weeds naturally "invade" disturbed and inferior soil. This is the first way of returning dirt to soil and eventual fertility. Example: I have seen newly fenced overgrazed pasture invaded with noxious (a subjective term) weeds and stickers later replaced with lesser herbs and grasses. Next, shrubs should appear, eventually, trees etc depending on climate, etc. This of course, takes time. Soil which has been drenched in commercial fertilizers has been striping the soil of millions of needed biota, causing plants to be chemically grown thereby faking a fertility that no longer exists. Mulch and natural manures which multiply the soil biota to once again numerous numbers are the only way to return sterile dirt to truly fertile soil. So, the longest method would be to continually mow what grows, and leave on the ground. The quickest method would be the lasagna technique of multiple layers of greens, browns encouraging fungi and bacterias as mentioned above. You inherited a situation that may have looked good under continual chemical addiction but was killing the medium Nature meant to support organic life. BTW, Steam and boiling water have been used to render soil sterile for greenhouse use for generations. It has its purpose. But it kills virtually ALL life most of which your living plant roots need. As a "barometer"? Once you see robins and towhees picking worms from your soil, you know you have a soil that is supporting good organic growing. Of course, then you'll have to deal with those competitors.
ansarhalisi picture
ansarhalisi
06/24/10
Now I don't recommend boiling water just to kill weeds! However, take your used boiled water from pasta or veggies and simply poor them on the weeds. Being careful not to get them on plants you would like to keep! bp90, THANKS for the vinegar tip! I was wondering why the vinegar wasn't working, even when I used it straight out the bottle!
chicktripp picture
chicktripp
06/24/10
There are many "weeds" that are actually really beneficial to your health! Dandelion is a more popular one. The entire plant is edible and extremely nutritious! Lamb's Quarters are also edible. English Plantain when applied to wounds helps heal at an amazingly fast rate. Two days ago I cut my finger, I took a leaf of English Plantain, chewed it to release the juices, applied it the wound and bandaged it. Today I took off the bandage and its just about healed. Wood Sorrel is edible and tastes very lemony! Perhaps instead of trying to naturally get rid of these little buggers, turn your garden into a beautiful, natural herbal/weedy remedy sanctuary! And yes, vinegar, salt, dish soap and hot water sprayed on weeds will kill them. That mixture also does a number on poison ivy.
hilarious picture
hilarious
06/24/10
For weeds in a walk or driveway, or in our zen rocks space, boiling water has worked perfectly with one application.
meganmercedes picture
meganmercedes
06/24/10
We bought our house 3 years ago, and I've been on a slow quest to improve the yard. First up was freecycling the too-large rhodies in front of the house and building up a good containment system for the bed, and replacing the plants with ones that, at maturity, would not overwhelm the front of our house. That was done quickly, and we put a good layer of mulch down. I think I've pulled a total of 10 weeds out of there in the last 2 years. Next came the chopping down and removal of several pine trees. Yes, it made me cringe to chop down trees, but they were too large to moved and way too close to the house...not to mention the sap on the cars and the needles clogging the drainage system... It took us over a full year to get the "flowerbed" by the driveway planted. We ended up seeding half of it with grass, and transplanting plants and flowers from other areas of our own and our neighbors' properties that weren't doing so well where they were to get the bed ready for mulch. During the first half of the year, the old bark mulch was there, and pretty much nothing grew in it. Just a big brown pile of yuck. Then we threw down a yard of good topsoil - and then came the weeds. It was so thick it looked like grass. Oops. It took one good weekend, and our neighbors help (he was just as tired of looking at the weeds as we were!) to get the weeds pulled and a yard of mulch down. No weeds since. And it's amazing how much more finished the flower beds look with a layer of mulch.
will0w picture
will0w
06/24/10
My garden is overrun with lambs quarter any ideas on getting rid of it?
ljamie picture
ljamie
06/24/10
Couldn't agree with Lyahdan more - I ran an urban farm and, when it's done right, mulch is a lifesaver when it comes to preventing weeds. Coffee grounds (which are also rich in nitrogen), any hay/straw that is free of seeds, or wood mulch (as Lyahdan said, this works much better with perennial beds) are all great mulchs. I typically used hay we baled before grasses went to seed or marsh hay from a sustainable garden store. If you do an underlay of newspaper, make sure the layer is 6-8 sheets thick and that you only use black and white pages - color inks tend to contain heavy metals and will contaminate your soil. Hope this helps - happy gardening!
Lyahdan picture
Lyahdan
06/24/10
Eep. All the salt and vinegar recipes are making me cringe. Used heavily, they're as deadly to your other plants as the weeds. Salting the soil is going to ruin your soil long-term (salinization is a problem for many places that irrigate heavily). And vinegar will affect soil pH over time if used heavily. Mulch is really the best option I've found (which is what your coffee grounds are doing to some extent). In pathways and perennial beds, lay down paper (newspaper, butcher's paper, cardboard) and put 4-6 inches of mulch on top (straw, wood chips, etc.). Even weeds that take hold in the mulch will be very shallow rooted and easy to take out. I have to do a weekly scan an pull bindweed and morning glories from mulched areas, but that takes about 15 minutes for each of my gardens. In annual beds, you should really only need to watch the weeds closely until the wanted plants shade them out. Use a weeding hoe (push-pull type or a pointed one) to knock weeds back by severing their roots without all the work of stooping and pulling. Later in the year, you'll just have to yank the one or two that get enough of a toehold to grow through the established plants. Make exceptions for things like Bermuda grass...dig up every little root and runner or it's yours forever.
bp90 picture
bp90
06/24/10
You need to get 10% or 20% vinegar to kill weeds, the vinegar you buy at the grocery store isn't strong enough. http://www.natures-guide.com/vinegar.html I've used a product called BurnOut, it works well if you apply it early and the weeds get a full day of sun. http://www.weekendgardener.net/organic-weed-killer/burnout-roundup-80608.htm The Garden Plot at www.wtop.com is an great source for gardening tips: http://www.wtop.com/?nid=46 Good Luck!
abbybrooks picture
abbybrooks
06/21/10
Thank you everyone for the ideas, I'll try and report back!
amanda77kr picture
amanda77kr
06/18/10
Second summer in our house - last year, a few weeds I could pick by hand. This year...I'm ready to throw in the towel! Corn gluten, eh? Gonna try that. Wonder if the dogs will eat it? When weeding around baby plants, I've spread used coffee grounds (lazy composting) and noticed that it helped. No idea if that's coincidence or actually good.
wife.earthfriendly.unique. picture
wife.earthfriendly.unique.
06/13/10
I saw something on Regis & Kelly a month ago about killing weeds naturally. One idea was boiling water, if you piour boiling water on the weeds they will die. I tried this one myself & after a couple days they came back, so to really kill them you have to pour it on them for a couple days (I only did it once) If you have a big garden this can get tedious. Or, you can use 1 guart vinegar + TBSP salt + couple squirts of liquid soap, mix well & spray right onto weed. This one will kill all plants, so don't spray on your plants, just the weeds! The other one that seemed to work very well, was putting cornmeal on the soil areas where the weeds wood grow, before they grow. The cornmeal helps prevent the weeds from growing. Hope these help
spwaters picture
spwaters
06/08/10
According to my local natural nursery, your best bet is corn gluten. Basically, you apply it twice a year (fall and late winter) and it will stop the germination of weeds. However, you have to be in it for the long haul, it will take about 3 years to convert to an organic lawn. Also, adding top coats of compost to promote healthy soil will help. Beyond all that you just have to get out there and pull those weeds. Here is the website for The Natural Gardener here in Austin, TX, they have some good tips and recipes though the dates will definitely be different based on where you are. http://www.naturalgardeneraustin.com/ Good luck! I just started with a weed infested lawn myself. Lots of pulling weeds and attacking them with a weed eater. I'm making progress, but it's trying at times. Keep the faith though it's worth it in the long haul.
betheranne picture
betheranne
06/08/10
http://www.borganic.net/projects.php?project_id=87