Weeds are a nuisance that seem to be harder to get rid of than a visiting mother-in-law. Chemical sprays will kill weeds, but the sprays will also harm pets or children that decide to nibble on the weed or pick the "pretty flower," recently covered with a toxic chemical, for mommy. Luckily weed control options exist that will not harm your pets or children, although some are more labor intensive than a simple spray.
An effective way to get rid of weeds without a chemical spray is to pull them up by hand. Some weeds have shallow root systems, especially when young, and will come up easily. Others have strong tap roots and some digging with a trowel is necessary to make sure the entire weed comes out of the ground. Make sure you get the roots, though, or the weed will grow right back. Wear gloves when pulling weeds to protect your hands from any weeds that may have irritating sap or needles.
A less back-breaking method of disposing of weeds is to chop them with a hoe. Don't just bury the weed or move the soil around, you won't kill the existing weeds and will expose more weed seeds that will germinate in the sunlight. Instead, chop the weed at the soil surface to separate it from the roots. You may be able to pry up some root systems with the hoe as well, but this method will likely have to be repeated weekly as the weeds re-grow from the roots, but it will prevent seed heads from forming and spreading the weeds elsewhere.
Mulching is an effective way to prevent new weeds from growing after you have pulled the existing weeds. Cover the soil in the plant bed or around trees and shrubs with 2 to 4 inches of organic mulch to keep sunlight from reaching weed seeds in the soil. Keep the mulch from touching the base of the plant to prevent stem rot. A layer of newspaper spread under the mulch will give added protection.
Use a natural or organic herbicide that is labeled as non-toxic and safe for pets. These herbicides usually contain citrus oil, vinegar, clove oil or soaps that won't harm pets, though you should keep them away from the area until the spray dries. The oils dehydrate and kill weeds by stripping the waxy cuticle. The herbicides are usually sold as premixed sprays, which you spray directly on the weed. These natural herbicides are not made to target specific weeds, however, and will kill desired plants and grass as well. You must take care to spray on a wind-free day and target only the weed you want to kill. Follow all manufacturer label instructions when using herbicides.