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Verdict in on Natural Selective Weed Control: It Works

Several months ago we blogged about Fiesta weed control from Neudorff, a selective weed killer that allows grass to grow, but kills dicot weeds such as dandelions and plantain etc. Back then, we didn’t have any feedback from SafeLawns members or any experience with personal use, so our only function was to pass along the message that the product exists.

Feedback, from SafeLawns followers and our own back yard, shows that the product is working — but better on some weeds than others.

Here’s a sample review that came in recently from John Wesenberg:

Five days ago, I applied ferric HEDTA (aka Iron-X when bought from Gardens Alive) to a small area of my lawn. I bought one 16 ounce bottle of the concentrate and used 2/3 of it to make 2 gallons of solution per the product instructions. I applied this to about 300 square feet (28 square meters) of a northern Illinois lawn which hasn’t has a bit of fertilizer or herbicide applied to it in 27 years. Very few parts of the lawn are 50% grass and a few are almost 100% broadleaf weeds and clover. (I don’t consider clover a weed.) I intentionally applied the product at varying rates from about 0.5 to 1.5 gal/100 sq ft to judge its effectiveness. It was applied immediately after mowing and three days before a 1.4 inch (36mm) rain.

Even at lower application rates, it did a good job of knocking down dandelions, which seems to be the species most affected by this product. It only killed plantain at the higher end of its application rate. Ground ivy (creeping charlie), thistle, violets, catnip and garlic mustard seemed to be moderately affected by it. It killed the few garlic mustard plants I sprayed, but those were along a fence and may have received a higher dose. White clover seemed to be least affected by it. I couldn’t discern any damage to grass. Flowering and seed release in surviving dandelions was noticeably lower than in the rest of the lawn.

Even though the product didn’t completely eliminate weeds, it reduced them enough to make me decide to treat the entire lawn with it.

That review is consistent with what I experienced in my lawn in Maine. Some plants such as dandelions die back quickly; other plants need a second application. Now that I’ve used the stuff, mind you, I probably won’t use it again. I’ve learned to enjoy the presence of “weeds” on my lawn.

As we said in our original blog, the product has been licensed exclusively by Ortho for traditional retail sales. It’s in the EcoSense line that the company introduced broadly last year. Interestly, though, the company doesn’t seem to be making any big marketing waves with this weed killer — especially given its massive potential to replace chemical herbicides such as 2,4-D. My only conclusion is that Ortho doesn’t want to give a defacto admission that it’s synthetic herbicides are toxic by promotion a more environmentally friendly alternative.

In the meantime, you can order the exact same product from GardensAlive by mailorder. The link is here:

Please keep letting us know how the product performs for you.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1023
  • ksb

    You question why Ortho doesn’t promote it. Could it be a case of keep your friends close and your enemies closer? By exclusively signing the product they can effectively suppress it/not promote it. Heavens above, don’t want folks to know there’s a non-toxic alternative out there.

  • Richelle Lehmann

    Tried Iron-X last week … finally got a day with no wind or rain. Results were the same for me: dandelions died really fast. Plantain has to be drenched, but it does die. One small thistle turned brown and died right away. It didn’t disintegrate, but still sits there brown and dead in the middle of the lawn. Other weeds also gone. Creeping Charlie, however, laughs at it! I discovered in doing research on CC that it is composed of a high percentage of iron, so it probably LIKES Iron-X! Clover looks stunted but is still in the grass. I plan to do a second application in a couple of weeks. We are on a lake, and regular chemical weedkiller cannot be applied closer than 3 feet from the waters edge. Does anyone know if Iron-X is toxic to fish? I’m thinking that if it’s safe for “wildlife” that I can apply it at the shoreline. Could use some advice.

  • tlw

    I spot sprayed my dandelions yesterday and they didn’t die back. Some shriveled a bit but all still have green leaves. I mixed the product (Iron X)at 5oz/gal and applied thoroughly. No rain, 36 hours after mowing, temperature high 70s. It had no effect on other weeds. I am very disappointed.

    Is Fiesta weed control the same product?

    • Paul Tukey

      Fiesta is the same product. I’m not sure about the dilution rate, however. In my own testing, I have sprayed it from a ready-to-use bottle without dilution. I’ll try to check on that for you. Most of the reports and from my own experience indicate Fiesta does kill dandelions back.

      • TLW

        Thanks Paul. I spoke too soon – many of my dandelions did eventually shrivel. It took about three days. I had expected the quick results others were reporting. I’m going to use Fiesta until I get down to a manageable amount of dandelions.

        Just an FYI. The day after I sprayed Iron X my dog became very ill. The Iron X didn’t harm her – but before we knew that I wanted the vet to see what was in the product in case my dog was reacting to an ingredient. After all, I had just sprayed it. I asked Gardens Alive what the approximately 75% “other ingredients” were. Although the supervisor was polite, she would not give me the info. She said it was a trade secret. Their response was that I should just take the dog to the vet. I get their point, but I would have liked to see more transparency from a natural products company – especially when a very sick pet was involved. YMMV. I wonder what else is in that stuff.

  • John

    Any of you guys used Green Guardian or Avenger? Green Guardian in particular seems quite good as they claim its “edible” and you can blanket spray it. A natural weed and feed.

  • Andrew

    In the process of doing a trial with Iron X and I was very dubious. Made my first application five weeks ago and the second application one week ago. There was some very rapid die back of clover and a few other minor weeds but little affect on ground ivy which I knew would be the big challenge. Much to my surprise now into the sixth week…the 100 sf trial plot is virtually weed free with only the grasses left..and the bare spots where the weeds are gone. This being the case the timing of the applications is critical. You’d want to have the whole process completed so that a couple of weeks after the second application you can overseed or reseed the bare spots otherwise all you’ve done is leave open spaces for new weed seed to germinate, establish or drop on. I’m also wondering how the product affects the soil pH. Not very practical for large scale use unless it becomes available in larger quantities at lower prices. At the current price it would really be cost prohibitive for anything larger than a very, very small area of turf.

  • private schools

    You question why Ortho doesn’t promote it. Could it be a case of keep your friends close and your enemies closer? By exclusively signing the product they can effectively suppress it/not promote it. Heavens above, don’t want folks to know there’s a non-toxic alternative out there.

  • Theresa Beck

    I am a beekeeper and want to know if the product IronX from Gardens Alive is reported to be safe for bees.

    • Paul Tukey

      The active ingredient is chelated iron, which I don’t believe is toxic to bees. This MSDS doesn’t address bee toxicity: Send an email to my friend, Jenny Adams, who works for the manufacturer, Neudorff at jenny.adams (at)

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