Weeds are the bane of every gardener’s existence. After spending hours creating your vision, maintaining your soil, and planting your flowers, all it takes is a pesky infestation of unwanted greenery to ruin your work. Many gardeners resort to weed killers to solve this problem, but that doesn’t come without risks. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, herbicide pollution can lead to the decreased condition, growth, and reproduction of plants, as well as increased mortality of fish, amphibians, and invertebrates. Fortunately, natural weed killers exist—and many of them can be found right in your pantry. If you’d like to make the switch, read on to discover the common household product that will get rid of weeds in your garden.
Skip your next trip to The Home Depot for commercial weed killer—vinegar can do the job just as well. John La Puma, the designer behind urban-certified organic fruit farm La Puma Farms, says all you need to do is fill a spray bottle with horticultural vinegar and a tablespoon of dish soap. The acid in the vinegar will dehydrate the weed, while the dish soap aids the process by breaking down the outer coat of the plant.
Spray the solution onto the weeds in your yard and they’ll be easier to pluck around 24 to 48 hours later. As with any weed-killing product, avoid applying it directly onto plants you’d like to keep. Similarly, avoid spraying the areas of soil where their root systems grow, as this can also harm the plant.
The key here is to use horticultural vinegar, which has a 20 percent acidity concentration, says La Puma. Regular white vinegar, with a 5 percent acidity, may not be as effective. If you decide to use it, spray it on a sunny day so the heat from the sun can amplify the dehydration process, says Ashley Christian, gardening expert and editor of Homestead Sweet Home.
Really want to save money? Look no further than your kitchen sink. “Pouring boiling water on unwanted weeds is one of the most cost-effective, environmentally friendly methods of taking care of weeds,” says Christian. “Boiled water, when poured on your weeds, can effectively kill them down to the root.” This solution works because the hot water distorts the plants’ cells, causing them to wither.
Christian notes that this method will not suppress weeds long-term, so you’ll need to repeat the process several times throughout the growing season. While some gardeners swear by adding a pinch of salt to the mix, Christian and La Puma recommend against it because it can restrict soil fertility by displacing its natural minerals and nutrients. This makes it difficult to grow plants in affected areas in the future.
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If you’re still searching your pantry for a way to kill weeds, reach for the rubbing alcohol. “The DIY household solution that I most often use is one with rubbing alcohol,” says Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of lawn-tech company Lawn Love. To create this solution, mix a quart of water and two tablespoons of rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. Apply the solution to weeds on a sunny day, avoiding the plants you’d like to keep. In a few days, those weeds will be easy to pluck.
There are a few basic gardening practices you can implement to reduce the number of weeds in your space, such as using mulch and planting densely. But when weeds do arise, you can use some good old-fashioned elbow grease to remove them. According to BobVila.com, for the best results, you should weed daily when the soil is wet; when you pluck a weed, pull slowly to ensure you get the entire root system. Finally, dispose of weeds quickly once they’re plucked, to avoid allowing their seeds to find their way back into the ground.
Soon, you’ll be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy your weed-free space.