Posted on: April 29, 2020 at 6:03 pm
Last updated: October 15, 2020 at 5:03 pm

Spring is a busy season for home gardeners. It’s the time to start raking matted leaves, edging the beds, removing winter protection wraps, inspecting for plants for damage, fertilizing the trees and plants, pruning flowering shrubs, and of course, pulling the weeds. Once the seeds for produce or flowers have been chosen and planted, the maintenance begins. This involves watering, harvesting, and naturally, fighting those weeds. The weed battle doesn’t really end. Therefore, it’s important to choose your weapon wisely. [1]  

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Much of the appeal of home-grown produce is that they are hormone and chemical-free, but that could change depending on the weed killer used. 

Strong chemical herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides can contribute to water contamination. [2] Commercial weed killers can pollute not only the groundwater but the soil, as well as garden insects, pollinators, and other wildlife around the garden. This can also detrimentally affect pets and children. Other issues may include irritating airways, skin, and eyes. A common ingredient in these herbicides is glyphosate, which is allegedly linked to causing cancer. [3] 

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Cynthia Curl, an environmental health scientist at Boise State University in Idaho, said, “Many assumptions have been made about the safety of glyphosate that are now being actively questioned. We will see an explosion of information about glyphosate, and it’s about time. We’re really playing catch-up on this one.” [3]

Read: 10 Vegetables That Tolerate Partial Sun And Shade

How to Use A Natural Vinegar-Based Weed Killer 

Vinegar-based weed killers work by drawing out moisture, and essentially drying weeds out. It can successfully kill weeds including: 

  • Dandelions  
  • Canada thistle  
  • Chickweed 
  • Buckhorn plantain 
  • Quackgrass  
  • Lambsquarters  
  • Crabgrass 
  • Pigweed (amaranth)  
  • Bindweed (perennial morning glory) 

One of the ways vinegar works is by lowering the pH of the soil, so keep in mind that it can also harm healthy plants. That’s the main disadvantage of some natural weed killers like this. To avoid destroying desired vegetation and flowers, here are some tips: 

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  • Use tarps to hide the wanted plants 
  • Avoid using the natural week killer when it’s rainy or windy outside 
  • Reapplication may be needed for stubborn weed growth 
  • Not all homemade weed killers are the same. You may need to test different versions to get the desired effect. [4] 

This DIY weed killer’s ingredients are inexpensive and may already be waiting in your pantry. If not, it’ll cost about three dollars to make, which cheaper than another natural store-bought weed killer. Additionally, this DIY week killer is completely toxin-free and safe to spray around pets and children without worrying about them inhaling harsh chemicals. 

Read: 15 Medicinal Plants That Can Easily Be Grown In Your Yard

DIY All-Natural Weed Killer

Ingredients:  

  • 1-gallon white vinegar (5% acetic acid)
  • ¼ cup natural dish soap* 
  • 2 cups Epsom salt (regular salt can be substituted) 

Directions: 

  1. Prepare a gallon-large container and a spray bottle to apply the weed killer. 
  2. Pour the salt into the container. 
  3. Add the vinegar, and mix it with the salt. Let sit for around an hour to allow the salt to dissolve. 
  4. Add the dish soap and mix until all the ingredients are combined and pour the mixture into the spray bottle. 

Read: Forest garden with over 500 edible plants requires only a few hours of work monthly

A Note on Dish Soap*

You’ll often find dish soap in DIY weed killers like is this. While the soap its self is not doing the ‘weed-killing’ it is used in the formula as a binder to help the active ingredients stick to their intended targets. The acetic acid and salt work to dry out the leaves, which makes the plant unable to produce food. This is what causes the weeds to die. [5] 

Dawn dish soap is one you’ll often see and is originally used in this recipe. However, if you’re looking to use one that is more eco-friendly you can something natural and unscented like ECOS or Seventh Generation. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), most DAWN soap products don’t rate that well when it comes to environmental friendliness. [6] For more plant healthy dish soaps, check out the list here

Additional Tips: 

  • It may take up to 24 hours for the weeds to die completely, and bigger weeds may require more sprays than smaller ones. 
  • Take care not to spray the grass or plants around the weeds since this weed killer will kill them as well.  
  • This DIY Weed Killer is best used on sunny days since the sun helps hasten weed death once sprayed. 

You don’t need potentially toxic chemicals to have a weed-free garden. This homemade weed killer is effective and non-expensive. Give it a try! 

Happy springtime! 

Keep Reading: One-Acre Permaculture Garden Helps Feed 50 Families

[1] Green View Fertilizer. 10 Tips to Get Your Garden Ready for the Spring Season: This checklist will help you get a good start on a new season. https://www.greenviewfertilizer.com/articles/10-tips-to-get-garden-ready-for-spring/ 

[2] Derek Markham. 6 homemade herbicides: Kill the weeds without killing the Earth. Tree Hugger. https://www.treehugger.com/lawn-garden/homemade-herbicide-kill-weeds-without-killing-earth.html July 15, 2014 

[3] Marla Cone, Kaiser Health News. What you need to know about a popular weed killer’s alleged link to cancer. PBS News. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/what-you-need-to-know-about-a-popular-weed-killers-alleged-link-to-cancer April 8, 2019 

[4] Kimberley McGee. How to Make Eco-Friendly Weed Killer. SF Gate. https://homeguides.sfgate.com/make-ecofriendly-weed-killer-46055.html September 3, 2019 

[5] Home Guides. Does Dish Soap Kill Weeds? SF Gate. https://homeguides.sfgate.com/dish-soap-kill-weeds-86436.html 

[6] Environmental Working Group (EWG). Dawn Ultra Concentrated Dishwashing Liquid, Lemon https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/3137-DawnUltraConcentratedDishwashingLiquidLemon/ 

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Sarah Schafer
Founder of The Creative Palate
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender. Her blog The Creative Palate shares the nutrition and imagination of her recipes for others embarking on their journey to wellbeing.

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