Weeds — they creep up in your garden, sneak through the cracks in the sidewalk, and make it a point to grow everywhere that’s inconvenient to reach.
The easy-out, of course, is to reach for a bottle of store-bought herbicide. Readily available and modestly priced, it’s no wonder that many home gardeners choose it.
Unfortunately, many of these herbicides can be detrimental not only to weeds, but to humans as well. Studies suggest that the chemicals in these products can have a wide range of impacts. Some are relatively minor, such as the potential to cause skin irritations or allergic reactions, while others are more serious, such as nervous system problems and even cancer. In all cases, children and pets are especially vulnerable. Many of these products also have a long-term negative impact on the environment.
Homemade weed killers offer the best possible alternative to manufactured herbicides. Inexpensive and made from common household materials, these natural weed killers can help keep unwanted plants at bay without unnecessary exposure to harmful chemicals.
Let’s look at several:
1. Boiling water
One of the simplest solution to weeds involves nothing more than water. To use this technique, boil water in a kettle, then, before it has a chance to cool, pour the water on the crown and roots of the offending plant. The hot temperature will scald virtually any plant it comes in contact with, generally dealing a mortal blow. Although plants with long taproots may require more than one treatment, this is an easy and completely natural way to combat pesky plants.
There’s a reason armies used to salt the fields of their enemies — salt has a powerful ability to render soil barren. Because it affects the ability of roots to take up water from the soil, salt effectively dries out existing plants and makes it difficult for new ones to take hold. While not an ideal solution for gardens and lawns since it can cause permanent damage to the soil, salt can be useful for treating pathways, sidewalks and other areas that are meant to be plant-free. For easy application, dissolve one part salt in eight parts water and apply to the desired locations.
3. Vinegar and lemon juice
Plants are picky when it comes to soil pH, and lowering the pH immediately around a weed will almost always cause it to wither. For this reason, it’s not unusual to find acidic ingredients in many commercial herbicides. Before resorting to an unknown chemical concoction, though, it’s worth trying a version made from common pantry items.
Vinegar and lemon juice both contain strong acids and can be combined for a pH-targeting weed treatment. Simply combine four ounces of lemon juice with one quart of vinegar and apply directly on the offending plants. This solution will kill most plants, but without causing residual damage to the surrounding soil.
4. Pickle juice
Finish off a jar of pickles recently? Don’t throw away the bottle without putting the leftover liquid to good use first! Pickle brine is full of vinegar and salt, making it a natural combination of these two weed-tackling substances. Apply directly to problem plants and pat yourself on the back for finding such a creative way to handle uninvited garden guests.
One of the most popular homemade herbicides involves combining two of the treatments mentioned above (vinegar and salt) with a third household product — dish soap. While not necessarily damaging to weeds in and of itself, soap contains surfactants which help the other ingredients “stick” to the plant, enhancing the weed-killing properties of the solution. To create this triple-whammy weed control, combine one gallon of vinegar (to lower the pH) with one cup of salt (to dry out the roots) and one tablespoon of dish soap (to help it adhere to the plants).
Controlling weeds doesn’t necessarily need to involve harsh chemicals and impossible-to-pronounce ingredients. Take advantage of these homemade alternatives to safely keep unwanted plants in check.
What all-natural methods would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the section below: