None of us like weeds in our garden. We want what we planted to be what we planted! It’s easy to want to do whatever it takes to get rid of them. On the other hand, these days we have been enlightened to the positives in cutting out as many chemicals as possible. That’s why we’ve gathered the best natural, homemade weed killer recipes to help you get a jump on weed season. We’ll also get just a bit into the “Roundup vs DIY weed killer” debate so you can know exactly why you end up choosing whichever weed solution you do.
Why use homemade weed killer in your home garden
I think the best reason to diy your own natural weed killer is that you know exactly what you’re putting on your soil and you know that it’s safe for you. This applies with anything you use in your garden, so whenever possible I really like to make my own garden sprays.
Finding safe alternatives to conventional products can be especially important if you have pets or kids. They will be in close contact with whatever materials you put in your yard, so it is important to keep their health in mind. It’s hard to say which big-brand weed killers out there are safe for your health and what effects they could be having on your surrounding environment.
That said, I think it’s very important to weigh the facts in order to decide what’s best for you! And that’s why I’ve put together this post. So take a look. I hope my research can help you to make the best decision for you, your plants, and your family’s health.
What we’ll cover
- Why use homemade weed killer in your home garden
- Homemade vs store bought weed killer
- Homemade weed killer recipes
- How to prevent weeds in the garden
- Other safe & natural weed killers
Homemade vs store bought weed killer
Though a natural, homemade alternative is always an attractive option, there are some ways in which the store bought does outperform. These are some of the pros and cons to consider when deciding which option is right for your needs.
How vinegar kills weeds
How each weed killer works is the first component to understand when deciding which to use. I’m focusing on the recipe for vinegar weed killer since that is the most popular option home gardeners go for when using a homemade weed killer. And why does this common ingredient work to kill weeds? Because vinegar contains acetic acid. This acid acts as a desiccant, which means it will dry up the foliage of the plant it comes in contact with. However, it is important to note that it will not affect the roots of the weeds you are trying to kill.
Why add dish soap?
Most vinegar based weed killer recipes also include dish soap. This is because the dish soap helps the vinegar soak into the weeds’ foliage. Dish acts as a surfactant- it helps the solution to spread out onto the foliage.
How conventional weed killers work
Roundup, probably the most popular store bought weed killer, works by targeting an enzyme necessary for plant growth. I won’t get into too much detail here because I’m no scientists, but here’s a helpful article from How Stuff Works if you want to study up on the subject.
Annual vs perennial weeds
Because perennial weeds have a hardy, established root system, a vinegar weed killer will only temporarily solve your problem. The foliage will die back, but the weed will eventually grow back. This is especially true for one of the peskiest weeds, dandelions, because they have a large, strong taproot.
Effects weed killers on your soil
Most people opt for a homemade weed killer when they are searching for a natural alternative to commercial herbicides such as the most popular store bought weed killer, RoundUp. However, if you’re looking at using table salt in your homemade weed killer, you may want to re-consider. While the active ingredient in RoundUp, glyphosate, gets a bad rap for toxicity and poses a risk to pollinators (very valid concern), it does break down relatively quickly once in the soil. Here is a fact sheet for reference. So, that means you at least don’t have to worry about it affecting your ability to plant new plants for years to come.
How salt affects your soil
Though table salt seems like it should be harmless (we do consume it after all), it will stay in your soil for years to come and can affect other nearby plants. Salinity in your soil will continue to make it difficult for new plants to grow as long as it’s present, and it can take a long time to dissipate into the surrounding soil. Here’s a helpful article on SF Gate that goes into more detail on salt’s effect on soil. That said, be sure you are not using a recipe including salt in any location you may want plants later on.
Toxicity of homemade vs store bought weed killer
This is where most people shy away from store bought options and seek their own, natural alternative to make at home. Though Glyphosate breaks down quickly in the soil, that does not solve the problem that you, your pets, and pollinators can still be exposed to the chemical directly after spraying. So, if you’re looking for a pet safe weed killer or looking to minimize your own exposure to chemicals, a homemade weed killer combined with preventative measures will the answer.
Effectiveness of different DIY weed killer recipes
I could plan out an elaborate, scientific test to compare the two… or I could search for someone else who did. I opted to find someone else who did, and she’s got a great visual (see below) to show the difference. Remember that, as I mentioned above, vinegar is less effective on perennial weeds. So keep that in mind when viewing this experiment carried out by “Garden Myths.”
As you can see, the plant sprayed with vinegar bounced back pretty well. That’s not to say you should default back to RoundUp, just that you should prepare to use a combination of methods to control weeds.
This should include some preventative measures. Though store bought weed killer will most likely always be more effective than natural, homemade alternatives, I still think it’s best to put the extra work in to protect the bees and other pollinators visiting your garden and yard.
Homemade weed killer recipes
There are quite a few alternatives out there if you are looking for a safe, natural alternative to store bought weed killers. We’ve got a lot of them listed below, but of course let us know if you’ve heard of an effective trick we don’t have listed here!
DIY vinegar weed killer
Yep, you can kill weeds with household vinegar! I swear you can do anything some vinegar. We first saw this idea on ‘Saving Cent by Cent,’ but it’s pretty well known now that vinegar makes for one of the best homemade weed killers out there.
Recipe For Vinegar Weed Killer
- 1 Gallon White Vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon Liquid Dish Soap or Vegetable Oil
- 1 Cup Salt (only if you don’t want to replant there)
If you would like to try a natural vinegar weed killer without the salt, check out the recipe at ‘Moms 4 Real‘!
One last tip: you’ll most likely not be using all in one go. Store your weed killer in a handy spray bottle for future use. Just don’t forget to label it so you don’t forget what you put in there!
Concrete and driveway natural weed killer
Using salt has long been known as an effective homemade way to kill weeds in sidewalks. But did you know that using salt and boiling water together is even better? Remember the cautions above about using salt. It stays present in the soil for years, so you won’t want to use this recipe in the garden. Courtenay from ‘The Creek Line House’ used just salt alone in her walkways, and this is her after! Go check out all her tips on killing weeds with salt.
- 2 Quarts Boiling Tap Water
- Teaspoon- Tablespoon Salt
Another tip: Using a tea kettle instead of a round pot will make pouring the boiling water on the weeds much easier and safer, thanks to the spout on the kettle.
Borax homemade weed killer recipe
Borax weed killer can be used in lawns, but use cautiously. Anything overused can cause damage to other plants. Most commonly used for killing “Creeping Charlie” or “Ground Ivy”, the US Department of Agriculture recommends this recipe to cover 1000 square feet of lawn. Check out ‘The Gardening Cook‘ and their take on borax weed killer spray.
- 1 Cup Powdered Borax
- 2 Gallons Water
How to make weed killer with rubbing alcohol
Another safe weed killer option. Use this solution on a sunny day for best results.
- 2 Tablespoons Rubbing Alcohol
- 1 Quart Water
Mix in a spray bottle and spray directly onto leaves. Photo by ‘Meijer’.
How to prevent weeds in the garden
Preventing weeds is so much better and so much easier than having to treat an out of control weed situation. There are lots of solutions out there to keep weeds from growing in the first place. All it takes is a little planning!
Use other plants
Strong, healthy plants are great at keeping weeds at bay, especially if they keep the sun from reaching the ground below them. Groundcover plants and plants that naturally tend to spread are ideal for the job. Gardening Know How has a whole list of great plants specifically for weed suppression in any area of your garden.
Mulch between plants
Mulch is heavy and makes it difficult for new seedlings to make their way to the sunlight. Keeping a good layer of mulch between the plants you actually want to grow is a great way to keep the weeds at bay.
You can also use mulch to kill weeds, not just prevent them. If you have a lot of weeds, mow them down as short as possible. Cover with mulch 2-3 inches thick. If you have time to wait before growing anything in the area, then you can cover the mowed weeds with plastic as seen in the photo below by ‘lovely Greens‘ and let them die. This can take weeks or even months, but it is a good option if you want to lay sod in an area because it kills even the weed seeds and still allows other plants to grow as soon as you remove the mulch.
If you want to stop weed growth before it happens, you can buy a pre-emergent herbicide such as “Preen”, or simply sprinkle corn gluten meal in the area to stop weed seed germination. Keep in mind, pre-emergent natural weed killers do not kill weeds once they have started, so this is best used in early spring. Photo below by ‘Blair County Lawn‘.
- Corn Meal
- That’s It!
Note: If you decide to use the store bought “Preen”, make sure you get the one for vegetable gardens only if you want the pure corn meal. Their other varieties include chemical weed killers.
Prevent weeds from going to seed
This can be a really good control measure, especially with something like dandelions. Once their seeds are allowed to spread, your problem gets much worse. It’s the same concept for any other weeds too, the second you see flowers developing, it’s time to act. If you don’t have time to pull the weeds, at least pinch the flowers off as soon as you can.
Use Ground Covers
If you have a large space, use ground cover plants to cover an area and compete with weeds. Remember, if you are trying to crowd out weeds, you have to give your plants a helping hand at first. The only way that ground cover can win the war is if you hand pull for a while, giving them time to get the upper hand over the weeds. Even if you just need lawn edging, these plants are a great option.
Grow your lawn taller
Still want to keep your grass? Consider adjusting your lawn care routine. For lawn weeds, one of the best ways to control them is to let your lawn grow as tall as your mower will allow. This allows the grass plants to shade the soil and help crowd out weed seeds. The lawn will also grow longer roots and therefore a thicker top, allowing it to crowd out new weeds.
Other safe & natural weed killers
Some of the best natural weed killers are often forgotten, not to mention definitely safe!
- Torching – Use a torch to kill weeds in pathways or areas where you don’t want plants to grow. Use caution, right folks?
- Pulling – The much hated but old fashioned method of weed control. Just pull ’em! Don’t forget to get the roots, especially on perennial weeds that come back every year. Here is a whole bunch of weed pullers on Amazon to choose from.
Final thoughts on embracing natural weed control
So learn how to make natural homemade weed killer, and have another tool in your gardening know-how arsenal. You are on your way to a kid safe, pet safe garden! Remember, if a spray will kill weeds, it might kill other plants too, so be careful even with safe weed killer! And lastly, the best weed control employs tactics from all angles- preventative weed control means less need for weed killer to begin with!
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