DIY All-Natural Weed Killer: Results and Best Practices

Three things led me to try DIY organic weed killers: I didn’t want my chickens, who free range, to eat pesticides, I didn’t want my toddlers, who play everywhere and put even the most unexpected things in their mouths to be exposed to pesticides, and I hate (HATE) pulling weeds by hand.

I experimented with several methods, BUT, spoiler alert: there are no easy, quick fixes to get rid of weeds unless you’re willing to soak your weeds in Roundup (which is absolutely not for my particular situation).

I tried various mixes of all-natural weed killer, specifically:

– 1 gallon white vinegar

– 1 cup salt

– 1 tablespoon liquid dish soap

and then tried using this mix without salt (I worried salt would keep anything from growing in certain spots ever again), and also tried with high-strength vinegar alone.

Two tips. First, this MUST be done when full sun can be on the weeds, otherwise you’ll have zero results. Second, I used this sprayer, which worked pretty well and sped up the process.

There were no, I repeat, NO, discernable differences between the vinegar mixes (so long as weeds were in full sun, they died), so in future I’ll steer away from the much pricier strong vinegar.

As a side note – I also tried pouring boiling water on weeds, a suggestion I found online. This method took a couple days to show results, but results were better (about 80% of weeds stayed dead after a month). However, this method was completely impractical simply because of the time it took and the sheer volume of water you had to use – you have to drench every part of the weed, and spend time boiling enough water. I went through two gallons of water in a 2×2 foot square area, to give you an idea. Just not workable.

One day after spraying my vinegar mixes, I was super happy. Dead weeds! Before:

After!

After three weeks, I was much less happy, because 70% of the weeds were back:

This wasn’t surprising, given that the mix only kills what you can see, not the root, but the speed with which the weeds came back grated big-time, especially since it took me about three hours to spray my driveway and paths in the hot, hot sun in order to spray these weeds. Honestly, the ‘before and after’ photos surprised me, because looking at them I can see about 30% to 40% of the weeds died, but in my head it feels like 90% of them are back, just because with the time and effort involved I expected more.

Now, in contrast, a month and a half ago I spent about 45 minutes pulling weeds by hand around this section of our raised garden beds.

Before:

After:

After a month and a half:

Sigh. No matter what the internet told me, the fact remains that hand-pulling weeds is much better than spraying them. Almost all of the weeds remain gone, and hand weeding worked especially well for weeds that have gotten large (which are the ones the spray had the toughest time killing). I try and remind myself that pulling the weeds actually took less time than spraying did, and that I was able to choose the time of day and weather so it wasn’t such a sweaty an experience as spraying, but this is still a rough conclusion. My hands get sore pulling weeds, I find it mind-numbingly boring, and it is certainly my least favorite part of gardening – but it works.

I also tried spraying some of the copious amounts of poison ivy we have on our old pasture walls with the spray. While mentally very enjoyable to soak my least-favorite weed, the sprays did absolutely NOTHING to the poison ivy. I assume it’s a combination of the fact that poison ivy thrives in the shade (minimal sun exposure was possible where it’s located on our property), and that it’s protected by its oils in some way, but there were only tiny spots on the leaves that went away in about a day, and that was it. No photos of the before and after … because they just look like identical photos of thriving poison ivy. Grrrrrr.

In conclusion, if any of you have any miracle tips, I’d love them, but for now I don’t buy the nonsense you find online that there are simple, non-corrosive, non-labor-intensive solutions to weeds out there! No matter your solution, there’s elbow grease and lots of time involved. Guess it’s back to weed pulling.

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