Friday, June 22, 2012

Garden Party - Organic Weed Control

Yes, there were a few weeds in yesterday's photos, but here's how you can zap'em without harsh chemicals.

Let's take a quick moment to discuss the scientific method.  First, you see a problem or ask a question. Next, you want a solution or an answer.  Then, you figure out a way to test out an idea you have that will solve/answer the problem/question.  And then, you test it.

I have a perfect example of this scenario for you today.  Recently, in a composting class I was taking, one of the members of the class mentioned using vinegar as a weed killer.  Now, despite my best efforts and cultural practices, weeds still find their way into my garden.  It happens.  Usually, I can pull them when they are small, but if I've been lazy or they are the mean-nasty-thorny weeds, it's a bit more complicated.  The vinegar idea really appealed to me.

I did some online looking, and found several articles about using vinegar.  Some used plain household vinegar, some used horticultural vinegar.  This article with Grandma's Recipe for Weed Killer really was the best.  The author did his own testing with various variations on the formulas that may have been handed down through the generations.

Based on this information, I prepared my own experiment in my own garden, and here are the results:

These grasses grow in between our garden beds.  In spite of weed blocking fabric and mulching.  They need to go!  The test group was sprayed with undiluted regular white distilled table vinegar.  You know the stuff you buy at the grocery store.  I used Great Value brand from WalMart.  It costs about $2/gallon.  I applied it with one of those little spray bottles you can get in the beauty section - the ones that cost about a buck.  I sprayed on a day that I knew it would be scorching hot and that we wouldn't see any chance of rain.  That morning, I filled my little bottle with vinegar and sprayed the holy heck out of the test patch.  The photo shows results after 24 hours.  I'd say they're pretty well dead.  Now, they'll be easy to hand pull and throw in the compost pile.

So what about those meany-nasty-thorny weeds, the ones with the deep tap root?
This is one instance where our drought has worked in our favor - even the weeds are really thirsty!

Using information from the chart in the article mentioned above, I made a larger quantity of weed killer (we have some other big nasties hanging around in other areas of our landscape).  I used about 1/2 of a 1 gallon jug of the vinegar, and added 1 cup of kosher salt.  It's what I had on hand.  You can try other table salt if that's what you have.  I gave the jug a good shake, keeping my thumb on the lid.  Then, I filled my little spray bottle again.  For each weed, I sprayed about half the bottle on the leaves and poured the remainder straight onto the spot where the stem meets the soil.  Again, hot scorching day with no rain.

And this is what the weed looks like now:
You're not so big and tough now, are ya' pal?! Gardener-1 Weed-0.

Just a little FYI here:  I did test some of the other formulas in the chart, but these two worked the best for me.  Feel free to try the other formulas in your yard.  Find what works best for you.

Also, be sure to only spray the weeds.  The vinegar will do the same thing to plants you want to keep.  That's the benefit of using the smaller spray bottle - it will make it easier to apply the solution only where you want it to go.

So get your mad scientist hat on, laugh your best wicked laugh, and go kill your weeds!


1 comment:

Marsha Cooper said...

So I need to mix vinegar in with the salt?
I need an easy way to get all the grass and weeds out from around my actual garden plants.
Actually the grass growing in the garden is the ONLY grass in our whole yard. The whole yard is weeds. I suppose the grass in the garden looks so good because of the miracly gro we added in when planting? We rototilled the whole garden area though before planting.
This yard is just bad bad bad for gardening. Then, let's not mention the gophers that are tearing up the entire yard as well!