Weeds can be the bane of a gardener’s life. As the growing season gets into full swing, weeds can become a huge problem, often growing faster than your ornamental plants, fruits and vegetables. Unless you regularly hoe annual weeds, hand-weed problem areas and prepare soil thoroughly, you’re going to be overwhelmed the minute your back is turned.
Commercially available weed killers usually contain glyphosate, a controversial chemical linked to several cancer cases in the United States. While glyphosate is unlikely to be used in sufficient quantities at as to cause harm for the home gardener, you may want to avoid using it. There is also research to suggest that glyphosate can adversely affect honey bees. It appears that it affects the microbial community in the bees’ digestive system, making them more prone to deadly infections.
So why not try making your own homemade weedkiller, from ingredients you already have in the storecupboard? Salt, vinegar and lemon juice are just a few of the items that can be used to make weed killers.
We’ve put together a few suggestions for natural and homemade remedies that might make weeding easier. Bear in mind that these solutions don’t have the same weed-killing powers as glyphosate and other commercially available weed killers. It’s therefore a good idea to use more than one application over the course of a few weeks, as one dose of homemade weed killer may not be enough to completely kill the weed. Always spray your homemade weed killer on a dry day, otherwise rain will wash it away.
More on weeds and weeding:
- Garden identifier: weed seedlings
- Five ways to eradicate garden weeds
- Weeding by hand
- Weeding without chemicals
- Weeding garden paths
Kill weeds using boiling water
Boiling water can kill weeds. This is a particularly useful technique on paths and paving, where you don’t have to worry about nearby plants being affected. You can also use it on a group of weeds in a border, taking care not to pour it onto nearby plants that you want to keep. Save energy by using the water that you’ve just used for boiling vegetables.
Useful for: Paths, patios, paving, cracks in driveways, borders, isolated patches of weeds
Our verdict: Very easy, convenient and cheap.
Lemon juice weed killer recipe
Lemon juice contains citric acid which can cause weeds to shrivel.
Lemon juice weed killer recipe:
- Juice around five lemons, or as much as needed. Alternatively, use ready-squeezed juice from a bottle
Suitable for: Paths, paving, pavements, driveways
Our verdict: Use a bottle of ready-squeezed juice for speed, otherwise it’s a time-consuming option.
Salt weed killer recipe
Salt (sodium chloride) can be very harmful to plants if applied in high enough doses, as it dehydrates them. Salt is not good for the garden, however, as it will also kill other plants and will ultimately affect the pH of the soil. For this reason, use on paving and paths only and make sure that the solution does not leach into nearby soil. To work as a weedkiller, the salt must be dissolved in water. You can increase the strength of the solution if you need to.
Salt weed killer recipe:
- One part household table salt
- Two or three parts water (do not use rock salt, sea salt or Epsom salts)
Suitable for: Paths, paving, patios, driveways
Our verdict: Cheap and easy.
Baking soda and vinegar weed killer recipe
Some councils are trialling vinegar (acetic acid) as a long-term solution to removing weeds in towns and cities. It doesn’t work well on its own, so needs to be mixed with baking soda, salt or lemon juice.
Baking soda and vinegar weed killer recipe:
- One part baking soda
- Two parts white vinegar
- Lemon juice (optional)
Best for: Young or annual weeds, in paved areas
Our verdict: A cheap option but doesn’t smell pleasant.
More weed killing options
Mulching – covering the soil with a thick layer of material – can help hugely with keeping weeds under control. There are many options available, from homemade compost to weed membranes. Mulches can also lock moisture into the soil and some contain nutrients, acting as slow-release plant food. As worms take mulch into the soil, they also help improve the soil structure.
Various non-chemical weed-killing solutions exist to help you kill weeds safely, including using flame guns and battery powered ‘weed burners’ to kill weeds.