This natural way to kill weeds with vinegar article provides you with a list of 12 natural weed killing ingredients that you can conveniently use to prepare safe herbicides from the comfort of your home.
The ingredients used are familiar, some being commonly used in the kitchen for culinary purposes or even for sanitation. You no longer have to worry that your herbicides may contaminate waters around the area when the rains come, because the ingredients used here to make the natural herbicides are environmentally friendly. By reading this guide, you will even have the skills to prepare safe herbicides that can also serve as pesticides without destroying your garden soil.
This guide also gives you information on other items that you can use singularly as natural herbicides. This means you will learn how to acquire natural herbicides cheaply and conveniently, many of which are pretty easy to apply onto the weeds.
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What, Exactly, Are Herbicides?
Herbicides, also referred to as weed killers, are chemicals that belong to a broad class of pesticides. They are used to eliminate or inhibit unwanted plants such as weeds. Herbicides are mainly used in farms but can also be used around the home and for landscape turf management.
Types of Herbicides
There are two main types of herbicides. These are:
- Species- specific Herbicides
- Non-specific Herbicides
For the species-specific herbicides, which are also known as selective herbicides, they are designed to eliminate a specific kind of plant while sparing the other desirable plants. This means you can spray the herbicide indiscriminately on your farm while targeting specific weeds, and still be assured your good plants will remain intact.
As for non-specific herbicides, they are those that kill every kind of plant they come into contact with, and so if you want to spray them indiscriminately in your garden, ensure you have cleared your harvest. These non-specific herbicides are also known as broad – spectrum herbicides.
Herbicides are mainly found in powder or liquid form, and while some of them are applied directly to the plants, others are mixed with other fertilizer products.
How Herbicides Work
Herbicides usually destroy weeds through:
- Systematic action
Herbicides that work through contact only affect the part of a plant that comes into contact with the said herbicide and they act fast. You, therefore, need to be extra careful your contact herbicide does not touch any of your wanted plants. If you are using the herbicide in a flower garden, for example, ensure you spray a good distance away from the flower plants, lest they wither like the weeds.
As for systematic herbicides, much as they are effective, they are slow in acting. This is because they are absorbed into the plant through the roots, and they have to find their way up gradually through the entire plant. And, of course, the weed plant ultimately dies.
When to use Herbicides
The ideal way to deal with weeds and other unwanted plants would be to pull them out and dry them under the sun, and then use them as part of compost as this is environmentally friendly.
Unfortunately, this is not always possible due to varying factors such as the long time it would take to pull out weeds in large farms. Also the work involved and cost of the exercise would be enormous. Herbicides then become the go-to method of destroying unwanted plants.
It becomes necessary to use herbicides when weeds or pest plants threaten to deplete the important resources such as water, light, space and nutrients that are needed by the desired plants. Farmers usually want to use herbicides where weeds have had a tendency to ruin the crop and decrease productivity, so that they can ensure returns from farming remain high.
How Weeds Increase the Cost of Farming
It is said that weeds are simply plants whose virtues have not yet been discovered. Weeds can either be medicine, food or unwanted pests in the garden depending on the knowledge one has of them. However, weeds cause more harm than good and have adverse effects on the cost of production.
Ways in which weeds increase cost of production include:
1. Increased cost of cultivation:
Control of weeds is done through tillage. An estimated 30 percent of all crop production expenditure is said to be from tillage operations. This high cost of tillage pushes the total cost of production up, consequently reducing the net margin profit.
2. Reduced prices of final produce:
The quality of produce is low due to the presence of weeds. During harvest, weeds or weed seeds can get mixed up with the crop. This results into a low quality product which results into low prices in the market.
3. Reduced crop yield:
Weeds take up the necessary nutrients that are needed by the main crop to grow. They also compete with the crop for light, space and water. Weeds grow at a fast rate, consuming large amounts of the crops nutrients hence reducing the yields. This leads to low profits and in some cases, heavy losses due to higher production cost.
4. Reduction of value of land:
Agricultural land that is infested with weeds is less desirable to potential buyers or leasers and does not attract competitive prices. This is because it brings heavy tillage expenditure in the form of machinery, labor and herbicides.
5. Added cost of servicing/ replacing farm implements:
There is wear and tear of farming machinery caused by weeds that cause them to be less efficient and can even fail entirely if not serviced or sharpened. This also causes an added expense of servicing and replacing the equipment.
6. Death of livestock and reduced quality of livestock:
Some weeds can cause undesirable quality in animal products and in some cases even cause death of livestock, for example when a weed called gokhru attaches to a sheep’s body, it compromises the quality of wool on the sheep. When cattle consume a weed known as Hulhul, the flavor of the milk becomes undesirable. In severe cases, cattle may die when they consume a weed called Datura. This inevitably leads to financial losses.
7. Weeds reduce irrigation efficiency:
Weeds block drainage therefore increases the seepage losses and losses caused by overflowing.
Other undesirable properties of weeds include:
(a) Harboring of insects, pests and diseases.
(b) Weeds often act as a host to diseases, pests and harmful insects further increasing crop damage.
(c) They can cause harm to human beings
(d) Some weeds cause allergy, skin irritation, swelling and even poisoning when they come into contact with human skin.
(e) Some weed secretions are harmful
(f) Some of the byproducts from weeds such as phytotoxins in quack grass can reduce the growth of many crops or hinder their germination.
Why You Need To Use Herbicides with Caution
Based on the above knowledge about the adverse effects of weed, it is imperative that people use herbicides to curb the weed menace. However, it is important to use herbicides cautiously. You need to go for herbicides that are environmentally friendly as opposed to buying those that are loaded with harmful chemicals. Choosing better herbicides will ultimately be of benefit to you, your soil, as well as your waterways.
Use of strong herbicides can lead to a host of problems. Strong chemicals from herbicides can find their way into our drinking water, surface water and even underground water. This can have severe health issues that can even be fatal. Herbicides can also alter the environment, making it inhabitable for insects, birds and wildlife. It is therefore important to put in mind all environmental factors before settling for a particular herbicide.
Effects of Herbicides
Whereas herbicides are useful for elimination of unwanted weeds, they can be harmful to the environment, human beings and other living creatures if used recklessly. The effects can range from mild to severe. Some effects can be experienced after a short term of exposure to the herbicides, such as allergies and skin irritation while some others surface after a prolonged period of exposure, such as cancer. We need to create awareness on these effects in order to handle herbicides better.
Environmental Effects of Chemical Herbicides
All herbicides are potentially dangerous to the environment even though most of them are considered harmless. Disruption of animal food sources, patching areas, nest sites and water spots can lead to destruction of these animals. Most animals also feed on the treated plants and thus consuming the chemicals found in the herbicides. Extensive use of these herbicides over a lengthy period of time poses a threat to the animals as they continually digest the lethal chemicals leading to their deaths and consequently, extinction of some species.
That is why it is important that people learn how to make their own safe herbicides with ingredients that are not only safe for people, but also for animals and the environment.
Health Effects on Human Beings
There are certain herbicides that have been linked to cancer in humans. One of the most notorious herbicides that has been studied and identified to be the cause of several health problems is Agent Orange, a defoliant that was used in the Vietnam War by the U.S. military who sprayed gallons of the Agent Orange herbicide to defoliate trees in the jungle in order to deprive the enemy of cover and food.
The Department of Veterans Affairs disclosed that the herbicide was the cause of some types of cancers among the Vietnam veterans. The VA as well as the National Academy of Sciences also found out that there was a correlation between the non- Hodgkin’s disease which is a cancer of the lymph system and exposure to the Agent Orange herbicide.
Another study done by Sagar Shah and his colleges that was featured in the March 6, 2009 edition of BJU International revealed that the dioxins found in Agent Orange are likely to increase the risk for developing a certain type of prostate cancer that is difficult to treat.
Inhaling herbicides may affect the respiratory tract causing severe irritation or damage. The damage caused to the respiratory tract (the nose, throat, lungs or sinuses) can be either temporal or permanent depending on the length and amount of exposure to the chemicals.
According to studies done by Medline Plus, a lethal herbicide that was used in the 1970s and 1980s called paraquat was seen to cause throat burns, bleeding of the nose and acute respiratory distress syndrome. It further showed that when consumed in high amounts, it could lead to damage of the esophagus, pulmonary fibrosis which is a permanent lung condition or even in some cases cause death.
Reports by BBC News showed that unborn babies who were exposed to Agent Orange were at a high risk of suffering from birth defects such as cleft palate, mental retardation and presence of extra fingers or toes. However as is also the case with cancer, it is difficult to directly link these birth defects cases to herbicides.
Nervous System Disorders
Several herbicides have been proven to have chemicals that can cause disorders in the nervous system such as peripheral neuropathy. Tingling and numbness in the toes are some of the early symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. The disorder gradually spreads to the feet and hands and in some cases pain is experienced. Other symptoms include sensitivity to touch and muscle weakness. Severe peripheral neuropathy occurs in only a few weeks of exposure. Peripheral neuropathy was cited as yet another symptom of being exposed to the Agent Orange by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Skin Irritation and Allergic Reactions
Skin irritation is the most common reaction to herbicides. This irritation mostly happens when herbicides come into contact with exposed skin such as a handler’s hands. On contact, one should wash the affected area immediately with cold water as some chemicals can burn through the skin.
The Department of Veterans Affairs confirmed that a form of acne called chloracne is linked to exposure to Agent Orange. The acne can be mild or severe depending on the exposure and can last up to a couple of years. In the case of high exposure, the skin thickens and flakes off.
Effects of Herbicides on Children
Children and infants have a weaker immune system as their bodies are still developing, hence their systems do not have the capacity to protect them from the adverse effects of chemicals. According to EPA, children and infants are more likely to be affected by herbicides than adults. When exposed, children may have complaints of nausea and dizziness in mild cases, but in severe cases where there is higher exposure, the chemicals can cause developmental and neurological damage.
Effects of Herbicides on Pets
Herbicides should be kept away from the reach of pets as these animals can easily ingest them. When playing outside, pets can also come into contact with the chemicals and end up ingesting them either by chewing on contaminated plants or licking themselves after having traces of the chemicals attach onto their bodies.
Best Ingredients for Homemade Herbicides
This section of the article will outline some of the most convenient and effective ingredients to use for your homemade herbicide recipes. You can vary the amounts depending on the intensity of the problem and the area you want to cover.
Great Homemade Herbicide Ingredients
Vinegar can, on its own, act as a natural herbicide, or it can be mixed with other safe ingredients to make homemade herbicides. The reason vinegar is effective in destroying weeds is that it has a high level of acetic acid, which raises the soil’s pH hence making the ground not conducive for growth of any unwanted plants. In fact, if there is any foliage around the area you spray it, the foliage is killed.
Still, there is a kind of weed that is too adamant for vinegar alone, and that is the hairy or waxy type. For that reason, whenever you want to make homemade herbicide using vinegar, it is best to add either some salt or some soap in your vinegar solution. By so doing, you will not only have used a strong, effective herbicide, but also one that is safe for you and the environment.
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Borax, a salty mineral compound with soft crystals, is also good at destroying weeds. In order for your borax solution to be effective, the best way of preparing it is to make the ratio of borax: water 10 ounces to 2.5 gallons.
The next step is to stir the borax solution properly, before spraying it onto the leaves of the weeds you want to eliminate from the area. Just like vinegar, you can use borax with other ingredients to make a safe homemade herbicide.
With borax, you need to take precautions so that it does not come into contact with your bare skin, and the only reason is that it is highly alkaline. A product like this whose alkalinity level is extremely high can easily irritate your skin. For this same reason of extreme alkalinity, it is advisable not to saturate your garden soil with borax, hence you alter its normal pH level. And, needless to say, if there are some plants in the garden you want to keep you will avoid any borax reaching them.
3. Citrus oil
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Citrus oil, while very friendly to people, is very detrimental to the health of weeds, and so you can safely use it to eliminate the weeds threatening the plants you want. It works very well when combined with some other ingredients that are lethal to weeds, such as borax. One big advantage with using a homemade herbicide that has citrus oil is that it leaves a beautiful aroma behind, unlike chemical based herbicides that often have an unpleasant smell.
4. Dishwasher soap
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Dishwasher soap is friendly to the user and the environment, yet very effective in destroying weeds. Like citrus oil, it is very effective when used with other safe ingredients to make homemade herbicides.
Some of the ingredients dishwasher soap works well with are vinegar and salt, with great results being visible in a matter of hours. The way this soap works is by reducing the weed’s surface tension, effectively enabling the weed killer to stick on the foliage as opposed to dripping off or getting washed away into the surrounding soil.
5. Coconut oil
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Coconut oil has benefits close to those of citrus oil. Both are very helpful in the kitchen and around the house, yet they have a way of destroying unwanted herbs. Once used in the preparation of homemade herbicides, the coconut oil disrupts the weeds’ capacity to carry out its normal functions, such as photosynthesis. The weeds are also unable to carry out their transpiration function well.
The thing that helps this earth friendly ingredient disrupt the weeds’ normal functions is its richness in fatty acids. Coconut oil breaks down the weeds’ outer cover that is waxy, thus making it difficult for the weeds to retain much needed moisture. As such, they wither away, leaving the field clean or your wanted plants safe and free of nuisance weeds.
6. Table salt
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Salt is not new as a herbicide, considering ancient generations have used it to destroy any growths they did not want. It works by destroying the soil’s pH, hence killing the weeds in that soil. At the same time, it drastically reduces the soil moisture content, and any weeds in the affected area end up dying of dehydration.
However, the effect of table salt on weeds is quite short-lived, because if there are showers of rain, the salt easily dissolves and the soil becomes healthy again for weeds to survive. Still, for the period the salt will have lasted in the soil, no herbs will thrive.
Sugar, just like salt, is known for being valuable in the kitchen and at table, but gladly, it can only act as a great natural herbicide. Having something consumable act as a herbicide is great because it means the ingredient is safe to humans and friendly to animals and the environment as a whole.
Sugar works effectively by lowering the nitrogen content in the soil, hence leading to the wilting and subsequent destruction of the weeds.
8. Corn meal
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You can spread corn meal in an area where you do not want any growth to emerge, and in this way, the corn meal will be acting as a pre-emptive measure, unlike herbicides that destroy weeds already in existence.
Nevertheless, it can serve as an effective herbicide in an area where you are planning to plant something in due course.
9. Rubbing alcohol
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Rubbing alcohol is effective especially when sprayed on the weeds’ leaves because it sucks out any moisture they have and ends up dehydrating the plant completely. In the days following a spray of rubbing alcohol, you can watch the weeds shrivel and subsequently perish.
However, rubbing alcohol, like many other herbicides is non-discriminating and so is capable of destroying any kind of plant, your lawn grass included. As such, if you want to use it in a place that has plants you want to spare, the best thing is to coat the specific weeds with it rather than spraying your garden, flower pot, or whatever other place you want to weed. When using rubbing alcohol in your homemade herbicide, you need to keep in mind that the more concentrated with alcohol the herbicide is, the more lethal it is to weeds. You might even decide to go straight for vodka, since its alcohol content is already high.
10. Clove oil
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Clove is great in combating the weeds menace, especially because not only is it effective in destroying the weeds, but it is also non-toxic. This means by making clove oil one of your ingredients in your homemade herbicide, you will be ensuring environmental safety. In fact, clove oil does not interfere with the soil pH level.
One extra advantage of using clove oil is that it is not only destructive to weeds, but it is also repulsive to pests. You can, therefore, solve two problems in one instance by including clove oil in your natural herbicide.
It is important to note that according to a report produced by the USDA, clove oil is better in destroying weeds appearing in mid-summer than those that emerge during winter. It has also been established that clove oil as a herbicide works best when combined with vinegar and a little salt.
11. Lemon juice
Lemon juice on its own, or as part of the ingredients making a herbicide, is great in destroying weeds. Its active ingredient is the citric acid in it, which effectively burns the plants and leads to their certain death within just a couple of minutes. Also, the acetic acid in the lemon juice is great at eroding the weeds protective layer that is usually waxy, and that makes the plant easily lose its moisture content.
When using lemon juice as one of your ingredients in a herbicide recipe, it does well when combined with vinegar, and if you deem necessary, boiling water. A natural herbicide with this combination of ingredients is great at destroying the stubborn weeds that keep resurfacing after a while of being treated with herbicide.
12. Baking soda
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It is my hope that you have learnt from this guide the basic techniques of making safe and effective herbicides, and that you now can avoid relying on harsh expensive herbicides that are normally very harmful to the environment. It is also my hope that you now know a number of ingredients that you can combine to produce multi-purpose herbicides, which you can use not only to rid your garden and pavements of weeds, but also of nuisance pests.
If you have found this article helpful, please feel free to recommend it to friends and family, so that they, too, can learn the skills of making homemade natural herbicides, which they can conveniently make from the comfort of their homes. Everyone can benefit from these ways of keeping flowers, fruit plants and other preferred plants safe and healthy.