Pulling weeds by hand is not always easy or practical, they’re pesky and determined to pop back up and spread in no time. If you’re looking for more natural ways to control them that don’t include harsh chemicals and are safer for children and pets (bonus: most are pretty frugal too), here is a list of diy recipes and solutions from my collection. I’ve also included a few tips at the bottom.
- Vinegar: Kill weeds dead with a good shot of vinegar. For best results, don’t dilute with water and choose a time to spray when there’s no sign of rain. Household vinegar is around 5% acetic acid concentration which will do the trick for new growth. If you can find a stronger vinegar (like pickling which is about 9%), that will give better results for more mature (and stubborn) varieties.
- Salt: This is effective but keep in mind that significant amounts will cause damage to surrounding soil as well. Salt should only be used in places where you want no plant growth (like driveways, sidewalk cracks, underneath decks and patio blocks, around the foundation of the house, etc.). To use, a ratio of 1 part salt to 2 parts water should do it. You can also drizzle straight salt over top.
- Salt & Vinegar Recipe: (read note above first). Combine 1 1/4 cups of table salt with 1 gallon of household vinegar. Spray where needed.
- Vinegar & Dish Detergent: Fill a spray bottle with pickling vinegar and add a squirt or two of liquid dish detergent. Spray during the hottest part of the day.
- Liquid Dish Detergent: Make a soap solution of 1 part liquid dish detergent to 10 parts water. Soak the pesky growth with this mix.
- Boiling Water: Plug in the kettle, bring it to a boil then pour the hot water over weeds (you’re basically cooking them to death).
- Lemon Juice: Either use straight lemon juice or try 1/2 cup lemon juice mixed with 1 quart household vinegar. This works much the same way as straight vinegar, but lemon juice is more expensive. I would only use this if I had more lemon juice on hand than I knew what to do with.
- Common Recipe: 1 quart household vinegar, 1/4 cup salt, 2 teaspoons liquid dish detergent (only use a detergent that contains no bleach). Mix together and spray.
- Corn Gluten Meal (this is different than corn meal): This is an all natural product that deters weeds spreading by seed, a great source of info regarding this method can be found here: City Of Ottawa  (how and when to apply it, etc.). Effective on crabgrass, dandelions, curly dock, knotweed, lambs quarters, pigweed, plantain and others. Can be used on lawns, flowerbeds, bulb beds and vegetable gardens. Make sure to use CGM that is labeled as “pre-emergent herbicide“, stuff from the feedstore doesn’t have enough protein to work. Keep in mind that using CGM affects seed growth for all types of plants, not just those you’re trying to get rid of.
- Many natural remedies and products will not only work, but they may also kill surrounding grass, plants and flowers. When using a recipe, make sure to apply to the weed only (keep in mind that liquids will saturate and seep into the ground where roots from favored plants may be able to reach).
- Use when there’s no sign of rain for at least a day or two, hot sunny weather will give you best results.
- For gardens and flower beds, consider laying newspapers and mulch in and around your plants–the weeds will have a difficult time rooting and spreading (see tip #9: 12 Ways To Reuse Newspaper Around The House ).
- Weed growth is greatly reduced when using the “No Dig” method of gardening (see Diggin It: No Dig Gardening ). The idea is to make a foundation of compost/mulch then only use soil where you plant (make a hole in the mulch, stick a handful or two of dirt inside then plant the seedling).
Did you know: Many weeds are used in home remedies for all sorts of things and some are even edible and tasty! For example, dandelions can be used to make a delicious syrup, wine or jelly , while plantains can be crushed and used to reduce itching from mosquito bites  or relieve pain from bee stings . Take some time to research the ones in your area and you may find some pretty clever ways to make them useful–you may just decide to let a few live and flourish in certain parts of your yard ;).