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10 weed killers made from stuff around the house

Tired of garden weeds? Why not try scalding, solarizing, burning or eating them, rather than using harsh chemicals?

By MSN Money Partner May 5, 2014 12:33PM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyIt's great to get out in the garden again, but what about the weeds that beat you to it? Before picking up a synthetic herbicide, try one of these inexpensive, safe techniques.

Landscape gardener standing in garden with shrubs and gardening tools© Ocean/Corbis/CorbisOf course, you'll stay a step ahead of weeds by pulling them as soon as they appear. Pounce after a rain, when the ground is soft and it's easy to pull out the entire root. Weeding tools help pry out deep roots.

To supplement hand weeding, here are 10 weed killers you'll find around the house. Depending on the weed and the method, you may need to treat weeds more than once.

1. Scalding

Pour boiling water directly on weeds. This kills many within a few days. It's an especially good technique for hard-to-extract weeds growing in cracks and between pavers.

"When I boil potatoes or pasta during the gardening season, I repurpose the boiling water by draining the pot directly onto the weeds that like to invade my backyard herb garden and patio," writes Jeff Yeager at Good Housekeeping.

2. Mowing

Crabgrass is the sworn enemy of many homeowners. It infests lawns and, even if you are willing to use a chemical treatment, often what kills the crabgrass also kills the lawn. Lawn fertilizers encourage crabgrass. The way to push it out is to keep your lawn healthy, lush and a bit longer than usual, says the Yard MD blog:

There are no expensive products or chemicals needed to do this; simple common sense will do. This means to keep your grass at least three to four inches high and change your attitude about the "need" for a short or scalped lawn. Those conditions invite crabgrass and allow it to thrive because they allow light to reach the unsprouted seeds.

3. Smothering and mulching

Covering the ground with heavy black or opaque plastic kills weeds by depriving them of light and moisture. Use old tarps, shower curtains and heavy plastic used to package electronics. Plastic is a type of inorganic mulch. Others include stones, gravel and landscape fabric.

Organic mulches don't usually kill weeds; they prevent them from germinating. You have to pre-weed and then apply a thick layer of weed-seed-free mulch like shredded bark, wood chips, straw, compost, leaves, pine needles and lawn clippings. The mulch breaks down, enriching the soil and helping reduce evaporation.

Only with really heavy organic materials can you dispense with weeding. Some gardeners place layers of wet newspaper, flattened wet cardboard, carpet scraps and even old jeans on top of weeds and cover everything with a layer of mulch. It all eventually breaks down and becomes soil.

4. Solarizing

Clear plastic works faster than other types of plastic by using the sun's heat to cook weeds. The Christian Science Monitor tells how:

The process, which is called solarization, uses the heat of the sun's rays to literally cook plants, weed seeds, nematodes, insects, and soil pathogens (the "bad guy" fungi, bacteria, etc. that bring diseases to plants) in the uppermost layers of soil. It also makes nutrients more available to plants later grown in solarized soil.

5. Vinegar

Spray distilled white household vinegar (with 5 percent acidity) directly on weeds. If necessary, a stronger concentration can be purchased at garden stores. Vinegar kills any plant you spray, so be careful.

Treat weeds in the middle of a warm day for a boost from the sun's heat. Use a spray bottle with a nozzle that has a pinpoint setting. Spray on windless days to avoid contaminating other plants. HGTV suggests adding a tablespoon of dish detergent and two tablespoons of vegetable oil per gallon of vinegar to help it stick to plants.

MSN Real Estate says a 50-50 vinegar-water solution works too: "This is a good method for attacking unwanted plants with long taproots, such as dandelions, dock and plantain." has more on using vinegar in the garden.

Vinegar's acetic acid breaks down in water, so it won't harm soil. Treat weeds when the ground is dry for the best effect.

6. Burning

You can use a light-duty household propane torch to kill weeds. "You don't need to actually set weeds on fire to kill them; quickly running a flame over them will usually cause them to wilt and die within days," says Good Housekeeping.

Butane kitchen torches have a wimpier flame, but eHow says gardening author Sharon Lovejoy, in "Trowel and Error," describes using her kitchen torch to kill weeds by passing it over them for a few seconds.

7. Eating

"One person's weed-filled lawn is another person's salad bar," says Organic Gardening magazine, explaining how to identify and eat eight weeds. I'm not suggesting eating as your only eradication technique. But when the garden gives you free food that's full of antioxidant vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, why not say, "Pass the purslane, please?"

Among the many edible weeds, Good Housekeeping and Organic Gardening recommend dandelion greens, purslane, bamboo shoots, Japanese knotweed, lamb's quarters, kudzu, red clover, garlic grass, plantain, sorrel, chickweed and burdock. Pick greens when they're young, tender and mild tasting.

Wild watercress is edible but it can be associated with the dangerous liver fluke parasite, so it's best avoided.

At HGTV Gardens, forager Steve Brill explains how to pick and eat chickweed. Mother Nature Network has harvesting information and recipes for purslane, Japanese knotweed, dandelion, kudzu and curly dock.

8. Rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) kills weeds by sucking moisture from the leaves. SFGate says to use 2 tablespoons of alcohol to 1 quart of water. Spray it on, taking care to avoid other plants. "If the leaves haven't withered after a couple hours, spray the plant again," the article says.

9. Salt

Salt is an effective weed killer that's a last-ditch solution for limited areas. Rock salt is the most economic form to use. Look for it on sale after winter.

Salt ruins soil for growing anything else. "This is a permanent solution for areas you never want anything else to grow in again," says another SFGate article. The article tells how to make a salt solution for weed killing, adding:

If you're interested in improving soil condition, don't apply any rock salt to the area. Salt serves to weaken the integrity of the soil, and may damage it permanently. The only antidote is to remove the tainted dirt and replace it with new soil, and even that may not restore the area.

Spread a thin layer of salt where you want no plants to grow. Keep in mind that rain will dissolve salt and might leach it into nearby garden beds. Also, make sure when using liquid salt solution that it doesn’t seep or run downhill into beds.

10. Baking soda

Baking soda is another weed killer to treat very carefully. It contains sodium and, like salt (sodium chloride), it makes soil inhospitable to all plants, so use it only where you intend nothing to grow again.

Moisten weeds with water and sprinkle a teaspoon of baking soda onto the foliage. SFGate says, "Test the baking soda method with one or two weeds first to determine if this is the right weed management solution for your landscape, especially if the weeds are growing near desired plants and grass."

More from Money Talks News

May 10, 2014 8:15AM
I try to grow my weed not kill it.....:)
May 10, 2014 11:03AM

Make your own weed killer?


I'd rather grow my own killer weed.

May 10, 2014 7:32PM
My problem is that if I kill all the weeds, I probably won't have anything left on my "lawn"...
May 10, 2014 4:02PM
Who are all these dimwits posting political claptrap in a GARDENING thread?!?
May 5, 2014 2:50PM

Mulching & plastic don't work. Weeds anchor to landscaping plastic and you nearly kill yourself manually weeding. Mulch is only good for holding moisture in the soil. If you are out in country or rural areas seeds blow in and anchor in the mulch.  News paper or cardboard work well with just a little mulch on top.

May 10, 2014 1:16PM
I recall using Agent Orange. It worked.
May 10, 2014 9:29AM
Try to pull that stinging nettle weed out without gloves...that feels like you are on fire if you touch it.  I think it has little spikes that stay in your skin.
May 10, 2014 8:14AM
That's right got ahead and eat that weed that the neighbors dog pissed on !
May 10, 2014 12:28PM
Urine makes a good weed killer and mole deterrent.
May 10, 2014 10:51PM
I have a gravel yard and if I tried any of these I'd be doing nothing but killing weeds every day for 10 or 11 months a year (on the West side of the state, weeds virtually never stop growing). Best thing I've found are either Casoron granules or Ortho GroundClear.
May 10, 2014 10:05AM
The very best vegetation killer is a little chlorox and water in a spray bottle. They keel over almost before your eyes. 
May 10, 2014 10:00PM
We don't need to make weed killer...we flatten it all down and toast it, after we land on it..
May 5, 2014 5:00PM
salt is a great weed/moss killer. especially around pets. in a area where there is a lot of rainfall yearly, you don't have to worry about stuff not growing back. it grows back just fine next year, especially if you replace the areas where the weeds and moss were, with grass seed. grows back like the plague.
May 10, 2014 10:37PM
May 10, 2014 6:30PM
May 10, 2014 9:02AM

When I was about 16 I was cleaning spark plugs and carburator parts in a coffe can with gasoline in it.  Without thinking, I dumped it out on the grass by the garage.  We never had grass grow in that spot for the next few on weeds also.. my dad was pissed.  I blamed it on my brother.... He was two years younger...

I now recommend GumOut carb cleaner in a spray can or engine degreaser.  Kerosesne works equally well but puts off black smoke if you light it also eliminates those pesky ants.

May 10, 2014 5:45PM
just put some good old gas in a spray bottle and spray on a hot by weeds
May 10, 2014 7:55PM
CONgress knows best how to kill the economy.
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