Taking Your Gardening Dollar

Battle of the Weed Killers

Weeds1
Here is a ‘before’ picture of a nasty patch of weeds in the sidewalk. This is a section I sprayed with Natures Avenger.

Now, I have to say this in the defense of all organic herbicides: they work best on young weeds that are still growing.  In fact, you would ideally spray them within the first week or two of their life.  These, obviously, are older, more experienced weeds, which would require multiple treatments.

But here’s the thing: you hardly need an herbicide when it comes to two week-old weeds. When a weed is only two weeks old, it takes nothing toWeeds2 knock it back.  You could step on it, or glare at it. You can take out a row of baby weeds with a hoe in the time it would take you to walk to the counter at the garden center and swipe your credit card. 

But I digress. Here, to the right, is the same patch of weeds after a vigorous and enthusiastic application of Nature’s Avenger.

If you look closely, you’ll see that it’s a little browner, but not much.

And what about the vinegar? It did no better. In this image to the left, you’ll see the entire sidewalk. The foreground was sprayed with Nature’s Weeds3
Avenger, and the second half, off in the distance, was sprayed with vinegar. Some of it looks brown, but some of it was brown already.

And here’s what occurs to me.  I’ve got to dig the damn things out anyway, whether they’re dead or alive.  I don’t see how this saves me any work.

So:  Vinegar, for about two cents an ounce, or the good stuff for about 37 cents an ounce?  You decide. 

Meanwhile, I still have a sidewalk full of weeds to deal with.  Once I’ve yanked the weeds out, I’ll use my even cheaper herbicide treatment to keep them from re-sprouting:  I’ll pour leftover boiling water from the kitchen into the cracks to try to kill the roots and the seeds.

Then I’ll forget about it for another year or two.  Until the neighbors really start to make me look bad.

Anybody else have an herbicide success story?  Blow torches, perhaps?

Posted by on July 7, 2008 at 5:35 am, in the category Taking Your Gardening Dollar.
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26 responses to “Battle of the Weed Killers”

  1. Marie says:

    I bought a Paving Weeder from Kinsman Company. http://www.kinsmangarden.com/prodinfo.asp?number=PW It works like a charm on pavements and between my brick edging. My daughter bought a more expensive pavememt weeder that is too thick to get in some tight spaces.

    If “I’ve got to dig the damn things out anyway, whether they’re dead or alive” this paving weeder makes it easier.

  2. greg draiss says:

    Organic weed killers only work well in hot humid weather. This according to the makers of “Burn Out II” a red neck lemonade blend of citiric acid and vinegar.
    I can also say that corn gluten works ok as a preventer but at the cost is not a value at all.

    The (pull em out by hand and save money) TROLL

  3. Michele Owens says:

    The only weed-killer I ever tried was Round-Up, once, on the purple loosestrife around my pond. It, too, was a failure–barely dented these plants. And you’d think that if anybody could do deadly, it would be those grim Monsanto people.

    Mechanical methods seem to work best for me.

  4. Hap says:

    Try mixing some cheap dish soap with the vinegar next time. The combination seems to work well.

    Although for getting rid of weeds in a hardscape like your sidewalk, nothing beats an old fashion flamethrower! (Otherwise known as a weed burner or roofers torch.) I love mine and it makes a great, easy non-chemical charcoal starter for the BBQ when it is not turning weeds to ash!

  5. I LOVE the flamethrower idea, but in lieu of that, I’m a big fan of boiling water.

  6. Jane says:

    I heard that applying a mixture of 1 cup of salt to 4 cups of vinegar works well. I haven’t tried it yet, though, because I would need to make sure it couldn’t run off into the lawn or garden. That much salt can’t be good for anything.

  7. Charlotte says:

    I love my flamethrower — I bought the smaller one that you can attach one of those little propane bottles that you use for lanterns. The only caveat is that it’s a good idea to keep a hose nearby — but for weeds in cracks it’s the bomb!

  8. Garth says:

    I’ve had decent luck with Nature’s Avenger. I’ve used it to kill grass prior to digging and tilling and raised-bed building. However, I’m dealing with some deep, well-establish rhizomes so neither spraying nor my flamethrower are entirely effective. The only way I can make progress is with a combination of spraying, hacking, pulling, scratching (my chickens), eating (neighbor’s goats), cultivating, and crowding (with plants I want). There’s a bed of sacrificial potatoes planted as well. They’re sacrificial becausse I don’t need them to form edible tubers, I just want them to bust up the pan and choke out some roots

    Gardening is fun! Should get easier every year.

  9. susan harris says:

    I wonder what Jeff Gillman can tell us about orange oil as an herbicide.

  10. dlyn says:

    I love my flamethrower – I have one that uses a 20 lb gas tank. Great for sidewalk cracks and gravel driveways.

  11. wren says:

    On the flamethrower front, my friends distribute Eco-Weeders from Europe:

    http://www.chemfree-weedcontrol.com/lady_page.php

    I have never tried it, as alas, my garden consists of a half-dozen cedar planters on a small balcony, but said friends have had good success with their tests and response from customers. That said, folks with substantial area to cover would best justify it… Some parks and university folks are enjoying it for large paved areas.

  12. Claire Splan says:

    I’ve found the one-two punch of boiling water, followed a couple days later by the weed-whacker to be the most effective way to keep the weeds out of the many cracks in my driveway and sidewalk. But in truth I’ve almost resigned myself to the fact that I’ll never really keep up with this like I should and it will look a bit shabby about half of the time. Oh well. When I had a lawn there was a period of about a year and a half where I hired someone to mow and do that kind of clean-up up front. But now, no lawn means no lawn guy. I miss him.

  13. Jeff Gillman says:

    Vinegar isn’t great unless you’re willing to practically pour the stuff over plants (the higher the acid % the better — you can find 6% and higher). I’ve never seen it work effectively on anything bigger than about 6 inches. The oils generally aren’t great either — with the possible exception of clove oil which is better than the rest, but is still somewhat less than remarkable, especially on perennial weeds. I wish I could say I was surprised by your results, but they’re very consistent with what I’ve seen in the past. Flaming works better. Try clove oil if you must — but do realize that clove oil is also the most dangerous of the oils — I read about someone who died from an OD — I think it was in India. Not nearly as safe as everyone seems to think.

  14. Have you considered emigrating to the North Pole? No weeds there, it’s just a tad on the cold side. Either that or nuking the weeds and everything else, not the most environmental friendly option though.

    In a nutshell: weeds are here to stay, deal with it. 😀

  15. I hate weed killers too, toxic or organic. I usually just pull, but I have poison Ivy in this garden. I went to the store twice to purchase Round Up to kill the poison Ivy before I could bring myself to actually buy it. It did not work. Then I heard about the 1 cup salt to 4 cups vinegar. It worked. I only use it on the drive way and poison Ivy. It works best during hot dry spells.

  16. I hate weed killers too, toxic or organic. I usually just pull, but I have poison Ivy in this garden. I went to the store twice to purchase Round Up to kill the poison Ivy before I could bring myself to actually buy it. It did not work. Then I heard about the 1 cup salt to 4 cups vinegar. It worked. I only use it on the drive way and poison Ivy. It works best during hot dry spells.

  17. Kim says:

    What is more destructive to the soil, salt and vinegar or Roundup?
    I prefer to pull the big weeds or weeds with seeds and nuke the rest with glysophate. Science hasn’t condemned glysophate as being environmentally bad has it?

  18. Bend at knees, let gravity take hold, squat down and pull.
    I never really got the whole spray it till it turns brown thing.
    The way I see it, now you have a nice big brown dead ugly weed tangling in your garden bed instead of a green one.
    You’re just trading one color for another. The weed is still there until someone disposes of it.

    I use a couple of methods to keep the weeds down.
    1- I plant way too much , way too close. The weeds don’t have a stink’en chance.
    2 – Mulch the beejeezus out of the garden.
    3 – bend down and pull.
    4- for weeds growing in the cracks of sidewalks a flat edged shovel shears them right off at the root.
    Flip the weed pancake into the green waste bin.
    Done. Have a beer.

    Sprays are futile and ultimately just turn the landscape into a brown crispy dead zone.
    Blah.

  19. susan harris says:

    Ditto what Michelle D said perfectly.

  20. Barbara says:

    Memories. The community garden we belonged to for 15 years had an anal rule on weed-free brick paths (yup, you could lose your garden)! I actually walked a kettle of boiling water down the Manhattan sidewalk (what a site!) to pour between pre-salted spaces between the brick walk surrounding two sides of the 6×3-foot plot. LOL!

  21. nandina says:

    This is never a fun job. Tough on the back and knees. Try using a linoleum knife as a weeding tool. It easily slips into tight places, cutting and removing weed growth. Try it. Works well.

  22. I use the vinegar method on all my weeds and I really have a weed problem. I have also used the boiling water trick, similar to the flamethrower for us too chicken to play with fire!

  23. Terry says:

    I’m surprised that no one has suggested one or more variations of a scuffle hoe – e.g., colinear, stirrup/”hula,” or my favorite, a “diamond” hoe!

    You can read more about diamond hoes at the University of Wisconsin Healthy Farmers,
    Healthy Profits Project, http://bse.wisc.edu/hfhp/tipsheets_html/diamondhoe.htm

    You can also watch me explain the various scuffle hoe options at http://news10now.com/Default.aspx?ArID=7547

    The concept, as I attempt to explain in the video, is that without leaves, weeds can’t produce plant “food” (i.e., sugar) via photosynthesis. Repeated defoliation with a scuffle hoe will ultimately starve weeds to death.

    The good news is that while using a scuffle hoe may seem like a lot of work, as long as you keep them sharp (I use a Dremel tool fitted with a grinding wheel), you can cover a lot of ground in a very short period of time without bending over! I even use my diamond hoe to very efficiently extract stubborn perennial weeds and moss from between the brick pavers in our patio and driveway

  24. John said…
    I read your comments and wonder why on earth all of you don’t use the IsoWeeder Herbicide Spray Shield. Only one on earth and works no matter what type of non-selective herbicide you use. No more pulling weeds only to watch them grow back.
    IsoWeeder also lets you GO GREEN by preventing indiscriminate sprays from coming in contact with beneficial flora and fauna in the soil.
    IsoWeeder lets you Kill the Weed and Only the Weed!
    You can order one today by visiting http://www.isoweeder.com

  25. cm says:

    my favorite weeding tool is an old screwdriver. it slips down right along those long tap roots and they slide right out, in one piece(most of the time).

  26. John Randle says:

    Folks, PLEASE check out my IsoWeeder Herbicide Spray Shield at http://www.isoweeder.com
    IsoWeeder is the garden accessory that enables you to KILL THE WEED & ONLY THE WEED. It’s Green Gardening at its finest and prevents killing oversprays and residues from getting on your good plants and on beneficial soil flora and fauna!
    Forget the drudgery of pulling weeds! IsoWeeder makes weeding fun and final! Buy yours today!
    John Randle
    Plastech Designs, Inc.

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