Frugal and Natural Weed Killer

By ERIN TURNER

While we welcome spring and summer with open arms and savor the warmth, the brilliant blue skies and the lush vegetation most of us cringe at the thought of the returning weeds and their ever prolific lives.  On our farm weeds are the bane of our existence.  We are constantly trying to battle them.  Most years we battle well only to lose the battle AND the war!  But every year we gain better “military intelligence” and get closer to beating them.  This year I feel might be the year we conquer!

Since we aren’t interested in using strong and expensive chemicals, we have experimented with alternative forms of weed killing.  We’ve tried some organic products such as orange oil and corn gluten, but haven’t seen the results we need.   Those items were mildly expensive too.  If they had performed then it would be worth the expense but we felt it was a waste of money.

Last spring I tried a solution of vinegar (fill up a large spray bottle), salt (1/2 cups-1 cup) and dish soap (good squeeze).  I sprayed it all around our patio and along a flower bed as a test area.  By the afternoon, the weeds were limp and looking like death warmed over!    Within a week, most of these weeds were crunchy and dead!   The trick to this method is repetition of application and applying on a sunny day.

The weeds that were weakened by the solution but not destroyed came back with a vengeance.  So, it is important to reapply this solution after 1-2 weeks.  But overall, I was very pleased with the results.  And the cost of the solution made it all the better!  In Missoula, vinegar is the cheapest at Costco.  You can get a two pack box of vinegar for about $4.00.  While at Costco, you might as well pick up a 25 lb bag of salt for about $3.69 too (you can use the rest for pickling all the summer harvest).  And finally for the dish soap, hit CVS or Walgreens (depending on weekly sales) for Dawn dish soap when it is 99 cents and using a 25 cent coupon, you’ll be knocking it down to 74 cents for 9 oz.  With these costs, it makes it a frugal alternative to more expensive weed killers!

Yesterday, I had a few weeds on a brick pathway.  So, just to show you the effectiveness of vinegar I took a few photos.  The after photo was only about 3 hours after I poured straight vinegar on the weeds.  As you can see, the weeds are hating life.  They are wilted and discolored and are on their way to weed heaven!

Frugal and Natural Weed Killer Before and After

While the vinegar solution has proven effective, we still have the task of applying it to a couple acres of crops.  That is an overwhelming job so we needed something else to tackle the weeds in the large areas of our gardens.  We seem to have found it and it will blow your mind away….it is hand-picking the weeds!  Yup, hate to tell you that but if you are looking for the most effective and frugal way of managing weeds, it honest and truly is to hand pick them.

Now, before you stop reading let me explain some tricks that will save you time, effort and headaches!  START NOW!  Don’t wait until the weeds get too big.  Right now, the weeds are seedlings and they are fragile and so easy to pluck out of the ground!  If you can get these weeds out now and allow your vegetables to grow soon they will shade out any new weeds forming.  It really works well!!

Hula Hoe

Hula Hoe. Its sharp steel blade slices through weeds with ease and cuts on both the forward and backstrokes.

Now, I’m going to be honest with you and tell you that while we do our fair share of hand-picking, we also depend on some garden tools to help us with the vast amount of dirt we need to cover.  A hula hoe is one of our favorite friends.  At about $17, it slides easily under the first layer of dirt and slices the roots to the weed.  If you do ANY gardening, this is a must-have tool!  We invested in a couple of them so we can get multiple people going down rows and suddenly we have a semi weed-free garden!  You still have to hand- pick the weeds directly right around the plant.

Of course, since our farm is multiple acres, last year we invested in a cultivator to attach to our tractor.  We pull this through the rows and it pulls up the weeds.  This is how we manage the weeds in our corn and pumpkin fields.  Again, the weeds left close to the plants still need the work of hand-weeding.

In my research on natural and frugal ways to kill weeds I have discovered other household items which would destroy weeds as well and I’m anxious to try this year.  Here is the list: Boiling water, bleach, vinegar, rubbing alcohol, newspapers and salt.  (Read more about how these homemade weed killers work and how to apply them.)

This year, we are feeling pretty good about our war on weeds…at least for right now.  We got out early and are fighting the battles.  Prevention and early attacks seem to be pushing us ahead.  But with more sunshine, warmer temps and a few rain showers our battle has only just begun!

I feel pretty confident though that we can continue the good fight.  With a vinegar solution and other frugal household items, a good tool and gloved hands I think weeds have met their match and my wallet isn’t going to suffer for it!

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 Erin’s got tons of tips for saving money, couponing, sticking to a budget, and living sustainably in her blog archive.

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Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.

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