I went to Lowes the other day to pick up some herbicide, and do you know what I discovered? They’re expensive! Shocking, right? In a momentary lapse of judgement, I bought some anyway.
After I got home, I decided that rather than pay $25/gal for something environmentally terrifying which I’d no doubt need many gallons of, I could probably find a recipe online to make my own. It turns out there were several, and I returned the chemicals the next day (or maybe it was the day after… you get the idea!).
Here is what I found: boiling water, bleach, salt, rubbing alcohol, corn meal, vinegar, and simple sunlight starvation can all be used to kill weeds on the cheap, and keep them that way.
- Boiling water cooks the roots right in the ground.
- Bleach kills just about anything and dissipates in a few days. (This seems environmentally hazardous to me, even if it does dissipate…)
- “Salting the earth” does just what you expect, killing plants and poisoning the soil; the more you use, the longer it lasts, even up to a few months.
- Rubbing alcohol sucks the water right out of a plant and then evaporates.
- Corn gluten meal prevents seeds from germinating. NOTE: Corn gluten meal is not the same thing as corn meal, and is fairly expensive in comparison. I’m considering buying this one from Amazon, or this one that doesn’t include extra fertilizer.
- Vinegar kills the leaves (not the roots), traumatizing the plant; enough hits, and the plant will eventually die.
- As for sunlight starvation, you can put down a thick layer of newspaper or even plastic.
All of these methods are non-selective, meaning hot water, for example, will cook your favorite rose bush as quickly as a nasty weed, but since I’m trying to murder everything in sight to lay down a layer of rock, I’m good to go. If you want to be more selective, you’ll either need a commercial product or will just have to be very, very careful. (By the way, if you live in a desert climate like I do, weed-selective commercial products will probably kill the plants you want, anyway; most of what grows here has more in common with a weed than a violet.)
I decided to go with a simple recipe: boiling water loaded with salt purchased for around $.50 a box at my local dollar store. After I’ve done the whole area, I’ll add a salt-cornmeal mix over the top and cover the area with plastic before laying down my landscaping rock. Edit: I’ve since learned that cornmeal won’t have the same effect as corn gluten meal. Bummer.
There are three downsides to this if you’re doing a large area (a few stubborn weeds or a small area would be easy). The first is minor: the house smells funny after boiling gallons upon gallons of salt water.
Second, it’s actually a bit dangerous! I’ve managed to splash it on myself just once for quite a nasty burn across my midriff. I’m thinking of buying one of these, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.
Third, I’ve spent the past two afternoons running (actually, walking very, very carefully) from my kitchen to my yard with huge pots of boiling salt water, and I’m still not done. The actual pouring doesn’t take long, even being as methodical as I am, but it takes about 10-15 minutes for each pot to reach boiling, making for a few very long afternoons. I ask you, what am I supposed to do with such teeny bursts of time? Here are a few ideas I came up with:
Things to Do in 15 Minutes Intervals
- Pull weeds, prune plants, etc., etc.
- Watch a movie you’ve already seen.
- Crochet or knit, or do some other craft project that can handle constant interruptions.
- Sort your pantry/cupboards/whatever.
- Do the dishes.
- Clean stuff.
- Write a blog post (ta-da!).
- Groom the cat (or whoever).
- Look on Pinterest for more crazy ideas to
eat upbetter your life.