Natural Weed Killers You Should Use in Your Garden

Last update: 1 month ago

9 min read

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Ask a gardener of any skill level what the hardest part of having a garden is and they will all tell you the same thing – getting rid of weeds.

Invasive plants are everywhere and it’s no wonder why we have so many commercial weed killers on the market.

However, synthetic pesticides pose a threat to children and pets if swallowed.

Fortunately, there’s quite a lot of ways to get rid of weeds naturally. Some of these eco-friendly methods include…

Weeding By Hand

Weeding Hands

This is the most basic and easy way to dispose of the pesky plants growing in your garden.

Use a handy tool, such as a claw or trowel, to loosen the weed roots.

After that, pull the weed by the root.

Use gloves to avoid spreading seeds anywhere else.

Boiling Hot Water

Boiling Hot Water

Prepare a kettle of hot water and take it to your garden.

Make sure you aim around the crown of the undesired plant.

For some plant sorts it might take several tries, but it will kill them eventually and your garden will be once again weed-free.

This method is also good for spots you plan to replant, because it won’t damage the soil.

Landscape Fabric

landscaping fabric installed by Fantastic Gardeners

Image license:Creative Commons Licence / Image Owner: Fantastic Gardeners

If you’d like to suppress weed growth in pathways, you can install a landscape fabric or ask for professional landscapers to do so.

Usually, the fabric is covered with a layer of mulch, and that’s another place where weeds can develop.

However, their roots will be shallow and pulling them off will be a piece of cake.

This method is as animal friendly as it gets, but try not to let your dog dig through the fabric.

Salt

Cup of salt

Pure salt dehydrates plant leaves and sabotages the proper moisture intake of the weed’s root system.

You can mix it up with some water to make a potent solution.

Utilise this method carefully as water and salt solutions can be deadly for regular plants as much as for weeds.

It’s best to use it in small amounts as otherwise salt may permanently damage your soil.

Vinegar

Vinegar

Pure vinegar (white or cider), just like salt, causes dehydration to unwanted plants.

Although strong on its own, white vinegar can become even deadlier to undesired plants, when combined with some ingredients.

Let’s simply call these vinegar weed killer recipes:

Vinegar and Lemon JuiceVinegar and SaltVinegar and Soap
What do these ingredients have in common? They both have high acidity levels. Combine them and you’ve got yourself a natural herbicide which kills first and asks questions later. The way to prepare it: buy vinegar with at least 10% acetic acid. Pour a quart of that vinegar (about 1 litre) in a spray bottle and add 4 ounces (113 millilitres) of lemon juice. You’re set to go, but even though natural, this herbicide cans till sting your skin and eyes. We recommend you wear safety gloves and goggles.
Salt dehydrates plants and that’s why it works well with vinegar. It also makes your salad taste better, just like vinegar, but that’s another topic altogether. The way to prepare it: add one cup of table salt to a container full of vinegar. Caution: this solution is very strong. Use it only for weeds between tiles and cement cracks. If it gets into your soil, it will damage it and nothing would ever grow there. For maximum effect add some liquid dish soap to the solution. This will ensure the solution will better stick to the weed of choice.
Liquid soap will hardly help neutralise pungent smell of vinegar, but it will definitely improve its weed killing properties. The way to prepare it: fill a container with one gallon (about 3 litres) of vinegar. Then add one ounce (28 millilitres) of dish soap. That’s it, really. Little known fact: you can use this solution for killing pests as well. Like they say: two birds with one stone.

Vinegar also evaporates quickly after use, so your cat and dog can walk safely in the garden.

Mulch

Mulch Wood Chips

Cover the soil with grass clippings, wood chips, sawdust, shredded bark, and other organic materials to stop sunlight from reaching the soil.

This, in turn, should kill the unwelcome plants.

Mulch also prevents new weed seeds from entering the soil.

Newspaper

Stack of Newspapers

Newspapers quickly go out of date, but fortunately they can still serve your garden well.

Use old newspapers to cover low-growing plants.

Make the cover at least four layers thick.

Eventually, the lack of sunlight will be the demise of your weeds and will stop weed seeds from developing.

Vodka

Glass of Vodka

Mix this strong alcohol with some water and put your new organic herbicide in a spray bottle.

The vodka to water ratio depends on how stubborn your undesired plants are.

Spray the nasty weeds and watch as they dry out.

Be advised – this method works best on sun-loving invasive plants.

If you are dealing with another weed variety which you can’t recognise, you might want to book professional garden clearance services instead.

Fire

Blowtorch

A propane torch is probably the best natural herbicide you can get.

Do be careful with this method though as you don’t want to burn your “good” plants in the process.

Cornmeal

Cornmeal

Image used unter the following creative commons licence: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornmeal#/media/File:Breading.jpg

Not really a weed killing method, but rather a weed prevention one.

No seeds will grow into plants when sprinkled with this meal ground.

Rest assured, it’s a pet-safe weeding method.

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Carpet Scraps

Rolled Carpet

Got an old carpet you no longer need?

Cut it up into scraps and use them as a weed barrier.

The old carpet pieces will stop invasive plants from growing and still allow water to drain.

Keep in mind that the scraps should not remain on the soil for more than a year.

Ground Cover Plants

Ground Cover Moss

Ground cover plants are great when you need to cover bare patches of soil and, wouldn’t you know it, they also compete with weeds.

In fact, they are so competitive that they will deprive the weeds from their much needed nutrients, water, and sunlight.

For more information on ground cover plant types, go to RHS.

Eating

Salad in Plate

Weeds are, after all, plants and some of them are perfectly edible. Some examples of weeds you can prepare for dinner include: curly dock, wild amaranth (pigweed), dandelion, red clover, watercress, and chickweed.

You can also check this link for some tasty invasive plant recipes.

By the way, you can even make vodka out of Japanese knotweed!

Sugar

sugar and strawberry

Sugar can also be used to get rid of pesky weeds. Just pour some around the invasive plant root and let the ingredient do its job.
There is a slight downside, however. Sugar is likely to attract ants and other sweet loving bugs.

Lemon Juice

lemon on blue background

The citric acid from freshly squeezed lemons will make any weeds shrivel away and die in a few days.
Fun fact: ants really don’t like lemon juice either. No need to call an exterminator, instead drive them away with some lemon juice.

Bleach

Shirts Washed With Bleach

To get rid of weeds naturally with bleach, pour some of it on the pesky weeds growing between the cracks of your walkways.

In a couple of days, you should be able to remove the plants easily.

The bleach will also keep them from coming back.

Disclaimer: Bleach is actually a highly poisonous material for plants, pets and humans alike. If bleached, the soil pH becomes very acidic and nothing will grow for the months to come. If you are determined to use bleach, you will have to avoid spraying plants you want to keep, don’t let pets or kids go near the treated spot and don’t use it around days with rainy weather forecast. Water will help the bleach spread throughout your garden and will kill off other plants.

In the end, it all boils down to desperate times, desperate measures.

WD-40

WD-40 oil

The spray oil is popular for its wide range of uses and it is even good for killing off thistles.

Congratulations, you now discovered one extra use!

Just spray some on the invasive plants and watch them wither and perish.

Disclaimer: be also careful with WD-40. Although it’s the DIY-er’s best go-to tool for pretty much anything, don’t abuse it as it can kill not only weeds but your regular plants too. For reference, check the above bleach disclaimer.

***

So there you have it, your own guide to dealing with invasive plants in your garden. Natural methods are highly effective when combined together – choose several of the above methods for maximum effect.

Did we miss anything? Do you apply other methods in fighting weeds organically? Drop a comment below or share them on social!

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12 CommentsLeave a comment

    • Vodka works well for both killing the weeds and killing the time! Keep it up there, Zac, you’ve got a nice blog going on.

  • Thank you for the great advice, Eco friendly does a lot of things in our environment. I’m sure this info would definitely a help to other people as well.

    • Very good remark, Mollie, we’ve added a couple of disclaimers above on the usage of bleach and WD-40 in your garden. Thank you for pointing it out!

  • Fantastic tips! What about so-called noxious weeds for example canada thistle or wormwood? They’re particularly resilient, and canada thistle is terribly annoying. I would love to learn a resolution that does not involve chemicals like all my neighbors use.

    • Hello there, Paula! So, when it comes to canada thistle, it’s so nasty to deal with because of its elaborate root system. It goes deep into a garden and that makes it a nightmare to deal with. Best way to prevent canada thistle is to make your garden unwelcoming. Canada thistle grows best in low fertility gardens, so try to gradually increase its fertility – this will boost the strength of the rest of your plants which will overcompete the weed. What’s more, you can test your soil for fertility, either by purchasing a tester kit from Amazon, or checking this website http://www.landis.org.uk/soilscapes/ (first method is more secure).

      As far as organic weed control is involved – use a pair of scissors and snip off the base of the plant. Don’t pull it off – for every pulled off canada thistle two grow in its place. Keep a sharp eye and when it starts growing again, snip off the base one more time. This way, the plant will use its limited resources before new leaves have the chance to grow and will slowly die out.

      It’s not a quick fix, but it’s evil and permanent.

      Let us know if it worked for you!

    • Hello Ann! Are you talking about dock weed? Now that’s a pickle as it’s quite difficult to remove, has sporadic bursts of coming out of nowhere and is resilient enough to withstand most regular methods of weed control. So, we’ll suggest to gradually kill the plant using herbicidal soap. Applying the herbicide will impede the leaves from growing. However, you might also want to try a rooting out the dock weed using a dandelion fork (don’t ask us why it’s named this way, however, its shape is perfect to dig out deeply rooted weeds).

  • Thanks for all that info i will have to give it a try and see which one works well.Every year i have been pulling the ivy by hand and it keeps growing back.Ialso have noticed it has turned thecement in my stone walls to powderand i really dont like that at all.Iwill up date ya in a few months if one of them works.Thanks and cheers Brigid

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