Garden & Greenhouse


Alternatives to Weed Killers

Posted July 8th, 2013 by Garden & Greenhouse in , ,

IMG_5526If you are battling weeds in your yard before you reach for that bottle of glyphosate at your local big box store you need to know your alternatives. Glyphosate is one of the active ingredients found in Round-Up® and Durazone® and other home use weed killing products. If you don’t want to use chemicals in your yard you should consider any of these alternatives.

Pull Them by Hand

Pulling weeds by hand might get a tiresome but it keeps chemicals off your yard and is good exercise.

Boiling Water

Pour boiling water on plants. This will take a few days until the plant is dead. Once it has dried out pull it and put in garbage or compost. This treatment may have to be repeated for total eradication of weeds.

Smother Them

Cover weeds with cardboard or newspaper. Layer newspaper down with at least 4 sheets or use cardboard. The established weeds will die from lack of sun and new weeds will not be able with grow with no sun.


Mix a solution of 1 cup salt to 2 cups boiling water and pour the mixture directly on weeds. Salt can also be spread directly onto weeds. Use caution since it can erode concrete surfaces and leave ground barren for a long time.

Outnumber Them with Groundcover

Choose ground covers, flowers or garden crops that will naturally compete with the weeds for sunlight, water and nutrients.


White or apple cider vinegar dissolves the skin of the weed’s leaves, causing the plant to dry out. This is effective against most annual weeds, but perennials like dandelion and thistle can re-sprout, requiring additional treatments. Spray vinegar directly on the weeds as soon as they emerge. This works best in dry weather since it will require several days to dry. Once the weed has dried out pull it and throw away.

Torch Them

Propane powered weed scorchers are available at garden centers. Be careful when using them around structures and do not use them on poison ivy. Coming in contact with the smoke of poison ivy can trigger an allergic reaction just like touching them.

Eat Them

Young dandelions, dock, chicory and other common weeds can be eaten raw or cooked fresh like spinach. Some weeds including dandelions can even be made into wine.


Use one part bleach and one part water in a spray bottle and for persistent weeds use bleach without diluting. Bleach will remain in the soil, preventing new growth. Be careful not to splash bleach on grass, flowerbeds or gardens since it can harm the soil. This method is best used around cracks and crevices in paved areas of the landscape.

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing Alcohol is used around the house to draw water out and help it evaporate quickly. The same thing happens when applied to plants. Remember this is non-selective so be careful around the plants you want to keep.

Corn Meal

Pull weeds and use the cornmeal as a pre-emergent. Organic corn meal can be a found at your local grocery store. Corn meal is an option to suppress germination of weeds but is has no effect on established plants.


Sprinkle borax into crevices that have had weeds in the past. This is another pre-emergent weed suppressant. When it is applied around the foundation of a home, it will also keep ants or other six-legged intruders from entering your house. Borax can be toxic to plants and is non-selective.

Baking Soda

This is a safe way to keep weeds and grasses from growing in the cracks of concrete. Sprinkle handfuls of baking soda onto the concrete and sweep into the cracks. The added sodium will make it less hospitable for weeds.

Dish Soap

Add a few drops of liquid dish soap to homemade weed killers for added effectiveness. The soap is not harmful to the weeds but it will act as a bonding agent (surfactant) and will help the solutions to stick to the weed more effectively.

Live With Them

When using chemicals or household products one should always take care in applying. A spray bottle, eye protection and gloves will come in handy.

Emily Walter has over 8 years of experience in the Lawn & Garden Industry. Emily currently has a weekly radio show about urban gardening and writes her blog.

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