Pros And Cons Of Homemade Herbicides

By Liz Baessler | June 5, 2018
Image by eskaylim
by Liz Baessler
June 5, 2018

Weed control is a tiresome but necessary part of every gardener’s life. However, many gardeners are hesitant to use commercial herbicides on their plants. It may be tempting to avoid the scary looking herbicides sold at the nursery or garden store, and to resort to homemade, so-called natural solutions. But there are plenty of cons of homemade herbicides that will make you rethink your weed strategy. Then again, there can be just as many reasons to make weed killers at home. Here we will weigh the two opposing sides.


Homemade Weed Killer Pros

Liz’s viewpoint: Whether you aren’t comfortable with long, dubious ingredient lists, or you just want a more homemade gardening experience, there are plenty of reasons to make weed killers at home instead of buying the premade stuff. Keep reading to learn more about why you should make your own herbicides.

Avoiding the use of chemicals. Perhaps the most frequently cited reason for making herbicides at home is the desire to avoid harmful chemicals. Depending upon whom you talk to, glyphosate (commercially sold by Monsanto as Roundup) can be very detrimental to the health of humans and the environment. By making your own weed killer, you know exactly what’s going into it and can avoid the moral, environmental, and health related problems of glyphosate.

Many easy recipes. Additional homemade herbicide advantages include easy recipes with many items already on hand. Finding a recipe that suits you shouldn’t be difficult. There are many. When you look at online weed killer recipes, you may notice little differences and quirks that people swear by, but there are often a few mainstays. Almost all recipes call for dish soap – this acts as a surfactant, or the substance that helps the herbicide cling to the plant so it can be more effective.

Another that virtually always comes up is vinegar. This is the substance that does the real work in killing weeds. Vinegar contains acetic acid (the kind of vinegar you keep under your sink is made up of about 5% acetic acid). If vinegar comes into contact with most leaves, it will dry them out and eventually kill them. It has been proven to be effective at its job. If you’re a farmer with acres and acres of crops and your livelihood depends upon their success, vinegar may not be a viable option. But if you’re a gardener or the owner of a backyard, you can count on vinegar (and whatever else you mix it with) to be at least reasonably effective at annual weed control, especially if you target the weeds when they’re small.

Simple, safe ingredients at your fingertips. Why should you make your own herbicides? Homemade herbicides are also good because they are almost always readily available. If you want to act fast, odds are very good that you have all the necessary ingredients in your kitchen or bathroom. And since the ingredients are usually so common (vinegar, dish soap, salt“¦) you don’t have to worry about getting them on your skin. (Note: This doesn’t extend to industrial vinegar. Some recipes call for it and, while it is more effective at weed control, it is also substantially more acidic and can cause lasting damage to your eyes and skin!).


Cons of Homemade Herbicides

Mary Ellen’s viewpoint: There are almost too many reasons to avoid making your own herbicides to list, but to save you time, money, and effort, here are just a few of the most important downsides of homemade weed killers:

It won’t kill all your weeds. This is one of the most compelling downsides of homemade weed killers. A common recipe for homemade herbicide””soap, vinegar, and salt””can be effective but only on small annual weeds. If you have perennial weeds or larger weeds, you’ll be wasting your time and your household supplies. Weedy grasses are particularly difficult to control with this mix.

Homemade herbicide is not systemic. Commercially made herbicides, like glyphosate, are systemic, meaning they get into the plant and move through all parts of it to thoroughly destroy weeds. Your homemade mixture won’t do that, so it may kill a weed but it won’t eliminate your weed problem.

You need almost 100 percent coverage. Because homemade herbicides are not systemic, for them to work even on small annual weeds, you need excellent coverage. You have to cover nearly the entire plant with the homemade weed killer to ensure it won’t come back to life.

Spray must go on in the right conditions. Not only do you have to ensure that your natural herbicide goes on thoroughly, you also need to do it when conditions are just right. This means waiting for a period of no rain and no wind. Rain will wash off the herbicide and wind will blow it off the plants. In both cases, the result could be a waste of your time but also the destruction of your garden plants. Homemade herbicide does not discriminate between weeds and plants you want in the garden.

Some recipes are harmful to your health. The mix of soap, vinegar, and salt is pretty innocuous, unless you decide to drink it. However, there are some recipes out there on the internet that include bleach and other harsher chemicals. Just getting these on your skin or inhaling the fumes can be harmful.


How Homemade Weed Killer Drawbacks Compare to Homemade Herbicide Advantages

Ultimately, among the most important homemade weed killer drawbacks is simply the fact that they don’t work that well. This doesn’t mean you have to resort to commercial herbicides. Why not use a little muscle? Get in the garden and pull those weeds by hand. That being said, if you’re looking to do small-time, safe weed control, you should consider making your own herbicide. It’s been proven to be effective under the right circumstances, it’s not detrimental to your health, and it’s easy to make. What could be better?

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