The Hort Report: Make your own weed killer with vinegar, salt and Dawn dish soap

Weed Spray example

Create a mixture of one gallon of distilled white vinegar, one cup of salt and one-quarter cup of Dawn dish soap to create your own weed killer. Mix the dish soap with the vinegar and salt in a larger than one-gallon container. This helps the soap better mix in with everything. Then put the mix in a 1-2 gallon sprayer. | Photo courtesy of Laura Greenwell

Everything should be growing faster with the warmer weather and rain we have been getting. Hopefully many of you have got everything in the garden and flowerbeds.

Many people have been buying transplants to put in the garden and flowerbeds. Some places are starting to discount them so they don’t lose a lot of money. You should be able to get some deals. 

When buying them, make sure you get the best-looking ones with the whitest roots you can find. Take a few of them out of the pots and look at their roots.

Plant them with plenty of compost in each hole. This allows the roots to get started growing in a rich soil environment. Make sure to water them, allowing the roots to get a good soaking.

After they have been in the soil for 7-to-10 days, fertilize them with Bloom & Root liquid fertilizer. Make sure the soil has plenty of moisture in it so the fertilizer will stay in the root zone for several days. 

Make sure to use the Bloom & Root every 7-to-10 days. You can use this fertilizer up until the middle of October on some vegetables as long as you think they will produced vegetables. 

I talked about controlling weeds in a past Hort Report. My wife Laura and I have found a homemade spray mix to use on unwanted weeds. It is a mixture of one gallon of distilled white vinegar, one cup of salt and one-quarter cup of Dawn dish soap. Laura warmed the vinegar to help break down the salt more.

Mix the dish soap with the vinegar and salt in a larger than one-gallon container. This helps the soap better mix in with everything. Then put the mix in a 1-2 gallon sprayer.

This is an easy way to spray unwanted weeds. I like it because we can premix a few gallons, not needing to have water to mix other types of herbicides with then spray. 

When using this type of spray mix, the best time of day to spray is in the afternoon when it is hot and dry. This is when the vegetation you want to kill needs moisture the most. 

I have sprayed weeds in the late afternoon, and they show signs of dying within a couple of hours. Almost everything is dying within 24 hours. I also have used this mix on small tree sprouts. It really does seem to be killing them.   

With this much salt in a mix, you are not only killing your weeds but also making the soil toxic to all plant life. This will last several days and weeks depending on the type of soil and how much rain you get. Don’t spray it where you want something to be living in a few days.

With other types of contact herbicides, you only kill what the spray touches. It isn’t long lasting. Then with a 2-4D type herbicide, it kills selected types of plants. 

When using the vinegar, salt and dish soap mixture, it does both and stays in the soil too. Make sure not to use it next to plants you don’t want to kill. The mix might leach through the soil or the good plant roots could come in contact with the soil that has been treated. 

Many of you may have already harvested cool-season vegetables. We have planted more green beans in the raised beds at the community garden, where we picked radishes, lettuce and spinach. This is something to think about. 

By now, I have mulch around tomatoes, peppers and vining vegetables in the garden. This help keep the weeds down, too.

I appreciate all your questions in the past and look forward to them in the future. Call me at 573-588-2040 at Shelby County Implement in Shelbina, Mo., email me at sci63468@hotmail.com, visit me on Facebook at Greenwell’s Greenhouse Group or just ask anytime you see me. 

Pat Greenwell is the owner of Shelby County Implement in Shelbina, Mo. He was a high school agriculture teacher for 11 years. He has taught adult vocational agriculture since 1987. He also is a research assistant at the Truman State University Ag Department Farm. 

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