Try vinegar and boiling water in your organic garden

Adventures in Organic Gardening

by Laura Sileo-Lepkyj

cutleaf weeping peashrub organic gardening
Cutleaf weeping peashrub

In my previous column, I promised I would tell you what exactly is industrial strength acetic acid, and why I was lugging around boiling water on a 90-degree day.

In answer to the first part: Industrial strength acetic acid is, simply put, high-power vinegar and is used in manufacturing and chemical labs. In answer to the latter: because I had a momentary lapse in judgment.

Why would a gardener be interested acetic acid? It’s a natural method of weed control. I had heard you simply spray the offensive weed and can plant in that same spot the very next day. I had to get my hands on some of this stuff!

I set out to find it in local nurseries. After visiting several nurseries, I hadn’t located acetic acid spray, but I did come home with an Amethyst Coralberry, a very nice Vitex shrub, and a weeping cutleaf peashrub. Whoa. I didn’t even know such a thing existed, let alone that I desperately needed one.

I finally found Nature’s Glory Fast Acting Weed & Grass Killer for $9.95 at Johnson’s Nursery in East Aurora, and had a very informative discussion with a member of the staff.

Once at home I had to wait several days until I could use my treasure, because just like traditional herbicides, you should not use it if there is a chance of rain. Finally the dry day arrived with our string of 90-degree days.

Vitex organic gardening

I chose an area of crabgrass about six inches square along the edge of a perennial border, marked it with one stone to signify Method 1, and sprayed it with Nature’s Glory. I completely wetted the area I intended to kill.

The first thing I noticed was the smell from three feet away. Try opening that bottle of vinegar in your pantry and inhaling deeply. Yeah, it was like that times five. Made me choke. In my mental checklist I made note of its first major “con”: horrific smell.

Next I moved on to an area I marked with two stones for Method 2: boiling water. I grudgingly boiled a small kettle of water, wiped the sweat from my forehead, and gingerly poured the kettle contents carefully onto the crabgrass. Con 1: very difficult not to splash boiling water on yourself when you are pouring onto a hard surface. Con 2: who wants to boil water on a 90-degree day with 80 percent humidity? Like I said, momentary lapse in judgment, friends.

The very next day I was pleasantly surprised to find that both the Nature’s Glory and the boiling water had completely browned the target area.

Unfortunately, I found over the course of several days that the grass remains full-sized and brown with both methods. Neither method causes the weed to wither away completely the way traditional herbicides will.

I would still give Nature’s Glory one thumb up because it delivers on its promise to kill weeds, but one thumb down because it smells awful and leaves the weed looking brown in your garden.

Boiling water gets the same rating, but it is too much of a hassle to ever bother with again.

In spite of its drawbacks I decided that I would continue to use Nature’s Glory for select spots in my garden.

As I finished my experiment, my husband appeared from the garage on his bicycle, ready to go out for a ride.

“Look!” I exclaimed.  “The new spray I bought works!  I think it will be really useful for my organic arsenal, but I have to get it at a store 45 minutes away.”

He nodded his approval and took off on his bike, knocking down the container, completely spilling its contents, and running over the lid.

Next time: My English roses receive some organic pampering.

5 Comments on “Try vinegar and boiling water in your organic garden

  1. I think you might want to try “Fiesta” It comes in both concentrated and ready to spray in various sizes. Contains 26. % iron. Need to spray 4 weeks after first application as well. Will get rid of weeds and lesser celadine* and not harm grass, …

    *must apply late winter/early spring to leaves BEFORE it flowers and 4 weeks later.

  2. Oh yeah … I can completely see Michael driving his bike over it. Just so he didn’t run over you !

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