Killing weeds and preventing future weed growth doesn't require spraying chemical-laden pesticides or resorting to painstaking removal by hand -- you can treat emergent weeds with an organic herbicide consisting of vinegar and essential oils. Vinegar contains acetic acid, a desiccant that destroys cell membranes, causing rapid drying of plant tissues and killing the plant (see References 4); essential oils also have herbicidal properties (see References 2). Follow this treatment with application of a natural, corn gluten-based weed preventer. Corn gluten meal stops weeds from sprouting roots (see References 1) and is available in various organic weed-and-feed products.
Cover any desirable plants near the weeds with garden fabric. This will protect them from the organic herbicide, which is nonselective and will kill any plant it touches. (See References 4)
Pour a mixture consisting of 1 gallon of white vinegar, 1 tbsp. of liquid dish soap,15 to 20 drops of cinnamon or clove oil and 15 to 20 drops of citrus oil into the container of a pressurized lawn and garden sprayer. Secure the lid tightly, then mix by shaking the container.
Spray the solution directly onto the leaves and stems of the weeds, but try not to wet the soil.
Check on the weeds after one or two days. For most young plants, one treatment is enough. For older plants, you'll need to spray multiple times until the weeds are dead. When they are, clear the dead foliage and remove the garden cover from nearby plants.
Apply corn gluten-based weed preventer to the area where the weeds were growing, raking it lightly into the soil. This will ensure that seedlings die before they mature into plants.
- To prevent the herbicide from washing away, spray the weeds when there's no rain in the forecast for two or three days.
- For continued results with weed preventer, apply in early spring and once again in late summer (see References 3).
- If weeds are resistant to your homemade recipe, buy a food-grade herbicide with 20 percent acetic acid. This is a stronger version of regular household vinegar (see References 4).
- Do not use a vinegar-based herbicide on your lawn. Instead, use a selective herbicidal soap as a weed killer (see References 3).
- Follow the instructions regarding seeding for each weed preventer product.
Sarena Fuller has been writing professionally since 2003. She has written for e-commerce sites, architectural firms, doctors and fashion companies. Her writing experience varies from technical writing to hair and beauty, alternative medicine and eco-friendly living. Fuller holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Arizona.