Wipe out summer weeds the natural way

Weeds are a part of life if you garden, but constantly pulling them doesn’t have to be.

Every garden or landscape has weeds. It’s the nature of the beast. Sometimes, it takes just as much time to pull weeds as it does to plant the perennials and shrubs you want.

But in extreme heat, the satisfaction that usually comes from yanking weeds from a flowerbed is made more difficult by rock-hard dry clay soil. That’s when the little voice in your head chimes in: “why can’t I just spray these weeds and forget about them?”

A quick check of the label on any chemical herbicide reveals that most aren’t recommended for use in temperatures above 90 degrees. But there is one herbicide that works extremely well in scorching weather — and it’s natural, easy to make, and best applied in the scorching conditions we’re experiencing this summer.

The recipe is pretty simple: orange oil, 20% white vinegar, and dish soap.

  • 1 gallon 20 percent concentrated horticultural vinegar.
  • 2 ounces (or 4 tablespoons) orange oil or cleanser containing d-limonene.
  • 2 ounces (or 4 tablespoons) dish soap.

Wearing proper eye protection and gloves, pour the vinegar into a five-gallon bucket and add the orange oil and dish soap. Mix thoroughly with a long-handled spoon or similar tool, and then using a funnel, decant some of the mixture into a hand-spray bottle.

Note of caution: Mixture will burn on contact; be careful not to get it on your skin and don’t spray it into the wind.

Here’s the fun part. Spray liberally onto any plants you intend to kill. The orange oil and soap help the mixture stick to and penetrate waxy leaves, while the concentrated vinegar acid does the work of burning them.

Be sure to spray during the hottest part of a sunny day. Cover all parts of the plant with the spray. Shake the mixture periodically while you’re applying it and only spray the plants you want to kill. Sometimes within just 10 minutes, you’ll see the mixture start to work.

Although it’s not absorbed into the roots like commercially available herbicides, orange oil and vinegar can burn the leaves off broadleaf weeds during scorching summer temperatures. If rainfall or new shoots occur, you may need to repeat the application after a few days.

You can also drench the plant roots once the top begins to die. There is little residual effect, other than lingering fragrance of orange and vinegar, not unlike a salad vinaigrette.

When it’s all said and done, you’ve been able to save your back a few aches and still manage to keep weeds at bay for one more week.

Picture of Nathan Riggs
Nathan Riggs
Nathan Riggs is a SAWS project coordinator and licensed irrigator who also happens to have a degree in entomology from Texas A&M University. Yes, Nathan’s a bug expert, and not just on water bugs! When he’s not hard at work on SAWS conservation projects, he enjoys a wide variety of interests including: landscaping, hiking, photography of flowers, insects and other critters, and planning his next adventure with his wife Ella and family.
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