Are weeds staging a coup in your yard?

2014-07-26T06:00:00Z Are weeds staging a coup in your yard?By Susan Billings Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Not all green is good.

Sure, we welcome the monsoon rains but we dread the result: out-of-control weeds.

Weeds like velvetleaf. Spurge. Tumble pigweed. Nettleleaf goosefoot!

The names are fun, but killing or digging them out is not. Even grass is annoying in the wrong spot.

As a lifelong organic gardener, I won’t use commercial herbicides in my garden or yard. Most chemical herbicides can’t possibly be good for worms, beneficial insects and soil microbes — not to mention kids and dogs. 

My dog, Max, has run of the backyard and likes to roll around in the grassy weeds. Call me lazy, but I leave some of the grass alone for him to enjoy.

There are natural weed control products out there, but do they work? Are they worth the cost?

Or does good old vinegar work just as well?

This spring, I mixed up a batch of vinegar with a splash of dish detergent. (Dawn works well but you can use what you have.)

I sprayed it on clover and other weeds that were staging a coup in our grass courtyard.

The vinegar solution worked great — the weeds browned quickly and then shriveled up and died within a week or so. Eventually, the grass filled in the bare spots.

Some of the grass that got sprayed died, too, so be careful where you spray. Also, try not to spray on windy days.

Spray the leaves and drizzle some of the mixture straight down the main root system. Whichever concoction you choose, apply it when it’s warm and sunny out.

1. My “recipe.” Straight white vinegar with a dash of dish soap. The soap acts as a surfactant and helps the vinegar adhere better.

  • Cost = $2.79 for 1 gallon of plain white vinegar.

2. Here’s a recipe that’s popular with organic gardeners:

1 gallon vinegar

2 cups Epsom salts

1/4 cup (2 ounces) Dawn dish soap.

  • Cost = $8.27 for 1 big batch, although you will have dish soap and Epsom salts left over for the next batch.

3. Here’s another herbicide formula from The Dirt Doctor, aka Howard Garrett:

• 1 gallon of 10% vinegar

• 1 ounce orange oil or d-limonene

• 1 tablespoon molasses (optional)

• 1 teaspoon liquid soap or other surfactant (such as Bio Wash)

Note: Do not add water.

4. If you prefer a pre-mixed product, try:

Natural Avenger Ready-To-Use Weed Killer carried by Arbico Organics in Oro Valley. This ready-to-use nonselective herbicide uses natural citrus oil to kill weeds and invasive plants. The main ingredient is d-Limonene. Wet the plants’ leaves thoroughly.

  • Cost = $11.50 for 24 ounces (other sizes available). 

5. For pre-emergent weeds:

Orland's Safe-T-Weed Corn Gluten.

  • Cost: $35 for a 25 pound bag (other sizes available).

More info from Arbico’s website:

Orland's Safe-T-Weed is a pre-emergent corn gluten herbicide that does not allow the tiny feeder roots of sprouting seeds to develop. Corn gluten will not harm established plants, or vegetables and flowers that have true leaves.

The EPA found Orland's Safe-T-Weed is so friendly to the environment that it is exempted from EPA herbicide regulations.

Got a comment or question? Shoot me an email at

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About this blog

Never has home gardening been so big in Tucson and Southern Arizona. It’s more than a passing trend — people want locally grown, fresh produce that’s healthful and delicious. And we don’t want to pay a premium for it.

But for many of us gardeners, it’s so much more than that. We feel that pull to the earth, the deep-seeded need to root around in the soil and plant things. And eventually, eat them.

That’s our goal — to be surrounded by natural beauty and landscaping whether we own or rent our homes, and to have the means and knowledge to grow our own food.

These pages will feature a bounty of information for beginning and intermediate gardeners. If you’re an expert, we hope you’ll contribute your advice. The idea is for Southern Arizonans to use this blog to exchange ideas and tips so we’re all successful — whether we’re growing food, beautifying our yard or raising chickens. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there, so let’s share it and learn from one another.

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