How to make your own kid-safe eco weed killer (and some reasons why you should)

A few weeks ago while I was mowing the lawn, I saw my next-door neighbor walk in my direction wearing a big backpack-style tank sprayer. Weeds are a silent point of contention between us. I have them, he doesn’t. He believes in hiring a lawn service to spray his weeks, and I don’t. Lucky for me, because of “landscape registry,” I get a phone call the day before his lawn service company comes to spray. That way I can prepare by keeping my kids inside and closing all the windows. It’s much better than sniffing Round-up in my baby’s bedroom and having to angrily close all the windows after the fact.

Landscape registry works great, however it doesn’t cover times when neighbors take it upon themselves to spray their own weeds (a practice illegal in parts of Canada, I recently found out. Go Canada!). So as my neighbor continued to walk towards me and then began spraying some weeds about 4 feet away from where I was mowing, I thought for a split second and decided to take the assertive route (not my usual m.o.). I stopped the mower and said, “Hi! What’re you spraying?”  Neighbor: “Just thought I would spray some weeds.” Katie: “Do you know about how long you will be? I want to leave the area and get my kids inside at least until it dries. I am not a fan of chemicals.” Neighbor: “Oh, that’s no problem. You keep mowing and I will spray somewhere else until you are done.”

I still have issues with the encounter. Besides the fact that we both have wells and herbicides are a known contaminant of ground water, the residue and drift are damaging to the health of all living things. The offending weeds were mostly garlic mustard growing under our enormous shared lilac bush. I have pointed the plant out to my neighbor in the past and explained that the easiest and most effective way to remove it is by pulling up its shallow roots (it is SO EASY!). Why it seems easier to him to mix up concentrated chemicals, strap on a big backpack sprayer, and douse them instead of grabbing a garbage bag and pulling, I will never understand.

Unfortunately, I can’t ignore all the weeds in my yard. The poison ivy has to go, though I refuse to buy Round-up so I am still looking for an alternative. And the weeds growing within the cracks of my sidewalk, driveway, and patio are not only damaging the surfaces and expanding the cracks, but they make the task of shoveling snow all the more difficult in the winter. Therefore, I needed to a way to tackle the weeds without harming my pets and children.

I looked at the Big Home Improvement Store and saw a bottle of eco-friendly herbicide on sale for $6. The ingredients as listed were: rosemary oil, 1%. Inert ingredients including vinegar and sodium lauryl sulfate (key ingredient that makes soaps sudsy), 99%. I thought, “I can make this!”

My next stop was the natural foods cooperative, where I knew I could get a bottle of rosemary essential oil for about $6 and make about 35 bottles of weed killer with it. I bought a gallon of vinegar to get me started, and headed home to try it out. Here are the results:


The weed killer will affect all plants in its path, so it is best used as pictured–on areas like patio bricks where you want all the vegetation gone.

Once the weeds wilted, they were much easier to pull out from the roots. The weed above is the most offending weed I am dealing with, and it has long roots sandwiched between the bricks. I was able to pull the majority of them up by the roots.

The best part? I could spray and pull weeds while my 2-year-old played in the immediate area without worrying about harming him. The ingredients in the weed killer are essentially the same as those used to make pickles (and smell like it too!).

If you need more reminders about why you should consider abolishing weed killers from your repertoire, read my post, “The four most important reasons to stop spraying your lawn.” Consider the alternatives such as hand pulling or homemade sprays to both save money and protect the health of all living things.

Disclaimer: weeds will return if you don’t get all the roots, however they will never look as bad as the “before” picture.

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About Katie

Katie Bee is the author of for Elysium blog: a site about family, Down syndrome, home, art, and writing.

3 thoughts on “How to make your own kid-safe eco weed killer (and some reasons why you should)

    1. Katie J.

      I am pretty sure it does. I have found homemade vinegar-borax spray to be effective on thistles. Again, it kills everything, but if you keep it only on the thistle leaves it works great.

  1. Pingback: Appreciation for you, the readers, on my first “blogiversary” | for Elysium

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