Saturday, August 15, 2009

windows and weeds

My friend Tracy asks, "I'm looking for a natural window cleaner as well as a natural weedkiller. Do you have any proven concoctions you would like to share? I'd love to give up the Windex and pulling weeds around the pool patio -- well, let's just say there must be a better way!!" There is a better way, and believe it or not you use the same thing for both (with some disclaimers).

Windows first. That good old standby vinegar and water works great. I use 1/4 C. white vinegar and 2 C. water in a spray bottle. Mirrors, glass and chrome come out streak-free and clean. There are a lot of wonderful household cleaners that you can easily make yourself with common ingredients. To get some good recipes visit Women's Voices for the Earth. You'll find recipes for all-purpose cleaner, drain opener, and more.

Weeds are a little more difficult. There was a study done by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Horticulture that showed that vinegar (acetic acid) works well as a weed killer. But what worked the best was a 20% solution (the stuff we buy for home use is typically only 5%) which is not easy to purchase for household use. I have successfully used vinegar mixed with liquid soap and water as a weed killer but only in areas such as a brick path because the spray will affect almost any plant that it touches. A single application will kill the plant; the exception seems to be plants with fuzzy leaves, for some reason they are not as affected by the solution. Plants with thick roots, like dandelions, usually have regrowth, however multiple applications appear to weaken the plant and, in some cases, completely kill it. I use a formula of 1 part dish soap, 2 parts vinegar, 2 parts water. So for a small batch you would make up a solution of 1/2 C. dish soap, 1 C. vinegar and 1 C. water.

It's a good thing to be able to use ingredients that do the job without relying on harsh chemicals that aren't good for you or for the environment.


PWalton said...

Decades ago, I saw a program of a gizmo that killed weeds. It was discovered that if you apply steam to the leaves of a plant and cover it for a period of time (seconds), the steam will destroy the protective coating of the leaves and the plant will die. The gizmo was pulled behind a tractor and was basically a think rubber pad with steam injected underneath. The tractor would drag this steaming pad over a weeded area and then the weeds would die. It would be worth playing around with a piece of visqueen and a household steamer.

If you are familiar with this or know a better way, I am all ears.

Mira Dessy said...

This does sound like an interesting idea. Obviously this sort of thing works better with an area to be weeded. Of course the homemade version would require a long extension cord for the household steamer to reach out into the garden.