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Vinegar as an Herbicide?
Featured

11 March 2016   Lynne LaMaster

This week there has been a trending question at the garden center; so when Christy from Chino Valley asked, “Can I use Vinegar as an Organic Weed control?” I thought the topic worth reviewing.

Watters Weekly Garden Classes

March 12 - Bird Friendly Landscapes - not just for songbirds

We all love to watch birds in our gardens. This class will focus on attracting them with natural vegetation by meeting their needs (food, water, cover, space). What is present in the landscape, what can be planted and artificial structures that enhance the habitat.. Special guest instructors will be Anne & Paul Schell, founders of AZ Raptor Experience will focus on the benefits of attracting raptors and wildlife, such as natural pest control, energy, water, soil conservation and how they can complement a backyard environment. Paul & Anne will have some of their birds with them so be sure to bring your camera, it will be an excellent photo opportunity for the youngster's.

March 19 - Controlling Gophers, Bugs and Disease in the Gardens

If you let these pest gain a foothold they are nearly impossible to rid from your garden, until now. Learn all the rat deadly secrets to a disease free garden this spring. Pinyon pine scale, aphids, powdery mildew, grubs and much more are covered. This free class fills up early so bring a cup of coffee, a notepad and your owns chair and learn how to shoo pest away this spring.

March 26 - Advanced Container Designs $35

Lisa Lain, Watters owner, has been creating container designs for decades. This 3 step program puts the floral style back into your garden. The class is free to onlookers, but the first 12 students to sign up create their own design with her professional guidance, and take it home same day. Come ready to get your hands dirty and your containers beautified. Bring your own pot, on staff professionals are available to help design and build pretty container gardens all day.

April Classes

April 2 - Drip Irrigation Design and Installation

Newest technologies in irrigation introduced. April is time to turn that irrigation back on. Learn the benefits of drip irrigation, the best emitters and parts, how to set a system up or add a plant to it. With the right system you can save water and have healthier plants all at the same time. We will also go over how to properly set up and run an irrigation clock. We stuff Watters irrigation bins full making ready for this class. Come early and bring a lawn chair; over 100 students attended this class last time it was offered.

April 9 - Grape, Brambles & Blueberries to the Kitchen

Students learn the best grapes, berries and all things vegetable along with plant foods to an ever increasing harvest. Dozens and dozens of fruiting varieties will be on hand and all the professionals to help you increase the eats from these edible plants.

April 16 - Fragrant Mountain Roses

Beautiful roses are admired, but these roses will tickle the nose. Not only will you know which roses are most fragrant, but you'll have all the insider tips the brings your rose to life with these season long bloomers. Oh, we'll have a HUGE selection of fragrant roses on hand that day as well . . . imagine that.

If you want to get technical about it, the most natural, safest way to get rid of weeds is the ages old method: hand-removal. But, let's face it; removing weeds by hand is not always feasible.  The weed in question may be too persistent, the area covered too extensive, or health restrictions may prevent any of us from being up to the task. For any of these reasons we turn to herbicides.  

Is Vinegar an Herbicide? 

Vinegar has shown promise as an effective weed control. There are several variables that alter vinegar’s effectiveness: age and type of weeds to be killed, and the concentration of acetic acid in the vinegar. Household vinegar is a 5% acetic acid solution. Stronger concentrations of 15, 20 and 30% acetic acid are also available.   All concentrations of acetic acid, including household vinegar, should cause treated foliage to brown within 24 hours.   Young, tender weeds and annual weeds like crab grass are susceptible to treatment with household vinegar. However, the roots are often not killed and the weeds may reappear within a few weeks. Repeated applications, up to three times, are needed for complete effectiveness with household vinegars.  Stronger concentrations of acetic acid work faster and their effects last longer.

What’s the Difference Between Acetic Acid and Vinegar? 

Acetic acid is created by fermenting alcohol. Household vinegar has a 5% solution of acetic acid made from the fermentation of plant products like grapes and apples. There are stronger concentrations of acetic acid available and even synthetically created acetic acid. All vinegars contain acetic acid, but not all acetic acid is vinegar.

Is Vinegar Considered an Organic Control? 

Yes, vinegar is considered organic if the acetic acid in the product is created by the distillation or freeze-evaporation of plants. This is the process used for making household vinegar or the stronger concentrations sold for home canning. Of course, acetic acid made by synthetic processes is not organic.

Will Vinegar Do Anything to the Soil? 

Being an acid, vinegar can lower the soil’s pH a bit. It is, however, a temporary effect. Acetic acid breaks down quickly in water, so any residue will be pretty much gone after the first watering or rain.

Are there Stronger Vinegars? 

It is possible to buy products with a higher acetic acid content (20%) than that found in household vinegar. Such products can be purchased at farm stores or from restaurant suppliers.  Note - The potency of these high percentage acid products renders them unsafe. Also, the dyes, antibacterial agents, and other ingredients in various acids and dish soaps causes the organic gardener to say “no thanks”.      Are there Organic Alternatives at the Garden Center?   Burn Out is a relatively new vinegar-based herbicide.  Designed by Bonide, it is a blended mixture of vinegar and oils for a stronger knockout of local weeds.  Burn Out is approved for organic gardening and is safe to use around people and pets.    I've been experimenting with this new weed killer on all types of actively growing weeds and grasses. It appears to be rainproof once it has dried, it works at temperatures as low as 40 degrees, and does not infiltrate the soil. It is a candidate for use around borders, driveways, sidewalks, around the base of mature trees, around buildings, fence lines, barns and pastures, school grounds, in greenhouses, and other areas where safe weed control is needed.  Since birds are always welcome to our gardens, I’m pleased to report that it's definitely bird friendly.   
                                                       
  Plant of the Week is the Songbird Columbine.  Extra-large flowers in a unique blue and white with beautiful long spurs adorn this columbine for many weeks.  Plus, removing spent flowers encourages even more blooms throughout the season.  The blossoms come back each spring for an ever- impressive show. This unusual perennial is also resistant to deer and rabbits. $11.99 for a sizeable addition to any spring garden.     Until next week, I'll see you at Watters Garden Center.