How to Kill Weeds

Man applying weed control

How to kill weeds is probably the main question many new gardeners have about their gardens. It seems like there is a never-ending battle between you and all the plants that you don't want to be growing in your garden.


Pulling weeds is an effective and organic way to get rid of weeds, but it is also the most time-consuming process for killing off garden plant pests.

The good thing about pulling weeds by hand is that you know when you have pulled the weed roots out completely, it won't be coming back. Spending a lot of time in your garden pulling weeds also helps you get to know your plants, so you can spot and control pests or other problems with your plants.

Other Organic Methods

If you don't feel like pulling weeds but don't want to use a lot of chemicals on your garden, there are some other organic options:

  • Boiling water: It is said that pouring boiling water on weeds will kill the weeds as well as the seeds. Just be careful not to get any on you, or on the plants that you want to keep!
  • Mulch: Not only can mulch help prevent weeds from growing in the first place, mulching can smother and kill existing weeds. Two or three inches of mulch will eliminate weeds and help hold water in your garden's soil.
  • Soapy water: Another effective method is to add about five tablespoons of liquid dish soap to four cups of water. Mix it up, put it in a spray bottle and spray on the weeds, preferably on hot days.
  • Alcohol spray: Mix four cups of water and between one and five tablespoons of alcohol, depending on the stubbornness of the weeds. Fill spray bottle and spritz on weeds.
  • Vinegar: Undiluted vinegar is a great choice for killing weeds. Put it in a spray bottle and use on weeds. Be careful not to spray your plants because it can kill them, too.

If you're looking for other ways to kill weeds before they sprout, try cornmeal gluten. It's a great pre-emergent herbicide that also adds nitrogen to the soil. This is a particularly good choice for lawns because it won't hurt the existing grass.

How to Kill Weeds with Chemicals

Maybe you're not interested in organic methods of weed control. One important thing to remember when using chemical weed killing options is these chemicals kill other plants, too, so you have to be very careful how you use them.

Products such as Roundup and Ortho Weed-B-Gon are probably the most popular chemical means for getting rid of weeds. They are effective and kill the roots as well as the top growth. The products also often contain a pre-emergent killer so that they kill the next round of weeds as well and keep you weed-free for several months.

Choosing a Weed Control Plan

Can I Use Weed Killer in My Vegetable Garden in the Fall?
Use chemical weed killer with extreme caution near harvest.

If you are just looking to kill weeds in your yard, you probably don't care that much about whether the method you choose is organic. Using chemical herbicides is fine; however, just make sure you follow the package directions. Be careful not to hit plants that you want to keep alive, and keep children and pets off the lawn for a couple of days or longer after using the chemicals.

If you're looking for a weed control option in your vegetable garden, you might want to try some of the organic methods first, especially if it is late in the season and you're about to start harvesting foods. Whenever you are working with any weed control chemicals, always read and follow the instructions on the packaging exactly. Accidental poisoning or severe reactions can be triggered by unintentional ingestion or exposure to such materials.

Eat Edible Weeds

Of course there is one final method of dealing with weeds you might not have considered: eating them. There are actually many edible weeds that are a great addition to your salad bowl or stir-fry. However, not all plants are edible and some can be extremely lethal if consumed. That makes it imperative that you do a little research to determine if the weeds you're trying to get rid of are edible before you give them a try. You might just find that you don't want to get rid of them after all.

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How to Kill Weeds