This DIY Weed Killer Is Safe for Your Kids and Pets

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Weeds are everywhere this time of year, pushing up through cracks in the pavement and sprouting in any place that soil and water can gather. They can be unsightly in your garden but they can also wreak havoc on fences, foundations, and walkways if they’re not controlled. While leaving the dandelions for the bees is a noble pursuit, allowing invasive plants to take root isn’t so great.

The tension always with weeds is how to get rid of them without harming local wildlife or creating a safety hazard for pets and kids. But there are some DIY ways to do it—while being kind to your wallet as well.

Prevention is the best way to combat weeds

The best, most tried and true method for dealing with weeds is, of course, prevention—and, when that fails, hand-weeding to tear them out at the root. Using shade and ground cover and persistent planting native plants are all good ways to avoid some weeds to begin with. Limiting their potential environments for growth will do more than any other containment strategy, and is cheap and simple.

To keep weeds down, using a fabric weed barrier on pathways and areas you want to keep clear is a great start. If you do end up with a few, pulling weeds early and often will help prevent them from sinking deep roots and sending out runners. Another way to help prevent weeds is to plant ground cover that is native to your region. The National Wildlife Foundation has a handy online tool to help you find good options; choose ones that will grow well based on your climate zone and elevation.

Get rid of weeds and invasive plants using heat and pressure

For removing weeds that grow through cracks in concrete or blacktop, there are a few methods that don’t involve using herbicides at all. Hot water and a power washer or a strong spray from a hose will get you pretty far in dealing with weeds in pavement. This will not only help remove the leaves; the heat from hot water can also help kill the roots so they won’t re-spout.

If you’re adventurous, you can also try out a weed burner, also known as a weed dragon. This involves using a torch to burn the weeds, which is badass. This method obviously shouldn’t be used near structures or in very dry conditions and isn’t for every application. That said, it sure is fun.

DIY your own pet- and kid-safe herbicide

If prevention and heat fail to take care of your problem, you may need to use a weed killer. While you can buy herbicides at a garden store, you may want to avoid using a weed killer that will affect local wildlife or persist in the soil and pose a danger to your pets and kids—so why not make your own safer weed killer that will have milder effects on animals and people and will break down with time so it doesn’t permanently affect your solid quality? Doing so also costs less than going with the common hardware store variety.

Homemade weed killer is made with white vinegar mixed with salt and soap. One gallon vinegar to one cup of salt and one tablespoon of dish soap is the most common formulation. If this isn’t strong enough to tackle your infestation, you can also get gardening-strength vinegar.

Be careful when using this home-made herbicide, as it is an indiscriminate killer of flora, meaning it will kill any plants it comes in contact with—this isn’t a good solution for grass growing between your rows of tomatoes, but it will work well on a gravel path or under a deck. Once applied, this formulation is relatively safe for kids and pets, but it’s still best that they don’t consume it, so keep it out of reach all the same.

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