Many of us have heard about the benefits of using vinegar in gardens, mainly as an herbicide. But how effective is vinegar and what else can it be used for? Let’s find out more about how to use vinegar in the garden.
Using Vinegar in Gardens
It has been said that one of the benefits of vinegar in the garden is as a fertilizing agent. Nope. Acetic acid only contains carbon hydrogen and oxygen — stuff the plant can get from the air.
Vinegar has been recommended for use to up the pH levels in your soil. Apparently not so. The affects are temporary and require large amounts of vinegar in the garden before anything noteworthy occurs.
The last, but most commonly suggested use for vinegar in the garden is as an herbicide. Household white vinegar, at its 5 percent acetic acid level, does indeed burn the tops of the weed. It does not, however, have any effect on the roots of the weed and will toast the foliage of any other plants it comes in contact with.
Vinegar as Herbicide
Woo hoo! Vinegar as herbicide: a safe, easily found (often in the kitchen cabinet) and inexpensive product to use in the control of weeds. Tell me all about it! Okay, I will. The use of vinegar in the garden to retard weed growth has long been recommended by your neighbor, your neighbor’s grandmother and your own mother, but does it work?
Vinegar contains acetic acid (about 5 percent), which as the nomenclature suggests, burns upon contact. Actually, for any of you who have inhaled a whiff of vinegar, it also affects the mucus membranes and causes a swift reaction. Due to its burning effects, using vinegar in the garden has been touted as a cure all for a number of garden afflictions, most notably weed control.
The acetic acid of vinegar dissolves the cell membranes resulting in desiccation of tissues and death of the plant. While this sounds like a splendid outcome for the plague of weeds invading your yard, I suspect you wouldn’t be quite as thrilled if vinegar as herbicide were to damage your perennials or garden veggies.
A higher acetic acid (20 percent) product can be purchased, but this has the same potentially damaging results as utilizing vinegar as herbicide. At these higher concentrations of acetic acid, some weed control has been shown to be established (80 to 100 percent of smaller weeds), but be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, be aware of its caustic effects on your nasal passages, eyes and skin, not to mention garden plants and take the appropriate precautions.
Despite the longstanding proponents for using vinegar in gardens, little beneficial information has been proven. It seems that research conducted by the USDA with solutions containing 5 percent vinegar has not been shown to be a reliable weed control. Higher concentrations of this acid (10 to 20 percent) found in retail products may retard the growth of some annual weeds and will indeed kill the foliage of perennial weeds such as Canada thistle, but without killing the roots; thereby, resulting in regeneration.
In summary, vinegar used as herbicide may be slightly effective on small annual weeds during the lawn’s dormancy and prior to garden planting, but as a long-term weed control, it’s probably better to stick with the old standby — hand pulling or digging.
Additional Garden Uses for Vinegar
Don’t be alarmed if the benefits of vinegar aren’t what you thought they would be. There are other garden uses for vinegar that can be just as good, if not better. Using vinegar in gardens goes far beyond weed control. Here are more options for how to use vinegar in the garden:
- Freshen up cut flowers. Add 2 tablespoons vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar for each quart of water.
- Deter ants by spraying vinegar around door and window frames, and along other known ant trails.
- Eliminate calcium buildup on brick or on limestone with half vinegar and half water. Spray on and then just let it set.
- Clean rust from garden tools and spigots by soaking in undiluted vinegar overnight.
- And finally, don’t forget the animals. For instance, you can remove skunk odor from a dog by rubbing down the fur with full strength vinegar and then rinse clean. Keep cats away from garden or play areas (especially sandboxes). Just sprinkle vinegar in these areas. Cats hate the smell.
Vinegar is truly a wonder product. It provides health benefits for blood sugar control and has been a standard cleaning agent for centuries. Vinegar is also useful in the garden to increase the acidity in your soil.
Vinegar is inexpensive, and you can buy it at almost any grocery store. It’s also a safe and non-toxic treatment when diluted for soil.
The simplest method to create a vinegar solution for your garden is to mix vinegar and water. Use one cup of vinegar for every gallon of water.
The ratio of vinegar to water may vary depending on how alkaline your soil is. But one cup of vinegar to one gallon of water is a reliable place to start.
Once mixed, you can water your soil, distributing the mixture with a watering can as evenly as possible throughout the designated plot.
This simple approach will do for an average backyard garden.
As you continue to water your soil regularly with the mixture, you should take soil samples to check the soil pH levels with a test kit so you don’t overdo the acidity level.
When changing the chemistry of soil, it’s advisable to do so in raised beds. There, you can contain the soil, and have more control of the materials involved.
As with many things in the garden, pH adjustment takes time. With continuous attention, it may take up to several months for the pH levels to lower to a satisfactory level.
The results are a wide variety of flowers enjoying their environment and blooming to full capacity.
16 Ways to Use Vinegar in Your Garden
From cleaning pots and tools to trapping fruit flies, here are just some of the ways household vinegar can work wonders in your yard.
One of the most common uses for household vinegar is as an all-natural weed killer. You have to be careful when spraying it around certain plants as it may be harmful to some, but when used on those pesky hard-to-kill weeds, they will disappear in two to three days' time. Combine a gallon of white vinegar, one cup of salt, and a couple tablespoons of dish soap to get the job done.
Clean Clay Pots
Clay or terracotta pots are often the go-to planters for many gardeners due to their durability and ability to provide cool soil even in extreme heat. However, clay pots are notorious for absorbing salt, calcium or other minerals which may leave them covered in unappealing white stains. Clean up your pots by soaking them in one cup of white vinegar and four cups of water for half an hour to dissolve stubborn mineral build up.
Preserve Fresh Cut Flowers
Everyone loves to display fresh cut flowers from their garden, but the problem lies in the significant shortening of their life span after the stems are cut. Without having roots that can supply the nutrients that flowers need to survive, even the most well-kept flowers will wilt after just a couple of days. To prolong the life of your home-grown bouquets, fill the vase with one quart of water, two tablespoons of sugar and two tablespoons of white vinegar.
When it comes to ants, vinegar can be used to either kill them or just deter them. Fill a bottle with a half vinegar and half water solution and spray directly on the ants to kill them, or just spray around walkways, the walls of your flower beds and on anthills to keep them out of the garden. You can also use this technique indoors as well by spraying the solution around any door frames, window sills or any other places ants can enter your home.
Help Germinate Tough Seeds
Some seeds, like okra and nasturtiums, can often be difficult to germinate. To make the process a bit easier, soak stubborn seeds overnight in a bowl of water with a few drops of white vinegar, and plant them the next day as usual and see quicker results.
Keep Fruit Flies Away
Perhaps the most frustrating of garden pests, fruit flies can be an absolute nightmare for anyone trying to protect their precious fruit trees and plants. In order to keep fruit flies at bay, you have to trap them. Create the simplest fruit fly trap by filling a jar with apple cider vinegar and some dish soap. The vinegar's scent will lure them in and then the dish soap will cause them to sink and trap them in the jar.
Clean Rusty Garden Tools
For a quick and easy way to remove rust from any and all garden tools, soak them or spray them with undiluted white vinegar. Let them sit for a few minutes, and after wiping them down your tools will look good as new.
Keep Unwanted Animals Out
As cute and fluffy as they may be, rabbits, raccoons and household pets like cats and dogs can be a nightmare for any garden. To keep unwanted animals from destroying your plants, soak a few items in white vinegar and post them around the garden's perimeter to keep them from coming near it.
Increase Soil Acidity
Though vinegar can be fatal to many common plants, others, like rhododendrons, hydrangeas and gardenias, thrive on acidity which makes a bit of vinegar the best pick-me-up. Combine one cup of plain white vinegar with a gallon of water and use the next time you water these plants to see some amazing results. You can also add some distilled vinegar to your soil to fight lime or hard water for other not-so-acid-loving plants.
Clean and Sanitize Outdoor Furniture
Everyone loves a bit of outdoor furniture or a few cute picnic tables or benches by the garden, but the downside is that it's so hard to keep these pieces clean. For a quick and effective solution, wipe everything down with a cloth soaked in white vinegar which will leave your outdoor furniture sparkling and fit for any garden party.
Eliminate Snails and Slugs
To get rid of two of the most notorious garden pests, snails and slugs, just simply spray them with a water and distilled vinegar mixture.
Remove Unwanted Weeds from Driveways and Sidewalks
Sometimes that overgrown cobblestone look can give a place character, but when unwanted weeds start growing through unforeseen cracks in your pristine driveway or garden paths, it can be quite an unpleasant surprise. To get rid of the weeds, simply spray pure white vinegar on the affected areas.
Remove Water Lines from Old Vases
Unsightly water lines can put a damper on even the most spectacular of fresh-cut garden bouquets. To remove them, simply fill the vase with half water and half white vinegar mixture, or use a vinegar-soaked paper towel and wipe until clean.
Clean Birdbaths and Outdoor Fountains
When it comes to birdbaths and outdoor fountains, it's important to keep the water clean so that birds don't pick up any harmful bacteria from the dirty water and carry it elsewhere. To maintain a pristine birdbath, simply scrub it with white vinegar and water once each week or so. This will ensure that your water is always clean, and will eliminate any unwanted smells and cut down on algae growth.
Remove Stubborn Berry Stains from Hands
Anyone who's harvested berries knows how difficult cleaning berry-stained hands can be. Instead of scrubbing your palms until they bleed, just wash up with a bit of distilled white vinegar to remove those stains quickly and efficiently.
Clean and Wash Fresh Vegetables
For a quick and easy vegetable wash, combine one tablespoon of distilled white vinegar with a quart of water. Though washing with water is the easiest and most tempting way to do it, adding the vinegar will ensure that any harmful bacteria is successfully removed.
Vinegar is an effective solution for eliminating garden insects. To create a vinegar spray that works on garden insects, combine three parts water with one part vinegar in a spray bottle and add a teaspoon of dishwashing detergent. Shake the spray bottle to mix the contents thoroughly before use in the garden. Here is more on it.
Save your fruit crops from the fruit flies, make a bait using vinegar. For this, you’ll need a cup of water, half a cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 tbsp of molasses. Mix it all and put that solution in an empty container or tin can and hang it on affected fruit tree you’ll see how it will attract and trap them. The similar solution can be used for houseflies too.
25 Clever Uses for Vinegar in the Garden
Bill and I are really making a conscious effort to change the way things operate in our household. I’ve already phased out all of our previous household cleaners with natural cleaning solutions and I’ve been so pleased with the results I thought I’d continue the work outdoors.
We are in the process of transitioning the garden into a more environmentally friendly place–finding options for natural pesticides and fertilizers (that really work).
It may come as a surprise, but we’ve actually saved money transitioning our home and garden into greener spaces. Natural and environmental friendly does not necessarily mean more expensive!
One of my absolute favorite natural secrets is vinegar. It is super cheap, widely available and has so many great uses around the house and garden!
White distilled vinegar provides many safe and natural ways to protect and enhance your garden and gardening tools. Not only will you feel good about keeping children and pets (and you!) away from pesticides and other chemicals, you’ll feel great about the low cost of vinegar compared to those other products.
25 Clever Uses for Vinegar in the Garden
1. Kill weeds and grass growing in unwanted places by pouring full-strength white distilled vinegar on them. This works especially well in crevices and cracks of walkways and driveways.
2. Give acid-loving plants like azaleas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas and gardenias a little help by watering them with a white distilled vinegar solution now and again. A cup of white distilled vinegar to a gallon of tap water is a good mixture.
3. Stop ants from congregating by pouring white distilled vinegar on the area.
4. Discourage cats from getting into the kids’ sandbox with white distilled vinegar.
5. Preserve cut flowers and liven droopy ones by adding 2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar to a quart of water in a vase.
6. Get rid of the water line in a flower vase by filling it with a solution of half water and half white distilled vinegar, or by soaking a paper towel in white distilled vinegar and stuffing it into the vase so that it is in contact with the water line.
7. Clean out stains and white mineral crusts in clay, glazed and plastic pots by soaking them for an hour or longer in a sink filled with a solution of half water and half white distilled vinegar.
8. Remove crusty rim deposits on house planters or attached saucers by soaking them for several hours in an inch of full-strength white distilled vinegar.
9. Clean a birdbath by scrubbing it often with undiluted white distilled vinegar. Rinse well.
10. Get rid of rust on spigots, tools, screws or bolts by soaking the items overnight or for several days in undiluted white distilled vinegar.
11. Neutralize garden lime by adding white distilled vinegar to the area.
12. Avoid skin problems after working in the garden by rinsing your hands in white distilled vinegar.
13. Increase the acidity of soil by adding white distilled vinegar to your watering can.
14. Eliminate anthills by pouring in white distilled vinegar.
15. Cure a cement pond before adding fish and plants by adding one gallon of white distilled vinegar to every 200 gallons of water. Let sit three days. Empty and rinse thoroughly.
16. Sanitize outdoor furniture and picnic tables with a cloth soaked in white distilled vinegar.
17. Kill slugs by spraying them with a mixture of 1 part water and 1 part white distilled vinegar.
18. To catch moths use a mixture of 2 parts white distilled vinegar and 1 part molasses. Place mixture in tin can and hang in a tree.
19. Keep rabbits from eating your plants. Put cotton balls soaked in white distilled vinegar in a 35mm film container. Poke a hole in the top and place in the garden.
20. Remove berry stains on your hands by rubbing them with white distilled vinegar.
21. Clean plastic patio furniture with a solution of 1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar to 1 gallon of water.
22. Wash fresh vegetables with a mixture of 1 tablespoon of white distilled vinegar in 1 ½ quarts of water.
23. When cleaning an outdoor fountain, soak the pump in white distilled vinegar to remove any mineral deposits.
24. Clean a hummingbird feeder with white distilled vinegar—soap or detergent can leave behind harmful residue.
25. Remove mold from terra cotta pots by soaking in a solution of 1 cup white distilled vinegar, 1 cup chlorine bleach, and 1 gallon of warm water before scrubbing with a steel wool pad.
* Traditional white distilled vinegar found at your local supermarket is 5% acidic. You can purchase a stronger 20% acidic vinegar (great for killing weeds) at a local nursery, farm supply company, or wherever organic gardening supplies are sold.
Warmest wishes from sunny Florida,
The Orchid Care Lady
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- Store vinegar in a cool, well-ventilated area in a tightly sealed container.
- Handle the homemade solution with proper care.
- Keep children and pets away from it.
- Don’t use vinegar to clean your teeth and for pregnant woman as it leads to health issues.
Make use of vinegar that helps to look beautiful in your garden. If you have amazing ideas about vinegar uses, please share your experience with us.