Having children is rewarding, just ask any mother, but it can also be expensive. The cost of clothing, toys and college tuition can leave you looking for ways to save money. One option is to forgo expensive gardening products and instead use a borax solution to maintain your garden. Borax is a versatile and inexpensive product that can help keep plants healthy and rid your landscape of annoying weeds.
Salt of the Earth -- With a Twist
Borax has many names including sodium borate, disodium tetraborat and sodium tetraborate. It is made from a naturally occurring mineral and is a salt of boric acid. This water soluble white powder is often used as a laundry booster and cleaning product. Borax is readily available at department and grocery stores in the laundry detergent or cleaning product aisle. Before using borax, familiarize yourself with the warnings found on the back of the borax box.
Borax is a boron compound, which is a micronutrient vital to plant nutrient and growth. When the soil is boron deficient, plant growth is stunted, and plants may yellow and reduce yield. If you suspect boron deficiency, have the soil tested. If it is deficient, fertilize with borax to correct boron levels below 0.5 ppm. Sandy soils often have a low boron level, according to the University of Maryland Extension. Prevent boron deficiency by amending sandy soils with 6 to 7 teaspoons of borax for every 1,000 square feet.
Keeping Aggressive Plants in Check
Borax can also be used in the garden as an herbicide to kill aggressive plants such as creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea). Also known as ground ivy, creeping Charlie is an invasive plant that creeps along the ground forming a low-growing mat. It is mostly seen in in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9. If not controlled, creeping Charlie can choke other plants. Ten ounces of borax dissolved in 1/2 cup of warm water and then diluted in 2 1/2 gallons of water will control an unwanted plant. Spray the plant directly, and for best results, in the spring. To ensure the solution isn't washed away, spray when rain isn't in the forecast for 48 hours after application.
Not for Everybody
Borax can cause skin and eye irritation, and should be kept out of reach from children and pets. If skin or eye contact occurs, flush the area with water for several minutes. If ingested, contact poison control immediately and follow their specific instructions. Borax contains boric acid, which has shown to produce development effects. Pregnant and nursing women should not use borax. This homemade herbicide should only be used on established lawns because new turf is intolerant of the spray.