Most people reach for commercially available herbicides when they spot weeds popping up in their landscape. Unfortunately, these herbicides contain dangerous ingredients that can lead to serious and sometimes deadly side effects if Fido happens to encounter the chemicals. Thankfully, several homemade pet-safe options are available to kill weeds without harming your furry friends.
1. Hand Pulling
Manually pulling the weeds can be an effective method of control that requires nothing more than your hands and work gloves. It will, however, take due diligence and can quickly become a tedious job especially in areas over run by weeds. Hand pulling is best for small infestations or single weeds that appear in your flowerbed. To remove the weeds, simply grab the unwanted plant at the base near the ground, and jerk upwards to pull it and its roots out of the ground.
2. Boiling Water
Pouring boiling water on weeds will kill them without changing the soil pH level or leaving toxic residue behind. However, care must be taken not to burn yourself. Use oven mitts to carry the boiling water to the unwanted plants and carefully pour over the weeds. If desirable plants are nearby, use a funnel to direct the boiling water toward the weeds and away from your plants.
Solarization works by capturing the radiant energy produced by the sun heating up the soil to temperatures hot enough to kill weeds. For solarization, you will need to rake the area to remove debris before beginning, and water the area thoroughly. Once you have prepared the site, cover the area with plastic sheeting, securing the edges with large rocks or tent stakes. The type of plastic used depends on your location. Thin plastic works best but is susceptible to rips from animals walking across it. Plastic with a medium thickness that measures 1.5 to 2 milliliters is ideal for windy areas while thicker plastic works well for smaller areas. The plastic will have to stay in place for at least four to six weeks. Your goal is to heat the top 6 inches of soil at temperatures between 110 and 125 degrees Fahrenheit.
Vinegar is an inexpensive, pet-friendly weed killer that works best on young perennial and annual weeds. Vinegar contains acetic acid, which burns the unwanted plants, but doesn’t pose a threat to humans or pets. Unfortunately, the vinegar most households have on hand typically only contains 5 percent vinegar and isn’t strong enough to control weeds. For effective weed control, you will need a 20 percent vinegar mix. One quart of 20 percent vinegar combined with 4 ounces of lemon juice kills flowers, stems, leaves and other above-ground portions of the weed, but doesn’t kill the roots. For a stronger mixture, combine 1 tablespoon of 20 percent vinegar, 1 quart of water, 1 tablespoon of gin and 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap. This mixture kills all parts of the weeds including its roots, according to the University of Washington.
5. Corn Gluten Meal
Corn gluten meal -- a byproduct of corn processing -- is a non-toxic and pet-safe alternative to chemically filled pre-emergent herbicides. Pre-emergent herbicides work by suppressing the weed seeds, preventing their germination. It won’t, however, kill weeds already growing in your landscape. If applied properly, corn gluten meal can suppress weeds for up to six weeks. The University of Minnesota Extension Service suggests applying corn gluten meal at a rate of 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet in late April to early May with a second treatment in mid-August. After you have evenly applied the corn gluten meal across the area, water it lightly. When buying corn gluten meal for weed control, purchase pure corn gluten meal, and avoid distiller grain or corn gluten that is mainly used for animal feed.
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Home Remedies for Insect and Disease Control on Plants
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Alternatives to Synthetic Herbicides for Weed Management in Container Nurseries
- University of Washington Botanic Gardens: Green Weed Management
- University of Minnesota Extension Service: Corn Gluten Meal A Natural Pre-Emergence Herbicide
- UC IPM Online: Soil Solarization for Gardens & Landscapes
- Bec Parsons/Digital Vision/Getty Images