Vinegar: A Garden Miracle!

I’ve been working with homemade garden remedies in one context or another for about 10 years now.  As someone who has spent days searching for odd cures to garden problems I consider myself qualified to say that, of all of the remedies I’ve seen, vinegar seems to be the product with the most (supposed) uses.  You can kill weeds with it, as well as plant diseases and insects.  You can also use it as a fertilizer or even to acidify your soil.  It’s amazing!  But which of these uses are real and which are just someone flapping their jaws?

Vinegar as an herbicide:  White vinegar which is about 5% acetic acid and does a nice job of burning the tops of plants, but not their roots – so a larger weed will live right through a spray even though it will look bad right after the spray.  You can buy 20% acetic acid.  It works faster, but it has essentially the same problem killing larger weeds that that 5% acetic acid does.  Besides efficacy issues there are safety issues also.  I’ve used 20% acetic acid and I think that this stuff is too dangerous for the average person.  A little in the eyes could cause permanent injury.  Just a little whiff of it is enough to make the nose start running (in other words it’s not good for mucous membranes).

Vinegar as a disease control:  What a great idea!  Spray something that kills plants onto your prized petunias to control disease!  OK, when you use vinegar as a plant disease control you do use a lower concentration which shouldn’t hurt the plant.  But vinegar has never proven to be particularly effective at controlling plant diseases.

Vinegar as a fertilizer: Nope, doesn’t work.  Acetic acid only contains carbon hydrogen and oxygen – stuff the plant can get from the air.  The other things that may be in vinegar could be good for a plant – but it seems an expensive method of applying an unknown amount of nutrition.

Vinegar as a soil acidifier:  This is one that I’ve seen a lot – and so I tried it.  In a nutshell, it just doesn’t work that well.  It takes a lot of vinegar and the pH change is brief at best.  Use something like sulfur instead.

So to summarize, despite a lot of recommendations, the only thing that vinegar has really proven to be good at is killing weeds – and then only if the weeds are young.

21 thoughts on “Vinegar: A Garden Miracle!”

    1. If its to balance PH, you can’t go wrong w/baking SODA, not baking powder. mix in the gallon of water half cup baking soda before a rain or just sprinkle on top of root base teaspoon or two.
      Good gardening once a month balance.

      1. We’ve approved this comment only for educational purposes. Home remedies such as these are neither science-based nor recommended. Rather than trying to “balance” a soil’s pH it’s wiser to plant things that will tolerate your soil’s natural pH, which is controlled by climate and other environmental factors.

  1. I’m with SandyG — though my preference is for a homemade vinaigrette. Vinegar as a weed-killer? Feh! Rather, it’s good at bringing out the subtle flavors of greens: 3 T good olive oil, 1 T balsamic or red wine vinegar, lots of black pepper and some salt, whisked together and poured with restraint over a salad of fresh mixed greens and herbs, will make you feel as if you’re eating your garden, in a good way.

  2. I know they’ve used vinegar for years in water gardening to lower the pH of ponds with no supposed harm to plants and fish. I do believe the recommendation is to not change the pH more than one or two values per day.

  3. I still can’t believe that some
    one would think that one thing could be both a pesticide and a fertilizer. But aren’t all pesticides bad if you get them in your eyes? My coworker has had a lot of luck with it mixed with a little orange oil to get rid of all the weeds that grow in the cracks in sidewalks, driveways, etc. But I do see that I’m going to need something stronger for my neighbor’s Euonymus to mysteriously die. Or perhaps vinegar is the right thing to make it look sick enough that they take it out.

  4. I agree with the article. Vinegar is great on cucumbers but keep it in the kitchen. If you really want to get rid of weeds the only good way is to dig them out. You need to get the entire root so go online to and get a made in America good quality weeder. You can also get a Diggit Duck that takes the weeds out of cracks.

  5. Great summery. Explains what I found, and what I wondered about. I did some freeze condensing of store vinegar, but when it didn’t quite work, I thought I was doing something wrong. I also had plans to use it for soil pH. Is the sulfur ok next to a stream?

  6. Ten to agree too. I did a fun video about how spraying vinegar on weeds was not as effective as pulling them out by hand and got a lot of dislikes – maybe because the video was too corny but I think mostly because people want to think that it works wonders on weeds. Boiling water works great on weeks in cracks too : )

    1. In the US it’s illegal to apply unregistered chemicals as pesticides – you would lose your pesticide applicator’s license. I’m surprised that Australia doesn’t have similar regulations.

    2. I am noticing a lot of fungus nats on my outdoor roses and shrubs in my garden. They are driving me crazy! Any suggestions?

    3. Soo, could u tell me if vinegar and hot water in a spray bottle can stop my cats from going to bathroom in my flower pots?? And how if u don’t kind?? Thanks in advance

      1. Sorry, Alicia, but this is beyond the scope of this blog. I’d check with your vet for advice. But vinegar and hot water is not going to be good for soil life or your plants’ fine root system.

    1. We’ve approved this comment only for educational purposes. Home remedies such as these are neither science-based nor recommended. Please do not use them, but instead ask Extension faculty like ourselves for good alternative methods of weed control.

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