Don’t do this at home!
What I did to kill weeds, and half my lawn could qualify me as a hypocrite.
I usually practice what I preach, but this time I messed-up.
In mitigation, I’m renting the property, and the previous tenants weren’t bothered to pull out the weeds. By the time I got here, more than ¾ of the lawn had been infested, and drastic action was called for. Spraying the lawn with my weakest ever, solution of Roundup I killed most of the weeds, and a large part of the lawn.
Why I did it?
Because I’m the most tight-fisted Scrooge, I know. I wasn’t prepared to pay for a selective weed killer when I already had a bottle even though it was the wrong one. Buying the best weed killer for the garden to get rid of only the weeds and not everything else would have solved my problem. It would have saved me all the time I now spend trying to revive the lawn and also having to pull the remaining weeds out by hand. Five wheelbarrow loads so far.
Once again, in my defense, the Roundup must have weakened them because they were much easier to pull out. My reasoning, although off-the-mark, wasn’t as dumb as it sounds. The easy-come-not-so-easy-go weeds weren’t as resilient as my established lawn was. Perhaps if I’d had the patience and waited longer after the first application, it could have worked. Unfortunately, I don’t and couldn’t resist spraying another dose of glyphosate.
Do don’t try this unless you want me to write a piece on ‘how to revive the lawn you almost destroyed.’
Going gung-ho on the weeds in your garden is okay as long as you’re using the right one for the job.
How To Choose The Best Weed Killer For Gardens
Before you choose a weed killer, know-thyself. This profound advice dates back to the days of Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher, and is still relevant today.
If it’s in your nature to think ahead. If you’re someone who anticipates problems before they arise and without wasting time, follow through with action. The best weed killer for you is a preventative one. You’re one of those rare and prudent people who prevent weeds from growing before they do.
Most of us prefer to wait for the weeds to show themselves before we act. We’d use a post-emergent weed killer.
Whatever your approach is to combat weeds, both techniques are effective.
The next thing is to know is the weed you’re targeting.
You identify the weed by looking at the flower, the shape and size of the leaf, the time of year it appears, and how long it sticks around for.
Weeds are divided into perennials (lasts for an infinite amount of time) or annual (occurs once a year.) For more information about weeds, take a look at Preen’s online site. It’ll help you identify whether the culprits causing your garden, so many problems are broadleaf, grassy, or woody weeds. Looking there, you’ll find a map of all 52 states and the weeds indigenous to them. It’s an easy way to get to know your weeds, what they look like, and what will control and eradicate them. All the weed killers they recommend are theirs, but it will give you an idea of what weeds you’re facing, and it’ll help you find other comparable products.
If this is too much of a time investment for you or you’re not the studious type, get yourself a powerful kill-them-all weed killer and get to it. These non-selective herbicides kill indiscriminately. Everything green, good or bad will die, so you have to be careful. You don’t want to destroy your beloved garden, especially the lawn that used to look like the number 10 hole at the Augusta National Golf Club.
You’ve probably realized how upset I am about my, now yellow, not so green, lawn. I hope my stupidity serves as a warning to all wannabe cowboys. If you’re a sucker for punishment and want to be the laughing stock of the neighborhood, then, by all means, go ahead. The best weed killer in this situation is one that destroys certain weeds only. This kind won’t damage plants even if they’re alongside or intertwined with weeds.
Next would be the volume you need. For small areas, a powerful ready-mix product should do the job. I like pre-mixed weed killers because there’s less risk of splashing yourself with the stuff. Most of the organic ones are pre-mixed. The concentrates you’ll use for very large areas extending thousands of square feet.
Now we get to the hard-core concentrates. They all smell nasty and give you the sense that they’re toxic, but they will give you the best results. Whatever you do, don’t inhale the fumes while mixing or spraying. There ‘as an ongoing debate about whether the chemicals used in them are detrimental to us. Weed killers with 2,4-D have even been compared to ‘agent orange,’ which was dropped onto the dense foliage in Vietnam, causing deforestation. But EPA (the United States Environmental Protection Agency) has stated that it’s not harmful to humans, pets, livestock, and birds.
The worst it does is cause skin and eye irritation if you’re exposed to it. Be careful, cover-up, especially your mouth and eyes if you choose one of these powerful weed killers. They activate on contact with foliage, and the detrimental effects they have are quick and impressive.
The granular type of weed killer that isn’t mixed with water is more user-friendly. It is sprinkled onto the area where you want to prevent weeds from growing. It only activates when water is applied. They do take longer to act, though.
Next, look at the amount of time a weed killer takes to become ineffective. If you plan on planting in the area you’ve treated, one with low-residual activity will suit you. It will bio-degrade and won’t interrupt your planting plans for when the weeds are gone. Different ones have different residual activity time-spans. If there’s an area in your yard that you want to keep weed-free for a year or more, use one with long residual activity.
How you apply the weed killer is another consideration. If you’re strong enough to carry the container in one hand while spraying with the other, that’s great. I prefer having the tank on my back with an extended wand to keep the nozzle as far from my face as possible. Getting it onto your back can be awkward but more about that in the FAQ section.
We’re covered all there is to know for you to make the smart choice when choosing the best weed killer for gardens. Here are my top 10 herbicides.
Top 10 Best Weed Killers For Gardens
Because there are different types of herbicides on my list of the top 10 best weed killers for gardens, I’ve grouped them into four categories:
Non-organic pre-mixed, non-organic concentrate that has to be dissolved in water, organic pre-mixed, and a granular pre-emergent.
Non-organic pre-mixed: The active ingredient glyphosate found in Roundup is the most effective herbicide in existence. Because this list is focussed on home gardens, a pre-mixed solution would best suit your needs. The ones that follow are all concentrates and are better for large gardens.
Roundup pump-and-go sprayer will kill the toughest weeds and grasses down to their roots, and you can already see results after three hours. Ideal for spraying around vegetable gardens, tree rings, flower beds, patios, and more. It gets absorbed through the leaves and flows down to the roots, and it’s strong enough to kill poison ivy and similar tough weeds.
The herbicide comes with an extendable wand for accurate, easy application. Pump the handle on this refillable pre-mixed formula, push the pressure lever, and you’ll have ten minutes of non-stop spraying. It takes ten minutes after application for the formula to become rainproof. One container of 1.33 gallons will be enough for an area of 400 ft2 depending on the number and size of the weeds. The price is more or less the same as most pre-mixed weed killers organic or non-organic.
- Only contains 2% glyphosate
- Refillable and no mixing needed
- Powerful contact weed killer
- Pump action container
- Pump seal can fail and cause it to leak
- Less coverage than mixed formulas
- The wand can be unreliable
Compare-N-Save kills a wide range of weeds and unwanted grasses by attacking their roots. The active ingredient 41% glyphosate, one of the strongest chemicals ever produced to fight weeds. It is absorbed through the plant’s foliage. It has to be mixed with water and is used to destroy unwanted growth around landscaping, walkways, driveways, for lawn restoration or renovation, for garden plot preparation, for brush and vine control, and even as a stump treatment. For the best results, you should apply this weed killer on warm, sunny days when the temperature is above 60°F, and no rainfall is forecast for two days.
Three tablespoons of concentrate in a gallon of water are strong enough for general weed control and will cover approximately 300 ft2. For tougher perennials or brush, five tablespoons are recommended. It will destroy all green plants as well as lawn grass, which is why you shouldn’t spot-spray your lawn.
For larger applications, use a tank sprayer. There is no residual activity from this post-emergent herbicide, and the sprayed area can be replanted in as little as a day depending on the type of crop or plant. This weed killer won’t prevent future growth. If you used the whole gallon of pure concentrate, mixed with water, you’d have a 210-gallon mixture that would cover over 20,000 ft2 of infested terrain. Some suppliers sell these in pints. It is a bargain buy because it has the highest ground coverage of the lot.
- Absorbed into the leaf very quickly
- Perfect for large areas
- Very powerful and great value for money
- Recommended dosage needs to be upped to be really effective
- Works slower than advertised
- Not pet friendly
RM43 is a combination of two herbicides and surfactants, a concentrated formula of 43% glyphosate and a tiny amount of imazapyr. It is ideal for weed control and elimination along fence rows, in parking areas, for brush, vine, and around farm buildings and barns, gravel paths, sidewalks, driveways, and more, it is also an effective stump killer. It takes two hours before it is rainproof, and for safety’s sake, people and pets should avoid the area you’re spraying until the liquid has dried.
One quart mixed with water makes enough formula to get rid of weeds in 4,000 ft2, and the weed killer will stay effective for up to a year. Apply the mixture generously in areas where no weeds are wanted, but it can be used to spot-control existing weeds and unwanted foliage in your garden. It comes in three sizes, quart, gallon, and 2 ½ gallons. For a home garden, a quart will be more than enough. For larger applications, use a tank sprayer. It comes in various sizes, and for a regular-sized garden, one quart is more than enough. This is one of the least expensive concentrates.
- The formula is effective for a year
- Eliminates a large variety of weeds
- Good value for large areas of weed control
- Tougher grassy weeds need more than one application
- Is riskier to use than organic types
Spectracide is formulated for spot treatment of weeds and grasses. Its primary role is weed control, but it will also get rid of insects and lawn diseases. It is used on patios, walkways, around flower beds, trees and shrubs. The fast-penetrating, easy to use formula becomes rainproof in fifteen minutes, and the effects will be visible in as fast as three hours.
Protect plants you don’t want to accidentally spray with a piece of plastic or cardboard, and if you do happen to spray them immediately, spray them with water. Treated vegetation shouldn’t be disturbed for at least seven days after application, neither should it be used in or around edible crops or food.
For best results, apply during warm, sunny weather when the temperature is over 60 °F. It will prevent new weeds from sprouting for up to three months. For larger applications, use a tank sprayer. Mix with water and apply with a tank sprayer at the rates directed on the product label and start getting rid of chickweed, plantain, bluegrass, dandelion, and more. It is absorbed through the leaves and eventually destroys the root system. The fast-acting formula won’t prevent you from replanting ornamental flowers, trees, and shrubs soon after application. A ¼ gallon of formula will effectively clear a weed-infested area of 3,000 ft2. It doesn’t contain glyphosate but diquat, which is almost as effective. This herbicide is one of the costlier ones.
- Only takes 15 minutes to be rainproof
- Has a hose-end attachment
- No mixing needed
- Needs hot weather to be fully effective
- Takes longer to kill grassy weeds
Amine 24-D weed killer is one of your more economical weed killers. Two to three tablespoons in 3 to 5 gallons of water are enough to treat an area of 1,000 ft2. It is a pre and post-emergent herbicide. It’s best to apply the formula as a coarse, low-pressure spray, preferably with a fan-type nozzle, and to accurately spray where it’s needed, or you could destroy your plants.
The mixture is best suited for eliminating selective broadleaf weeds like clover, woody plants, and along fences. It can also be used to protect most grassy lawns, turfs, and various crop areas from unwanted weeds and control unwanted aquatic weeds and trees.
The temperature should be above 65°F, the hotter, the better, for effective weed control. For larger applications, use a tank sprayer. Everyone should stay clear while spraying is done and only be allowed back when the sprayed area is dry. The active ingredient is 2,4-D, which can be toxic in large amounts. It is available in quarts or gallons and containers. This herbicide is one of the priciest you can buy.
- Perfect if you have major weed control issues
- Excellent value for money
- Wide application
- Perfect if you have major weed control issues
- Excellent value for money
- Wide application
Eco garden organic ready-mix weed killer has ingredients that have been selected to be safe for people and pets. It controls and eliminates clover, moss, poison ivy, most weedy grasses including dandelions, clover, chickweed, dollar weed, thistle, crabgrass, moss, white cover, and general weeds and grasses. You will see results within 24 hours after spraying it on your driveway, sidewalk, concrete, mulch beds, and flower beds. It contains natural white vinegar, organic rock salt, biodegradable plant activators, and fermentation-derived co-factors, all designed to eliminate weeds and grass effectively and quickly.
Eco Garden Pro weed killer is designed to work effectively without any toxic chemicals such as glyphosate. This eco-friendly product is eco-friendly, phosphate-free, 100% biodegradable, and safe for groundwater. For larger applications, use a tank sprayer to quickly get rid of unwanted grasses and weeds. It is an on-contact weed killer that’s safe for bees. One gallon covers an area of 1,000 ft2 and is applied using a tank sprayer. It is the priciest of the organic ones, but the ground area you can treat is also the most.
- Covers the largest area for organic weed killers
- Eco, people, and pet friendly
- Safe for bees
- Strong vinegary smell
Ortho comes complete with a sprayer is a formula that kills all types of weeds green and growing. Apply the ready-mix weed killer any time of year directly to small weeds and actively growing ones. It acts on contact and can be used on hardscapes, landscape beds, and around vegetable gardens, patios, and more. This fast-acting weed control solution will have visible results in 15 minutes. It takes two hours before it becomes rainproof, so spray well before you expect rain. There is not crucial for pets and humans to keep away from the area you’re spraying as it’s one of the less toxic weed killers on the market.
This weed killer is listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) and can be used safely by organic farmers without fear of losing their certification. For larger applications, use a tank sprayer. The active ingredient is Ammonium Nonanoate, a powerful soap mixture that smothers weeds, and degrades quicker (less than a day), than glyphosate-based products. A bargain-priced product that enables you to keep an area of 1,000 ft2 weed-free.
- Degrades quickly reducing the risk to people and pets
- More eco-friendly than most weed killers
- Works in a quarter of an hour
- Has it’s own spray-nozzle
- Tough weeds need more than a single application
- Only rainproof after two hours
Green Gobler natural and organic weed and grass killer does exactly that, so be careful not to spray the greens you want to keep. It takes around 24 hours to eliminate weeds such as crabgrass, dandelions, clover weeds, white clover, moss, and more. The formula does not have to be mixed with water before being applied to the driveway, sidewalks, mulch beds, pavers, and flower beds. The solution is made from ethanol distilled from corn and does not contain toxic material such as glyphosate and the health risks attached. That’s why it has the OMRI certification for being organic and eco-friendly.
This point and spray weed killer consist of 20% vinegar that’s four times stronger than table vinegar and contains no glyphosate, phosphates, sulfates, volatile organic compounds, petroleum solvents, chlorine, fluorine, ethoxylates, dye, or bleach. Included in the purchase is a trigger sprayer. For best results, only spray when there’s no wind, it’s sunny, and the temperature is above 65°F. Rainfall will neutralize its weed-killing effects. One gallon will be enough for an area of 300 ft2 depending on the number and size of the weeds. A bit pricier than the others of a similar size.
- Eco-friendly and toxin-free
- Spray-gun included
- No dilution needed
- Not effective in wet weather
- Covers a small area
- Strong vinegar smell
Natria gives you a natural way to kill unwanted grass and weeds to their roots. It is a non-synthetic formula that controls weeds, moss, algae, brush, vines, by destroying their roots. Natria even combats pests and diseases. The fast-acting, non-selective formula will give you visible results within 24 hours. The active ingredients in this product are ammoniated soap of fatty acids and Maleic Hydrazide.
It can be used on patios, driveways, sidewalks and flower beds and won’t leave behind stains on your bricks, concrete or asphalt. Do not use it on the lawn as a non-selective vegetation controller, or it will cause unwanted damage. Delay your new planting for five days after using for best results. It is safe for people and pets after three hours or as soon as it dries. The ready to use formula comes with a spray gun with an adjustable nozzle. For larger applications, it can be poured into a tank sprayer for easier use. This is the cheapest of all the organic and non-organic pre-mixed herbicides.
- More eco-friendly because it does not have any glyphosate
- Kills weeds within 24 hours
- People and pet friendly
- Has it’s own spray gun
- It smells of ammonia which might not agree with some gardeners
- The spray gun is hard to use for larger areas of application
The last and only pre-emergent and granular herbicide is produced by Preen. They’ve been in the business for 60 years, and their products are top-class.
Preen prevents weed from growing before they grow. Sprinkle the granules evenly using the flip-top applicator onto the soil or mulch you want to keep weed-free. The granules will effectively control dandelions, crabgrass, chickweed, horseweed, oxalis, lambsquarters, up to 125 broadleaf, and grassy weeds. Preen is not intended for use on flower seeds, lawns, vegetable gardens, water gardens, or other food-producing or edible plants. You’ll have to remove exiting weeds by hand before you apply because Preen won’t kill mature weeds unless they’re small and still emerging.
For best results, apply before watering your plants, or the granules might stick to your plant’s wet leaves and affect them. It can be applied anytime you want to control weeds in your garden in an area of 805 ft2. The granules get activated when you apply water and acts as a weed barrier for up to six months. The smallest container is 4.93 lbs. This is a bargain buy compared to similar products.
- Rain does not affect its power but activates it
- Stays active in the soil for up to three months
- Not absorbed by edible plants
- Much harder to apply than the ones you can spray
- Does not kill existing weeds
What are the steps to take when you apply the weed killer?
Before you even get started, make sure the day won’t get windy. The wind is your biggest obstacle when you spray. Also, be sure to spray when it’s not hot because this might increase the stress on your own plants. Read the instructions on the ideal weather conditions for the best result before, during, and after application.
We’ll start with the weed killer you mix with water and spray onto the weeds. Read the instructions to find out what type of respirator the manufacturer recommends and the mixing ratio.
Safety gear should include a half-face single cartridge respirator, long rubber gloves, a waterproof hat, goggles, long pants, and rubber boots.
If you’ve used the spray tank before, you should release the pressurized-air first by pulling on the pressure valve, or it won’t open.
Make sure the tank is elevated on a table or high step in the garden before you fill it and that the pump-handle is extended. When it’s on your back, it’s hard, unless you’re a contortionist, to grab the handle. A full tank on the ground is almost impossible to hoist onto your back unless you’re a body-builder. After the tank is full, close it and spray off any excess liquid with water unless you want the herbicide to run down your back when you put it on.
You then sit on the ledge of the table or step, slip on the shoulder straps, fasten the stomach-strap, and away you go pumping and spraying merrily. I always keep a bottle of soapy water close by, in case there’s a spillage, so I can wash the mixture off if there’s spillage. Most tanks can be switched if you’re left-handed. After application, wait for at least 24 hours before you water your plants. I delay watering for two to three days afterward.
Granular application is a much simpler process. These are applied to prevent weeds from growing, even weeds that get blown in after application. Use a hand spreader if you don’t like the flip-lid on the container, or it’s too big to cart around. Once the formula is spread on the ground, you can cover it with mulch, but that’s just an extra option. Water the area to activate the granules so it can start to inhibit weed growth. If weeds appear above the mulch, which they will do in time, you can spray them. The combination of granular and liquid weed killers will have a devastating effect.
Is weed killer a hazard for pets?
Non-organic or natural weed killers are safe if pets are exposed to them. The chemical ones take around 48 hours before the active ingredient has been completely absorbed. It’s advised that you keep pets away from the treated area during this time. If you suspect they’ve come into contact with any chemicals, give them a vigorous wash shampoo.
What are the health issues regarding glyphosate and 2,4-D all about?
As you’ve realized, I’m quite wary of some of the chemicals in weed killers, so I dug deeper and found some interesting literature. The debate is ongoing and involves many powerful lobbies and huge lawsuits. Large independent studies haven’t found any definitive proof that there are health risks when you use these types of weed killers. A study of their effects on over 40,000 farmworkers, who used them over the past 20 years, shows no conclusive evidence that there’s an increased risk of getting cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma from exposure to them.
Anything related to crops will always be controversial; it’s part and parcel of the food industry and not a bad thing. It makes us more aware of what’s going on at the grass-root level of food production.
There’s so much information available on all aspects of gardening as well as video tutorials to help you grow as a gardener. But don’t get stuck in front of a screen when you could be out in the fresh-air tending to your vegetables, plants, flowers, bushes, and trees instead.
I’m a gardener, I’m not professing to be an expert, but this research has opened my eyes more than I would have liked. I use Roundup, always have, but since finding out the finer details, I realized safety is more critical than I ever thought. Weed killers with glyphosate helped me kill weeds for years. I could never have cleared such large areas without it. It’s what I’ll keep using irrespective of the criticism. Reading further, I found another chemical, diquat, found in Spectracide, which might be worse than glyphosate. Who can we believe these days with all that’s going on? All we can do is be vigilant and see how things turn out in court, and in the chemical labs, to help us make up our own minds.
With all you’ve read, you should be set to tackle any weeds in your garden. Honestly, I enjoy pulling weeds by hand after I give the area a good watering. More often than not, the weed snaps in half, and the root stays behind. And in a couple of weeks, it’ll be there again.
Technology has made the hard part of gardening a piece of pie for even the most traditional gardener. As long as you don’t try a tempting shortcut with a powerful non-selective herbicide, you’ll be fine. Be sure that you buy the best weed killer for the garden, to help you get the job done fast and for a bargain price.
You should know that my motley colored, yellow, and green lawn is well on its way to becoming lush again. I used a hand plow to expose the underlying soil beneath the yellow patches, sprinkled grass seeds on, and now I keep it saturated. I’ve never tried this before, so I’m curious to see what happens.
If the seeds don’t take, I hope the healthy grass will eventually spread out into one consistent mass.
Who knows, maybe the neighbors might choke on their laughter or pretend they’re color-blind?