I put in a lot of time and expense last year setting up my garden. It has remained critter and weed free throughout the fall and winter. I am pleased. Except for the border around the garden. We have this grass called Elephant grass. At least that is what everyone calls it. It grows in thick dense clumps and is extremely tenacious. This spring, it took off, growing two feet high around the garden, weaving it’s self into my border netting, making it near impossible to pull or dig out without destroying the netting. I believed killing it some how was my only option but did not want to use commercial grass killers even close to the food I was planning on eating.
As I was discussing my dilemma with Son Giver Man, he showed me a recipe for a grass killer on his phone that he had not tried yet. Once I started to ask around, this recipe (and slightly different versions there of) apparently have been around for quite awhile. Here it is:
1 box pickling salt
1 gallon warm water
1 gallon white vinegar
1 cup Dawn dish soap
Dissolve the salt in warm water. (Once the vinegar is added, the salt will not dissolve)
Add the vinegar and soap. Pour into a garden sprayer.
It didn’t exactly work out for me that well. It certainly was cheap to make but was fraught with face palms, in part, due to my skimming the directions and not writing them down.
I dumped the salt into a bucket and added VERY warm water. My hot water tank is set at 120 degrees so was sure it would dissolve the salt quickly. NOT! I stirred, and stirred and stirred some more. After an hour and adding a little muscle to my arms, there was still about half the salt refusing to “become one” with the water.
Then I got the bright idea to make the salt dissolve by heating the mixture on the stove. That’s how you melt sugar, right? I transferred it from the bucket to my stock pot and turned the burner to high.
Apparently, some kind of molecular change happens when you heat salt. A layer of crystallized salt floated to the top of the pan. I skimmed it off and another formed, and then another. I turned the burner off and let it cool down. I had put too much time and effort into this to throw in the towel. Dang! Dissolving salt shouldn’t be this hard!
I poured the mixture through a cheesecloth lined sieve into a bowl. About a third of the salt still remained at the bottom of the pan of which I added half a gallon more hot water and just let it sit for another day. What was in the bowl, I transferred back into the bucket and added the last two ingredients. Finally! I was now ready to spray this stuff on the grass. My garden sprayer had other ideas.
I used a funnel to transfer the grass killer to the sprayer. So far, so good. I have used this sprayer a gazillion times without incident. Today would not be one of those days. As I pumped the handle to pressurize the tank, the solution gushed up to the top, providing minimal pressure to the nozzle. I managed to get around the entire garden, dumping off pooled solution at the top of the tank, in-between 10 second periods of actual spraying.
When the sprayer was empty, I unscrewed the handle and saw something black at the bottom of the tank. Upon close inspection, I discovered it was the plug for the pump, so every time I pumped the handle, the solution was just forced up the hollow tube. Duh!
The whole make-your-own-grass-killer thing seemed like a giant train wreck. Lessons learned:
You can not MAKE salt dissolve. It is on it’s own time table. The pan I left on the stove with the remaining undissolved salt, did so two days latter, all by it’s self with me only giving it a stir now and then.
Check your equipment. If I would have known how my sprayer worked, as well as actually making sure it was intact after a year of sitting and by being used by others, I could have troubleshooted earlier, preventing so much loss of grass killer in the wrong places.
But did it work? Absolutely! But not in just one application. I attribute this to the tenaciousness of this type of grass. But I am also tenacious. I have applied two additional applications with another batch of grass killer waiting and ready in my tank. I see this as a season long battle.
There have been no signs of the spraying affecting my thriving vegetable plants as the raised beds have isolated them from the sprayed grass.
I sprayed a 3 inch border around my garden as well for easy mowing and to discourage the grass from creeping in again. I have also sprayed grass and weeds popping up in my gravel driveway with much success as well.
This will be my grass/weed killer of choice for the future. I am happy with the results, despite the fact that the salt gets to lounge in a water bath in my laundry room for days on end.