If you have a garden, it’s probably the most favorite area of your property for your beloved cat or puppy. In your garden, you can keep them safe from accidents regarding roads and diseases, but what about the toxins that could be lurking around in your garden?
Keeping a garden clean, tidy, and well-groomed can be a hard job, not to mention that it can also involve commercial weed killers. And when you have pets around, these commercial and often chemically manufactured weed killers can be dangerous or even lethal to your pets.
Hence, it is always important for you to note down ways on how to keep your pets and plants safe from weeds and, at the same time, weed killers.
This is what we are here to help you with today. In this article, we are going to provide guidance and tips on how to keep your pets safe from weed killers.
We hope that by the end of this article, you will know exactly how to keep your beloved animals safe and sound while making sure the flowers grow into full bloom in your garden!
Top Pet-Safe Weed Killers To Use
1. Manual weed removal
Manual weed removal probably is the cleanest and the most pet-safe way to go. Involving no chemicals, hot substances, and tools, hand removal doesn’t have any rivals in terms of pet safety.
Needless to say, manual weed removal is tedious. In fact, it’s the least convenient and most time-consuming way of weed elimination. With this in mind, we think that hand removal is situational and should be used if:
- The scale of your weed problem is small, and so you can get rid of the weeds in a few hours or no more than 1-2 days.
- Your weeds are mostly young and small. Large weeds can be pretty difficult to remove, and to save time, you should choose another method.
- The weeds and useful plants are tightly packed in one spot. In this case, using other means from our list could harm both the weeds and your plants.
If your lawn is small, manual weed removal may not take much time even if your whole property is infested. If your lawn is large, then either combine manual removal with other methods or just avoid hand-picking altogether.
Salt is probably available in any household, so it’s not only pet-safe but also very accessible and easy to use.
Salt eliminates weeds (and any other plant for that matter) for two reasons – it makes absorbing water more difficult for the plant, and it can also be toxic to plants.
Making a salt weed killer is easy – you only need to mix two parts of salt to one part of water, pour the mixture into a spray bottle, and treat the affected areas.
However, although salt is an affordable and very convenient weed-killer, there are a few things to keep in mind with it:
- Salt is just as harmful to useful plants as it is to weeds. This means that salt is usable only in areas where you don’t want anything to grow, e.g. pathways, sidewalks, or cracks in the ground. Alternatively, it should be used in areas where weeds are isolated from other plants.
- Large weeds will need a lot of salt to be dealt with.
- If you use too much salt, then you may harm the soil and make it unsuitable for future plant growth.
With all this in mind, salt is a good pet-safe option for isolated weed removal, but probably not for entire fields of weeds.
Vinegar is very popular not only in food-making but also in a variety of other applications – most famously, stain cleaning. Aside from that, vinegar is an effective tool for pet-safe and quick weed removal.
Vinegar works by drawing moisture out of plant material. Needless to say, this can have devastating effects on weeds. However, like salt, vinegar is not selective and will harm any other plant life as well.
Unlike regular herbicides, vinegar doesn’t usually travel all the way to the root of the plant, requiring several applications to take effect.
Besides, keep in mind that in some cases, apple cider or white vinegar may be ineffective. This is due to the low concentration of vinegar in the product – usually about 5%. Some weeds may need much more – like 20 or 30%. There actually is a vinegar type called horticultural vinegar with high vinegar concentration, but it’s pricey.
With this in mind, you should at least give vinegar a try, but keep at the back of your head that it may not work for tough weeds.
4. Vinegar & salt mix
If vinegar proves ineffective, don’t switch to other methods yet – try vinegar & salt mix first.
To make this weed killer, you need:
- A clean spray bottle for the end mixture to be poured into.
- A tablespoon of dishwashing soap. The purpose of the soap is to make vinegar stick to the leaves of the weeds.
- A gallon or so of any kind of vinegar (but apple cider vinegar tends to work much faster than white vinegar).
- And lastly a cup of table salt. If you want, you can also use Epsom salt.
To make the mixture, simply pour the vinegar and salt into a spray bottle and shake it well for a few minutes. Afterwards, you will want to let the mixture sit for an hour or so before pouring in the dishwashing soap.
For those who have pets and little ones around, we will always recommend opting for homemade weed killers like this one since they can be highly effective without health risks for your family and pets.
Since there were no other harmful or chemicals used to make this homemade weed killer, you can rest assured that it is also perfectly safe to breathe around this substance. Hence, you will not even be required to wear a face mask when applying this DIY weed killer to your garden.
But just to be on the safe side, do not overdo the amount required to make this mixture. What we mean is that you should only use the mentioned amount of vinegar, salt, and soap to make this mixture.
You should always keep in mind that no matter how pet-safe these ingredients are, vinegar is still acidic. Overuse may lead to harm to pets if they touch the applied solution.
5. Sugar & chili pepper
Sugar works similar to salt, and it can also be pretty effective against weeds. However, it attracts ants and other sugar-hunting pests. To deal with this, you mix the sugar with powder of chili pepper in equal parts.
Again, like it is with salt, be careful with this combo since it may harm other plants. Aside from that, although generally pet-safe, this mix may attract pets that like sugar – most importantly, dogs. Be sure to keep your pets away from the treated area for some time to prevent harm.
Cornmeal is perhaps another effective and pet-safe weed killer options.
The weed-killing capability of cornmeal was discovered accidentally by a professor of horticulture at Iowa State University Nick Christians in 1986. More precisely, cornmeal has been found to kill weed seeds, which makes it a pre-emergent, meaning that it prevents seeds from germinating.
With this in mind, cornmeal is more of a preventative measure rather than a solution for battling active weeds.
However, another study by Oregon State University did not discover any seed-killing capability in cornmeal after two years of trials.
The study results are definitely mixed, and it’s difficult to tell which conclusion is closer to the truth. You could, however, at least try cornmeal and see how it works. If it does seem to prevent weeds from growing, then you’ll be having a new pet-safe weed killer in your arsenal.
7. Boiling water
No plants are adapted to the temperatures of boiling water. And given that boiling water is inexpensive, quick, and convenient, it’s yet another “budget” way to get rid of weeds.
With that said, boiling water will require more precautions than other methods on our top.
First off, you need to protect yourself. To do this, you should wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and closed footwear. Such attire should protect you from accidental water splashes.
Aside from that, boiling water will severely injure any living being it comes in contact with, including your pet. With this in mind, keep your pet away from the treated area while you are pouring water. But a few minutes after the treatment, the area should be safe since the water will cool down very quickly.
Boiling water is highly destructive for weeds, and it likewise is destructive for other plant life. But unlike salt, vinegar, or sugar, it’s difficult to control where the water flows, so we’d suggest that you use boiling water on isolated weeds – this way, you won’t run the risk of harming useful plants.
8. Torch & fire
Fire is another decent solution to consider. Of course, we aren’t implying that you should set fire to your weeds – this can end very badly. Instead, use a torch – delivering a targeted flame, a torch would allow you to relatively safely get rid of weeds. Aside from that, once you are done, there will be no chemicals that your pets could get harmed from.
But although fire can help you wipe out weeds very quickly, you shouldn’t use it in droughty areas where the chance of a fire is very high.
9. Soil solarization
Soil solarization is yet another method to try out. In fact, it seems to be a pretty effective one.
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service found that soil solarization is able to suppress both long- and short-term weed growth. Aside from that, soil solarization is effective against bacteria, fungi, mites, insects, and nematodes.
In one of their trials, researchers found only 3 weeds in soil that has been solarized for 4 weeks, whereas non-solarized land contained 90 weeds.
Soil solarization involves covering the ground with a transparent tarp to trap heat. This results in increased soil temperatures that kill weeds and other pests.
This is how Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service recommends doing soil solarization:
- Clear the area of any plants and debris.
- Thoroughly water the soil to get it wet.
- Place clear plastic over the area (e.g. 1-4 mil painter’s plastic).
- Bury the plastic edges in the soil.
- Let the plastic sit for at least 4 weeks.
- Remove the plastic and check the soil.
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service adds that you should:
- Only use transparent plastic.
- Use soil solarization only on heavy soils rich with clay, loam, or their combination. These can hold water that can produce steam. The steam kills weed seeds, insect eggs, and nematodes.
- Perform soil solarization through the hottest part of summer.
Keep in mind that soil solarization is very situational. It kills not only harmful but also beneficial organisms. Besides, it won’t work if you cannot clear the area of other plants.
10. Landscape Fabrics
If you do not want to invest into expensive and time consuming landscape fabrics, there is still another way to get rid of pesky weeds.
You can actually torch/burn away the weeds if they happen to grow into your garden! You might think that burning or torching weeds can prove to be dangerous, however that is really not the case.
Weed flamers tend to use a blow-torch like technique, hence the flame is only concentrated into one area. The weed flaming technique is quite popular among eco-friendly activists and gardeners with pets. It is also quite easy to implement since it does not require you to wait for a specific season or hour of the day.
You will simply need to blow torch the weeds until they burn out into ashes. Some bigger and stubborn weeds may require you to blow torch more than once, however they will not grow back any time soon.
Of course you will still be required to implement proper caution before jumping onto using a weed flamer. Always make sure to keep a proper distance from the flamer itself, and also keep your pets away from the garden when you are blow torching the weeds.
Allow the weeds to completely burn out before you move onto the next one as you do not want to ignore if the weed happens to start a fire in the garden. Make sure to always keep a fire extinguisher nearby when dealing with weed flamers.
However, do not panic when using a weed flamer for your garden. There are thousands of people using this technique now, which would not have been possible if it was not perfectly safe.
The cons related to weed flaming are very little and rare, hence there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of. Just maintain proper caution so that you and your beloved pets stay completely safe before and after the process is complete.
To find weed flamers, visit your nearest garden center or nursery. Weed flamers are also not that expensive at all.
Smothering is similar to soil solarization, but rather than amplify sunlight, this method is aimed at the opposite – limiting the exposure of the weeds to the sun. Limited sun exposure can be very effective since weeds need sunlight to thrive. In fact, smothering can both eliminate existing weeds and prevent the growth of new ones.
The traditional way of smothering is using mulch – a layer of material whose purpose is to block sunlight. Alternatively, plastic sheets are also used like in soil solarization, though the sheets are completely opaque to block out sunlight.
We won’t be covering mulch here since it’s a complex topic of its own. However, do know that it can be effective if you have a large area infested with weeds. For spot weed removal though, mulch may not be the most reasonable option since it’s too much effort to prepare mulch and then spread it.
12. Allelopathic plants
Finally, we suggest that you consider adding allelopathic plants to your garden space. Allelopathy is when one plant inhibits the growth of another. This phenomenon is due to competition between plants for sunlight and optimal growing locations.
Incorporating allelopathic plants in your garden may prove to be a highly efficient means of weed control. But this method is kind of complex and will require a good bit of research from you because:
- You will need to find out which plants are allelopathic to the weeds in your garden.
- You will need to pick allelopathic plants that will not inhibit the growth of useful plants.
The variety of possible plant combinations is too big for us to cover them all in this small post. You’ll have to do some research on your own to find out which allelopathic plants would work best and whether there even are optimal plants for your garden.
Don’t Allow Your Pets Into The Garden During & Right After Treatment
What does it really mean when we say “pet-safe” weed killer?
Well, this mostly means that once some time has elapsed after the application of the killer, the treated area is safe for pets. When we say a weed killer is pet safe, it does not mean that your dog or cat should touch it before or as it is being sprayed.
The most obvious example is boiling water – the water will cool down quickly after application and will get safe, but while boiling, it obviously shouldn’t come in contact with pets. So while you are spraying the herbicide onto the weeds, keep your pets out of the garden.
Besides, after you spray on the herbicide onto the weeds, allow the substance to completely dry out before you let your pets into that garden. Even if your pets do not ingest the substance, they could still come back inside with the harmful toxins sticking to the fur.
Due to this, they can easily develop skin rashes and other harmful and dangerous skin diseases.
You should also make sure to give your pet a proper bath if they go into the garden before the weed killer dries out completely. Make sure to thoroughly clean them so there are no chemical remnants sticking to their bodies.
Combine Weed Killers With Each Other
From our list, you could have already realized that each weed killer has its pros and cons. For example, most weed killers impact not only weeds but also useful plants. Aside from that, some weed killers can easily do spot treatment, while others can be unpredictable and impact large areas.
There is no one weed killer that will be able to deal with all of your problems. Instead, you will have to combine different solutions to hopefully reach the desired results.
For example, in areas with dense vegetation with both weeds and useful plants, opt for manual removal or other methods where you can safely get rid of the weeds without harming other plants. If possible, use solutions like soil solarization or smothering to quickly get rid of entire fields of weeds.
Consider where you will be applying the weed killer as well. For example, in your garden, you’ll have to apply the solution without harming other plants. On your sidewalk, if you do not care about any plants, then you may just wipe them out with salt or boiling water.
Read through our list once more, understand the pros & cons of each method, and if necessary, do additional research to find out what you should do to get rid of weeds efficiently.
Tips for Pet Owners Dealing With Weed Killers
And finally, a few additional tips for pet-safe and efficient weed elimination:
- Always make sure to spray in brightly lit conditions, but avoid applying the pet-safe herbicide in dry and hot conditions. Your plants may get harmed from even small amounts of the weed killer in hot weather.
- The soil should be somewhat moist to allow the weed killer to get absorbed more easily.
- Try not to mow your garden for the next 2 to 3 days after your weed killing treatment since it may allow the chemicals to penetrate into the soil and damage more than just the weeds
- If you want, you can also water the soil prior to the day you treat your garden with herbicides so that it receives the necessary amount of moisture and does not dry out completely.
- Only implement weed-killing treatments once a year. Unless your garden is severely infested with weeds, there probably won’t be a noticeable effect from more frequent treatment.
- Never concentrate the herbicide in one area. If you think the substance did not stick to well to the weed, you should wait for a day or two before spraying the area again.
- Try to pull out young weeds right when you see them so that they do not get the opportunity to grow out in stubborn and bigger weeds. Prevention can be key in avoiding any weed problems in the future.
- Lastly, try to keep your garden clean from the get-go so that you do not need to go to such lengths to get rid of the pesky weeds. Start early so that they do not get a chance to grow into maturity and create more problems in the future.
So there you have it! We hope you had a fun time reading this article and that it proved to be of some help to you.
Weed growing in a garden is a pretty natural phenomenon. However, weeds should not stay there in your garden, interfering with other plants and ruining the landscape. And when trying to eliminate weeds, you should be keeping your family members, pets, and the environment in mind.
Some of the methods we listed in The Ultimate Guide to Pet Safe Weed Killing Process for Your Garden may be a little time-consuming and expensive to implement. But for some people’s needs, they are going to be absolutely worth it. In the end, it all depends on your priorities what your goals are with your garden.
Thank you nonetheless for reading this article! We hope you have a great and safe time gardening with your pets around!