Yard Destruction: Herbicide Usage, Consequences, & Notable Alternatives

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With their widespread use, herbicides like Roundup are generally assumed to be safe, effective ways to kill weeds and maintain lawns and gardens. You may have even used Roundup to kill weeds in your own flowerbeds, and if you haven’t, your kids’ school or your workplace likely has. After all, the idea of using controlled poisonous substances to remove unwanted, alien incursions on our lives has been around since the ‘70s, and the warnings of scientists and groups like the World Health Organization have often been disregarded in the rare instances where people hear about them.


Unfortunately, the prolonged use of Roundup has been correlated with significant health issues, like developing Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, kidney cancer, and multiple myeloma. While there are organizations that are suing the manufacturer for damages and winning on the affected people’s behalf, it’s often too late for those who are now suffering from life-altering conditions that require extensive treatment. And cancer is just one of many possible health issues that can crop up as a result of repeated exposure to herbicides; the possibility of an impact on pregnancies is being looked into, and the extent of the damage done to the environment is not yet known. 


At the risk of sounding alarmist, the use of herbicides is so prevalent that you’ve likely already been exposed; Your street is probably linked with the house after house using poisons to maintain their perfectly manicured lawns. No need to panic, however, unless you’ve noticed some significant changes in your health. Fortunately, it probably isn’t too late to adjust the course. There are a number of viable options for less harmful ways to kill weeds, and we’re going to break some of them down today. Try some of the methods listed below out, and see if any of them work for your garden. 

Organic Weed Killers – Avoiding Harmful Ingredients

While there is currently a discussion being had on whether inert chemicals in weed killers are causing a synergistic effect with these two known harmful ingredients, amplifying their adverse effects, the two chemical compounds most associated with the detrimental effects of herbicides are glyphosate and 2, 4-D. Glyphosate effectively strangles the energy production system of most plants by cutting off its ability to produce amino acids and proteins necessary for growth and survival. This makes it an effective plant killer able to affect a wide variety of fauna, but it’s also what makes it dangerous; glyphosate is the compound that was labeled a possible carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

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On the other hand, 2, 4-D works on plants much like cancer does in the human body, causing rapid, uncontrollable growth of the plant’s cells and suffocating it from within. 2, 4-D is also known to mimic and affect the production of hormones in the human body, causing many to fear it can cause problems with fertility and pregnancies. 


While most commercially available weed killers will contain one of these two chemical products, it is possible to find organic weed killers that don’t contain either on the market. However, you’ll really want to do your research, as these herbicides that are marketed as a viable alternative may contain chemicals that are just as harmful. Buying a product on the market might be a good alternative for people who lead busy lifestyles or for people who don’t want to take the time to mix their own weed killer, but make sure it’s a product that won’t do more harm than good.

Vodka and Vinegar: Two Easy-to-Mix Solutions

Putting either appropriately diluted vodka or a salt and vinegar mix into a bottle or backpack sprayer can be an effective, all-natural way to kill alien plant life. Both mixtures work the same way, albeit on different plants and with different potential drawbacks.


Vinegar goes straight to the roots of its intended target, withering them and sucking the moisture straight from the plant’s leaves. While straight vinegar can be just as effective, mixing salt in has been known to amplify the dehydration effect. The downside is that vinegar is more likely to kill younger and less firmly established plants and doesn’t work at all on weeds with waxy leaves as it just rolls right off. 

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Vodka mixed with water and a little dish soap has the same effect but works most effectively on plants in sunny areas. It won’t work quite as well on plants in shady areas. It’s also important to note that both vinegar and vodka are blanket killers, and while they won’t work on every plant, they can kill a wide range of plants between the two of them. Before spraying the intended area, protect any plants in your sprayer’s immediate range that you want to keep alive.

Boiling Water: Burn Weeds at the Source

If you’re concerned about putting foreign agents of any kind into your soil, you might want to consider pouring a kettle of boiling water over the weed-infested area. While all plants need water to survive (including weeds), boiling water can scorch the roots of growing weeds, making it near impossible for them to absorb nutrients after treatment and killing them in time. While hard to target appropriately, this is the easiest way to get rid of smaller, less-established weeds and is especially effective in driveways or sidewalk areas. 

Layer Newspaper Over Growing Weeds

All plants need sunlight to grow, including weeds. Layering newspaper over growing weeds and soaking it serves to blot out the sun, cutting off the chain of production necessary to survive. This may not be the right solution for you if you’re aiming to target weeds growing amongst desired plant life or if you’re aiming to kill an errant weed or two; but for those with weed infestations that they want to clear out in one fell swoop, this may be precisely what they need.

Safer, Healthier Ways to Maintain Your Plant Life

It can be tempting to follow the pack, to make excuses for picking up a jug of ready-made, easily available herbicide at the supermarket. But doing research on viable alternatives and putting in the work to ensure a more healthy, sustainable weed-killing strategy will leave both you and your garden looking healthier in the long term. Risk being different, and you may find that it pays off in dividends.