This Non-Toxic Pesticide and Herbicide Works (hint: you drink it daily)

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Polly put the kettle on…but not for tea. Boiled water is an excellent asset in your garden and around your landscape. Did you know that when you use commercial pesticides and herbicides, you expose yourself, your family, and your pets to dangerous and even deadly chemicals?  Why not go a safer route with something you drink every day – water? Let’s take a closer look at how to use plain ol’ hot water to end weeds and ants for good.

The great weed battle seems hard to get on top of sometimes. Winter weeds bloom in the spring, and right behind them come summer annual and perennial weeds that steal nutrients from our garden plants and pop up in driveway and patio cracks – driving us crazy at times.

Boil some water and face your weeds

Because I don’t use chemicals in my garden or on my property, I have experimented over the years with several natural ways to eradicate pesky weeds. I have had little success with some, while other efforts have proven to be worth repeating year after year. In the second category is boiling water – that’s right, plain water is one of the best ways to stop irritating weeds from taking over my garden, patio, and driveway. 

Of course, just as boiling water puts an end to weeds, it can also damage or kill nearby plants, so it must be handled carefully. I prefer to use my teakettle with a long spout and heat-resistant handle to tackle the job. The spout keeps the water flowing right on the weeds, and water straight from a kettle stays warm for quite some time. 

Pour carefully, making sure to direct the water stream over the irritating weed. Once hit with scalding water, the weed will not be able to survive. The heat collapses the plant’s cell structure and kills it.  For weeds that have long taproots like dandelions, more water is needed to reach the roots. Try pruning off most of the weed foliage and pouring water directly on what is left to kill the roots. Also, wear long sleeves and closed-toe shoes so if you splatter water, you won’t get burned.

For some stubborn weeds, a few rounds of boiling water might be necessary, but don’t give up! This trick does work if you tackle weeds early in the season.

Eradicating dangerous ants

I want to make something clear before we talk about eradicating ants with boiling water. Many ants are harmless and even beneficial in a garden setting and are best left alone to work as part of the garden ecosystem. I would never condone killing these ants. However, if you find a European red ant or fire ant hill on your property, it could cause serious harm to children, pets, or anyone who doesn’t see where they are stepping. Fire ant stings cause immediate and severe pain. For someone who is allergic, the bite can cause anaphylaxis within minutes. Getting rid of these dangerous ant hills is something that I take very seriously.  

Again, you can reach for hazardous chemicals to do the job or try the boiling water trick. Once you have identified the anthill, make sure that you put on protective gear because fire ants can be very aggressive. Boil your water and pour it quickly and carefully over the hill. You may need two or three kettles to really do the trick. The hills will cave in immediately when hit with the water. Remember to step way back after you pour the water, as any remaining ants will scatter. Come back a few days later and check the nest – if you see no signs of rebuilding, you were probably successful. If not, repeat the process until the job is done.

There you have it…Something as simple as boiling water can be your friend in your garden and around your landscape. No need for dangerous chemicals; all you need is a tea kettle and some water! 

As a side note, you can also use boiling water to sterilize seed-starting mix that often contains mold, disease, and fungi. Pour boiling water over your starting mix and mix it until well saturated. Use enough water that the mix is completely wet. Don’t worry – there are no beneficial living microorganisms in the starting mix that you will be killing with the hot water!

Happy Growing,

Susan Patterson, CBHC and Master Gardener

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