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Garden lovers have to start the fight against weeds anew every year. In order to protect the environment, many hobby gardeners deliberately do without chemical weed killers and instead use supposedly harmless home remedies such as vinegar and salt. Stirred into a mixture, these two substances are applied to the wild growth and are intended to put an end to it for as long as possible. But the use of vinegar and salt is not as harmless as it appears, and in some cases it is strictly forbidden.

Weeds in hard-to-reach places

It is not the wild growth in beds that regularly causes homeowners and hobby gardeners to despair. Rather, it is weed plants like groundweed and dandelions that sprout from the cracks and edges of driveways, sidewalks and patios. Many of them are difficult to pull out of the ground with their long roots and grow back within a few days. Those who do not dare to pull out the wild growth by hand or are not physically able to do it will inevitably look for alternatives.

Make weed killer out of salt

In order to push back the stubborn wild plants in joints and cracks, gardening advisors and hobby gardeners always recommend making a mixture of conventional table salt and water. The optimal mixing ratio for the salt solution is often given as 1:10. This means the salt solution consists of:

  • 100 grams of salt
  • a liter of cold water

The salt is stirred into the water until it has completely dissolved and then filled into a spray bottle or watering can. Experience has shown that the effect of the agent is stronger when it is applied to the wild growth in the midday sun. Sometimes the addition of a little washing-up liquid is also recommended. One liter of this salt solution is enough to treat an area of 1 to 2 square meters.

Effect of common salt on weeds

Above a certain dosage, the common salt dissolved in water has a deadly effect on plants. The plants absorb the high-percentage salt solution like normal rain or irrigation water. This gets the mixture into the flowers, leaves and roots, where it sets in motion the weed’s inevitable dying process:

  • Plant cells absorb the salt
  • release water in parallel to create space
  • as a result, cells shrink and the plant dies

After a few days, the dried weeds can be pulled out of the ground.
However, not every wild plant is so easily defeated. Some weeds, such as dandelion, often leave active root residues in the soil. The entire plant can regenerate from these residues, which would necessitate renewed application of the saline solution.

compatibility and prohibitions

Why salt is not a good alternative

Dousing weeds with a homemade brine solution is not sustainable or environmentally safe, and in some cases even forbidden. And with good reason: because apart from the fact that weeds cannot be permanently removed with common salt, its use is not without consequences for the soil and groundwater, because it:

  • accumulates in the soil and changes its pH value
  • damages surrounding plants and trees
  • gets into the groundwater and contaminates it

For these reasons, according to the municipalities, salt fell under the Plant Protection Act (PflSchG). Strict rules therefore apply to spreading, which also include your own land and soil. For example, it is not permitted to use a self-made or purchased saline solution to kill weeds on sealed surfaces.

Sealed areas are:

  • driveways
  • inputs
  • footpaths
  • parking spaces
  • terraces

Those who were not deterred by the fact that the use of saline solutions for weed removal was prohibited had to reckon with severe fines, which could amount to up to 50,000 euros in the case of gross violations. In most cases, the municipalities demanded a few hundred euros when they discovered a violation in the private sphere.

Application on private land

In a decision from 2022 (Az.: 2 Ss OWi 70/17), the Oldenburg Higher Regional Court overturned the fine against a man who fought weeds in his driveway and on the public footpath in front of it with a self-mixed salt and vinegar solution. After the suspect lodged an objection to the decision, the district court decided in the first instance to increase the original 100 euro fine to 150 euros.

The OLG Oldenburg, which was then appealed to, reversed this decision in favor of the man. And on the grounds that salt and vinegar are foods that do not fall under the Plant Protection Act and are therefore not prohibited as weed killers.

Although the use of salt solutions with or without vinegar would be permitted at least on private grounds according to the decision of the Higher Regional Court, you should refrain from using them and the for the sake of the environment resort to more economical alternatives.

Environmentally friendly alternatives to weed control

The best and at the same time most environmentally friendly methods of weed control outside of bed areas are of a mechanical nature. This means that the weeds are removed manually removed. There are several ways to do this:

  • Pulling out the plants: The easiest way to do this is during or after rain
  • Taproot weevil: particularly suitable for perennial plants because the root is also removed
  • High-pressure cleaner: can clean the stones at the same time
  • Joint scrapers or brushes: for back-friendly and less strenuous work, also available with a telescopic rod or electrically

tip: If you do not have a joint scraper, you can also use a simple knife with a blade of appropriate length and a broom with hard bristles. It's a bit more time consuming, but it serves the same purpose!

Alternatively, weeds can also be removed with the help of heat remove. For smaller or more delicate plants, some boiling water is sufficient, which you pour over the plants repeatedly for several days. Stronger or larger plants are best attacked with a flamethrower (can be borrowed from hardware stores). But be careful: Even if the use of fire is permitted, there is a not insignificant effect in severe drought by using a weed burner fire hazard.

Important: Microorganisms that live in the joints have no chance of surviving the use of boiling water or flames. We therefore recommend that you prefer manual weed removal.

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