You are currently here! -
  • Home
  • - Horticulture - Facebook, Snake Oil, and “All Natural” RoundUp Alternatives

Facebook, Snake Oil, and “All Natural” RoundUp Alternatives

When I was my sickest from Lyme disease I did a lot of research online, because it was about all I had the energy for. What I soon realized was that if someone has an affliction that they’re mystified by, they will have no trouble finding a “cure” (usually that someone is willing to sell them). Even the free folk remedies are… nutty. No, I’m not making an elixir of lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil and drinking it naked during the full moon. MJ would not bail me out if I got arrested for chugging salad dressing in the buff.


Persistent garden weeds sure don’t cause the same feelings of panic and despair as chronic debilitating illnesses, but folks sure want an easy cure-all. As more and more people have become disillusioned with synthetics in general and Monsanto specifically, there have been recipes for RoundUp-alternatives proliferating on Facebook like wispy facial hair in a freshman dorm. Here’s the one I’m seeing the most:


I call shenanigans. Besides the fact that I NEVER trust anything written in Comic Sans, here’s why:


Ok, what’s meant by vinegar? There’s the white vinegar we keep on top of the washer for a variety of household tasks, but it’s pretty dilute. There’s horticultural vinegar, which is 20% strength, and that’s some gnarly stuff. But the thing is, vinegar is not a one for one replacement for glyphosate (the active ingredient in RoundUp). In his book The Truth About Garden Remedies, Dr. Jeff Gillman talks about the experiment they did to see how different vinegar solutions affected weeds:

The most interesting result we observed was the tendency for plants that appeared to have been killed by vinegar to grow back within a week or two, The reason for this is that vinegar is a contact poison, meaning that it kills the part of the plant that it touches but doesn’t affect the parts that it doesn’t touch.

In other words, you know how mom or dad always told you that when you pull weeds you have to get the roots or it’ll come back? Same thing here.


This I don’t understand. I mean, as a salt the purpose is likely to act as a dessicant, killing the plant by drawing water out, but… Epsom salts are often used as a soil enhancer, because they contain magnesium and sulfur. I always use Epsom salts with my tomatoes because they really need that magnesium. So to me, this is like trying to kill someone by giving them a multi-vitamin. If anyone knows, I’d love to hear the explanation. I’ve looked and while I’ve found a number of folks saying to use Epsom salts as an herbicide, no one has said WHY.


It’s a surfactant, which means that it helps the plants absorb the other ingredients. That’s all it’s there for.


If you use this concoction you probably won’t hurt anything, but you probably won’t achieve the desired result if you have more than a couple of weeds coming through cracks in the sidewalk. If your goal is to avoid synthetic weed control products your #1 best bet is manually removing the weeds. Beyond that? Science is your friend, if you want to learn what organic controls actually work, and why. I highly recommend both of Dr. Gillman’s books, The Truth About Organic Gardening and The Truth About Garden Remedies, as well as the Garden Professors Blog. There is no great mystery to organic gardening, it’s all just the science we learned in eighth grade.

Looking for a no-nonsense approach to your landscape design? That’s what we do! Give us a call at 703-679-8550 to schedule a consultation today.

leave a comment