Guilt-free weed warfare

So the world–the Green World at least–seems to be agreed. We all hate Monsanto. They have given us good reason.

We have seen the enemy...

We have seen the enemy…

But that still leaves the average suburban Joe or Jane facing a dilemma. Joe and Jane Suburbs may spend very little time thinking about Monsanto–and on the scale of hates, may feel much more strongly about poison ivy and actively thankful to the corporate behemoth that helps remove it from their lives.

Then, too, when standing in the humorously named “garden” section at Lowe’s (humorous because so little in that section actually has anything to do with growing plants), facing shelves 20 feet high and half the length of a basketball court that are groaning with the weight of plastic bottles filled with toxic chemicals, the notion of picking up a container of Roundup might seem fairly … natural. Especially if the alternative is not obvious.

But here at the Goddess of Gumbo, we’re all about alternatives.

To folks who are just joining us, here we’re committed to living lightly on the Earth–making purchases, to the extent practicable given our individual circumstances, that are produced responsibly and sustainably close to home. Making our own and doing it ourselves, where it’s possible and practical. Avoiding purchases or practices that contribute to the destruction of God’s creation either by extracting too many precious resources or dumping more waste and chemicals than Mother Earth’s systems can handle.

So here’s my humbly offered alternative. Most of the ingredients you’ll already have in your kitchen cabinet or under the sink, so the cost can be counted in pennies and time, and you won’t have any worries about the ethics of the company you’re patronizing.

You’ll need water, dish detergent, a spray bottle, and salt.

Seriously. That’s all you need.


Assembling the arsenal…

Here’s how it works. Fill the spray bottle to the 3/4 mark and add about a tsp of dish detergent. Shake.

Spray the poison ivy with the mixture, coating the leaves thoroughly.

Wait five minutes. Then dump a bunch of salt on top, coating the leaves thoroughly.


Ready, aim, fire!


Pouring salt in the wound…


Assessing the carnage…


In a day, the poison ivy will start to droop. In three days, it’ll look like this.



The process at work is simple home chemistry. The soapy water breaks up the waxy cuticle on the surface of the leaves that make poison ivy such a tough plant to kill. Having opened that pathway, you add the salt and the plant dies.

Now a couple of caveats. If you’re in a rainy patch you may have to reapply several times. My method also works best if you have a relatively contained area, like my urban garden. It’s obviously much less practical to wade into a large patch of poison ivy on a hillside with a salt box and a spray bottle.

But the nice thing about the internet is that you can nose around and see what other creative minds are coming up with. Got big ivy problem on a farm? I hear tell Angora goats LOVE the stuff. Plus, bonus points for super cuteness.

But let’s say you have something middling in size to deal with–something on the order of a sweep of ivy on a suburban lot. Here’s a recipe that might be perfect for you. (And the source).

1 cup of salt
1 tsp of detergent
1 gallon of white vinegar

Mix the ingredients well, pour into a pump sprayer, get after that pesky stuff and start enjoying some guilt-free  weed warfare!


4 comments for “Guilt-free weed warfare

  1. May 31, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    I had no idea! Here my beloved husband has been hand plucking the weed so that I don’t get covered it thanks to my refusal to wear shoes or gloves when I start randomly digging and yanking roots out of the ground in our yard!

    • May 31, 2013 at 5:42 pm

      Becky, I’m desperately allergic myself and Marc’s not as bad as me but he doesn’t like to fool with it either. I can’t remember now who it was that told me this would work. Maybe I read about it in one of those old Rodale publications. Those guys are full of useful information.

  2. Karen
    June 1, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Will this hurt my lovely cherry tree which has been surrounded by the stuff?

  3. June 3, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Karen, I consulted with my live-in horticulturist to be sure. He agrees if the tree is mature, it shouldn’t affect it at all. (Especially since I’m talking about using such small amounts). But there’re too many unknowns. What kind of cherry, what size, and how much poison ivy are we talking about? Can you email me a picture to

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