Not Sour Enough to Kill Weeds

A few years ago, I wrote about using horticultural vinegar to kill weeds. At a recent Deale Farmers’ Market, a customer who bought peaches from me insisted that my recommendation to use vinegar does not kill weeds.

She even went to the trouble of boiling the vinegar, thinking she would be concentrating it. What she did not realize is that boiling vinegar dilutes the acetic acid, which is why vinegar gives off a strong odor when heated.

Regular cider vinegar or white vinegar contains only five percent acetic acid. Horticultural vinegar contains 20 percent. The only way that a home gardener can convert cider or white vinegar into horticultural vinegar is by heating it under a reflux condenser to catch the vapors. 

Horticultural vinegar is available by the gallon from A.M. Leonard,, a reputable nursery and landscape contractor mail order company. It must be used straight from the bottle and not diluted. 

Horticultural vinegar kills plants by burning the tissues. You generally see the results within six hours after it is applied to weeds on a bright sunny day. However, it kills only the tops of plants and not the roots. It is most effective when applied to young seedlings and not mature plants.

A pressure sprayer with a fine misting nozzle is the best tool. You need to apply only a light mist. Applying horticultural vinegar with a watering can is a waste of material, as a little goes a long way.



Missing that Old-Fashioned Taste, Even in Home Grown


Q: My husband — bless him — has created a good-sized vegetable garden and plants a lovely variety of veggies and fruits. But I’m sorry to report they don’t seem as tasty as I would think they would be, or as memory serves.

He tested the pH and our soil was 6.5. He used Miracle-Gro Quick Start fertilizer, and we have irrigation. He planted asparagus, various lettuces, zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, eggplant, sweet potatoes and kale. For fruit, we have strawberries, cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon (seeded and seedless). The veggies and fruit grow, become the appropriate color, and we generally wait until the item comes off fairly easily from the vine; but if we pluck too soon, they ripen nicely in our kitchen in about three days.

So my taste buds are ready and my mouth waters as I prepare to enjoy a watermelon (on those hot days, a must!), but it’s just water and not a whole heck of a lot of flavor. The cantaloupes have to become a touch moldy on the outside for the flavor to come to the level of my desire. Our tomatoes don’t have that deep, almost nutty flavor that I love. They’re red and juicy, but it seems that only one in 10 has that coveted flavor. Mealiness is a bit of problem, but that’s probably another issue.

Perhaps the fertilizer is causing things to grow too rapidly and not allowing the natural development of flavor? Or is it something else? Or am I just losing my sense of taste as I age?

Thanks for any information and illumination you can shed.

–Gabriele Koenig, Crofton


A Taste buds change with age, and some of the newer cultivars and varieties of tomatoes do not have the flavor of the older varieties. I grow Brandywine tomatoes for their flavor. They may not be pretty, but they are full of flavor.

That said, I am a firm believer that compost makes a difference not only in yield but in flavor. I add compost to my garden every year. 

Research has clearly shown that vegetables grown in soils low in organic matter do not have the same sweetness and flavor as vegetables grown on soils well amended with compost. In a study where we grew cantaloupes in low organic soils and in the same soil amended with compost, the test panel clearly selected those cantaloupes grown in the compost-amended soils to be sweeter and had better flavor.