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Vinegar Uses and Misuses


Vinegar herbicides should be sprayed with backpack or pump up sprayers - not with hose end sprayers.
Spray grasses and weeds in pavement cracks
and gravel, around trees and other woody plants.


Vinegar is a fantastic product and has become an important staple for organic gardening and living. It is also now easier to find in garden centers, hardware stores and farm stores. The personal health and food versions are available in drug stores and grocery stores. Vinegar comes in several strengths and formulations and all forms have important uses if the right vinegar is chosen for the specific use.

Vinegar was discovered by accident about 10,000 years ago when wine was accidentally allowed to ferment too long and turned sour. It can be made from many products, including beer, apples, berries, beets, corn, fruits, grains, honey, malt, maple syrup, melons, molasses, potatoes, rice, sorghum and other foods containing sugar. Natural sugars in these food products are fermented into alcohol, which is then fermented into vinegar.

Organic apple cider vinegar that’s used on food and taken internally.

Fruit vinegar is made from the fermentation of a variety of fruits. Apples are most commonly used, but grapes, peaches and other fruits also work. The product label will identify the starting ingredients, such as “apple cider vinegar” or “wine vinegar”. Malt vinegar is made from the fermentation of barley malt or other cereal grains. Sugar vinegar is made from sugar, syrup or molasses. White, spirit or distilled vinegar is made by fermenting distilled alcohol. Distilled white vinegar is made from 190 proof alcohol that is fermented by adding sugar and living bacterial. Natural vinegar contains at least fifty trace minerals. Vinegar that is made from the petroleum derivative, 99% acetic acid, is not acceptable in an organic program.

10% white vinegar used to make my herbicide mix.

20% vinegar product that is labeled for organic weed control.


The strongest vinegar available in retail stores is 30%, but it is far too strong and should never be used. 20% or 200 grain is also available, but I consider it stronger than necessary in most cases. Some of the strong products are actually petroleum- based as mentioned. 20% strength vinegar is corrosive enough to eat metal and very harsh on the skin and eyes and dangerous to breathe. Fermented 20% is sometimes used for making commercial sweet pickles where stronger acids are needed to override the sugar.
Real vinegar, made from grain alcohol, in 10% or 100 grain concentration is the proper vinegar to use for killing weeds. It can be sprayed straight with no water dilution; however, 20% vinegar is the one primarily found in garden centers and hardware stores in the U.S. For a more powerful product, add 1-2 oz. of orange oil and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap per gallon of vinegar. Vinegar is a non-selective herbicide and especially effective on weeds in cracks and in gravel areas. It will kill broadleaf plants and grasses. If the mix is used, keep it shaken during the spraying.
The 5% vinegars are for use on food and for helping plants. Use 1 oz. of 5% vinegar per gallon of water when watering potting plants indoors or out. Apple cider vinegar is best because it has more trace minerals and greater fertilizer value. It can also be used at 1 oz. per gallon of water in foliar sprays or in your own Garrett Juice mix. The best apple cider vinegars are those that are organic and contain the "mother" which is the solid looking material in the liquid. Oh yes, I also take at least a tablespoonful myself twice a day. A few drops in your pet’s water or food daily is also a good idea. Here’s more details on the various uses.

Weed Control

Killing weeds can be done with vinegar has a few options. The homemade mix that I often use is 1 gallon of 8-10% white vinegar with an ounce of orange oil added. Some gardeners like to use 20% vinegar and more like 2 ounces of orange oil along with a tablespoon of liquid soap. Avoid the petroleum-based products but 20% vinegar products that are made by fermenting grain alcohol are perfectly acceptable but may be stronger than you need. The one exception is a 20% vinegar product that is labeled properly for organic weed control. It is available in garden centers and farm stores under at least three different brand names. When proper labels are more important than saving money with home brews it’s a good way to go. Remember that vinegar herbicide of any kind is non-selective and needs to be carefully spot sprayed carefully on weeds to avoid damaging good plants. There’s one exception to that. When the summer turfgrasses go completely dormant in winter, the entire lawn can be spray with vinegar herbicides and/or other organic herbicides such as fatty acid and hydrogen peroxide products. They will kill the young winter weed seedlings without hurting the turfgrasses. Vinegar sprays work wonderfully when used to kill weeds in the cracks in sidewalks and driveways. They also works well to spray weeds in gravel walks and driveways. It works best when sprayed full strength during the heat of the day and in full sunlight.

The strongest vinegar available in retail stores is 30% but it is far too strong and I do not recommend it. At this strength it is corrosive enough to eat metal and must be handled carefully in plastic containers.

Horticultural Sprays

Apple cider vinegar is also quite helpful as a key ingredient in organic foliar sprays and soil drenches. Being organic is not critical for this use. Whether the liquid tool you are using is seaweed, liquid fish, the entire Garrett Juice formula or any other mixture, vinegar not only provides bio-available trace minerals but also helps the synergy of the mix and makes the individual ingredients more effective. My favorite mixture is easy to make at home and you’ll find it highly beneficial to all plants including interior plants like orchids. It is 1 cup of compost tea or liquid humate and 1 ounce each of liquid seaweed, molasses, apple cider vinegar and liquid fish. This mixture, by the way, is Garrett Juice.

Water Treatment

If your water is alkaline, add 1 tablespoon of 50-grain (5 percent) apple cider vinegar to each gallon of water to improve the quality of the water for potted plants and beds. This doesn’t have to be done with every watering, though it wouldn’t hurt. This technique is especially helpful when trying to grow acid-loving plants such as gardenias, azaleas and dogwoods. A tablespoon of vinegar per gallon added to the sprayer when foliar feeding lawns, shrubs, flowers, and trees is also highly beneficial, especially where soil or water is alkaline. Vinegar can also be applied with the watering can.

Human Health General Tonic

In addition to the horticulture and agriculture uses, vinegar provides important health benefits for animals and people. Taken internally, apple cider vinegar is credited with maintaining the acid/alkaline balance of the digestive tract. I take a large spoonful straight, mixed within water or in a wheatgrass drink usually in the morning but others prefer it in the evening as part of a nighttime tonic. For internal use, organic apple cider vinegar (5% concentration) should be used. I also use the same product full strength as a rinse after showering. Your skin feels great and it seems to help relieve skin blemishes, rashes and the like. The main substance in vinegar, acetic acid, can kill bacteria and/or prevent them from multiplying and reaching harmful levels. It has a history of use as a disinfectant and natural preservative.

Vinegar apparently provides at least some cures for allergies (including pet, food and environmental), sinus infections, acne, high cholesterol, flu, chronic fatigue, Candida, acid reflux, sore throats, dermatitis, arthritis, gout - and the list goes on. Apple cider vinegar also helps breaks down fat and is widely used to lose weight. It also brings a healthy, rosy glow to the complexion and can cure rough scaly skin. It can help cure a sore throat. Use 3 tbsp. of apple cider vinegar, 3 tbsp. lemon juice, 2 tbsp. of honey and 16 oz. water and sip. Adding juice from chopped ginger can be used for more power.

Apple cider vinegar can also help with hair conditioning, skin care, dental care and as a cleaning agent. Studies suggest that vinegar can increase feelings of fullness and help people eat fewer calories, which can lead to weight loss. Mixing with natural honey improves the taste. Both apple cider vinegar and honey have a low pH, but both turn alkaline when consumed helping balance your body’s pH. There are studies showing that vinegar helps reduce blood pressure in rats. Unfortunately, what works in animals but doesn't always work in humans.

Apple Cider Vinegar for Animals

Apple cider vinegar is also wonderful for animals, including dogs, cats and horses. It can help with arthritis, lessen allergies, reduce flea problems, repel flies, give a beautiful shine to coats and help provide correct pH balance. You can give apple cider vinegar to any animal by simply adding it to drinking water or to the food - which works better for our dogs.

If your dog has itchy skin, the beginnings of a hot spot, incessantly washes its feet, has smelly ears, or is picky about his food, an application of apple cider vinegar can help. Use it in the food at 1 tablespoon, two times a day for a 50 lb. dog. For itchy skin or the beginning hot spots, put apple cider vinegar into a spray bottle, part the hair and spray on. Any skin eruption will dry up quickly and shaving the dog won’t be necessary. If the skin is already broken, dilute apple cider vinegar with an equal amount of water and spray on.

After grooming sessions, use a few drops in dogs’ ears to avoid ear infections. Fleas, flies, ticks, bacteria, external parasites, mange, ring worm and other diseases are unlikely to bother a dog treated with vinegar. Should you ever experience any of these with your dog, bathe with a nice gentle herbal shampoo - one that you would use on your own hair - rinse thoroughly with vinegar, and then sponge on apple cider vinegar diluted with equal amounts of warm water. Allow your dog to drip dry. It is not necessary to use harsh chemicals for minor flea infestations. All fleas drown in soapy water and the apple cider vinegar works as a preventative. When you take your dog away from home, spray your dog before you leave home and when you get back. For raw spots caused by excessive licking, put a few drops in water and sponge the affected areas.

Vinegar Checklist
  • 20-30% vinegar products – don’t use unless they are fermented from grain alcohol and not petroleum based. Even then, be careful handling.
  • 8-15% white pickling vinegars - (10% is most common) - use in my organic herbicide formula.
  • Real vinegars only – use those made from fermentation of natural materials.
  • Synthetic vinegars - don’t use products made from glacial acetic acid – these are petroleum based.
  • Apple cider vinegars (5%) - use in Garrett Juice formula, in the watering can and in your food.





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