Is vinegar a safe herbicide for orchard driveway?

My 5-year-old orchard was former pasture. Last summer I spread free landscape rock in the tire tracks to make a roadway where my light pick-up truck wouldn’t get stuck. However, the grass grows through the rock and between the tire tracks. Without mowing, it gets four or five feet high in places. Would vinegar make a safe herbicide there? How close to young apple trees is unsafe? Is 6 foot away okay? How heavy would I have to spray it if I do it early in the growing season? Would the drift hurt the trees? or how about a watering can using it full strength? I realize vinegar isn’t cheap, but I refuse to use Roundup in my orchard.

I don’t think vinegar will hurt anything it doesn’t come into direct contact with, and in our experience can be of limited use even then. Dandelions sure come right back after treating with 5% (standard grocery store pickling strength). Your apple trees won’t be affected at all by vinegar used some feet away. If the stronger stuff, I think it’s 10%, is available to you it might work better; I haven’t used it. (I have used 28% acetic acid in photography but it’s pretty pungent and would be too pricey, I imagine, for your use. But even it is pretty manageable and I never experienced any burns with it.)

I don’t know if spraying will be be enough; I’m afraid you might have to think in terms of a drench. But in any event I wouldn’t hesitate to apply it, and I wouldn’t worry about kids/critturs getting harmed by it because they’d back off from the smell if it were too strong. I hope it works for you!

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There was a discussion on organic herbicides here:

Nature hates a vacuum. What’s the plan once/if the vinegar works? Remove the grass and something else will fill that space. Around here, that “something else” would be thistles.

Is there a reason the driveway couldn’t be mowed/weedwhacked a few times a year to keep it under control?

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I’ve never used vinegar as a herbicide, but my guess is you could spray it right on the trunk without any affect, as long as the bark was rough and not green. Mature wood is pretty tough and has a pretty strong barrier protecting the more sensitive parts farther in.

It’s just not that safe to mow over rocks. I just have a push mower and a push Swisher string cutter for my orchard. Maybe some day I will have to invest in a riding mower, but the ground is still too rough with hummocks, groundhog mounds, and dead wood to use one.

Weed whacker not an option? A big one with a shoulder harness makes short work of some pretty serious weeds/grass.

If you kill the existing grass with vinegar, you will need to continue to kill whatever fills in (and something will) in perpetuity.

Were it me and I wanted it bare, I’d kill it with glyphosate and then apply pramitol to keep it bare for a season. Since you don’t want to use chemicals and a riding mower isn’t a viable option, I’d go with a good quality weedwhacker.

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May be too late of advice, but I have weed block, a heavy duty one under 2 inches of gravel on my side walks - 3 years since installing no weeds yet.

I saw in Good Fruit Grower the other day that there is a new (possibly organic) herbicide called Supress EC. The label says it is two fatty acids (caprylic and capric acids) that makes it non-toxic-ish like vinegar.

I’d probably burn down the weeds with something and see if I could get something like bluegrass or a tall fescue established in the place of whatever grass you have now. At least if you get a lawn turfgrass going you aren’t going to have to 4-5’ grass growing up between May and July.

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I have a large weed whacker with a shoulder harness like that, but can’t handle it. Had shoulder therapy at hospital and am told from an MRI my shoulder is a mess, so I need to go easy on it. That’s why I bought the Swisher, but it says not to use it over rocks. I’ve had some younger folks weed whack walking paths through the orchard at times. (It’s a couple acres’ worth.) The brambles and berry and cherry bushes I mulch with cardboard and free arborist mulch, but was hoping there would be some easy way to keep weeds off the driving lanes.

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Got any local Amish kids around? :grin:

Around here, the Amish kids are always looking for stuff to do in the summer.

Vinegar doesn’t work super well as an herbicide IMHO. Better than nothing, but stronger weeds with more developed root systems seem to be able to shrug it off prettt quickly.

I have another organic idea for you, however: a flame weeder. I think that might work very well in your situation since the flames would not only eliminate whatever the flame itself touched, but it might also work to make the rocks very hot, which might help damage the roots a bit.

Flame weeders are pretty safe and simple to use, provided you don’t get silly with it and use it in the middle of a drought or something, or without having a hose on hand, lol.

Not that anyone would ever do something like that. I’m speaking completely THEORETICALLY. No first hand experience AT ALL. :sweat_smile:


That’s a great suggestion. We put in a well on the property, so should be able to keep any flare-us under control.

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