Vinegar for roses?

frank_lAugust 1, 2009

The Gardening writer in my local paper is recommending compost, coffee grounds, and white vinegar (one cup per gallon of water) as a way to reduce alkalinity and thus facilitate iron absorption by a plant. Has anyone used this vinegar treatment? Does it work, is it safe for roses?

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bizarre! once I heard also about using red wine, and I remeber some crazy guy on the forum once even suggested using human blood (! gosh!).

Well, I personally use iron sulphate, iron chelate and peat. Doesn't sound so gothic, but it works :-)

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 4:00PM
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Watering with a vinegar solution to compensate for soil alkalinity has been a common strategy for many years. What I find surprizing about the garden writer's suggestion is the ratio of vinegar to water that s/he is recommending. A cup of vinegar to one gallon of water sounds like WAY too much! It would be necessary, I think, to know the soil pH with some precision before following that advice . . . How frequently does the writer suggest that the solution be used? Even under very alkaline conditions, I would sure hesitate to regularly hit my roses' roots with an acidic solution that strong.

I suppose another issue that contributes to the problem in your region of the country is the pH of the water itself which, I assume, is also quite alkaline. Perhaps the writer is compensating not only for the soil pH, but for the water as well.

The use of coffee grounds as a soil amendment (and whether or not they lower pH) has been another source of confusion. I'm linking to a short article on the effect of grounds that I found helpful. The article contains several bits of region-specific info, so it's important to read all the way to the end.

Here is a link that might be useful: Using Cofee Grounds Correctly

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 4:51PM
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Whoops. Jaxondel, you're right. One cup per five gallons. "...once a week until the leaves get better. Then, once a month." (But how much per plant?) Most of the local stores also carry a "soil acidifier"; however, I'm reluctance to use too many chemicals of any kind in this intense heat.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 6:05PM
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greenhaven(SW MI z6)

sulfur will work just fine as a soil acidifier, although it takes longer. Using aluminum sulaftes is not recommended because the aluminum is not good for plant roots. Like scardan said, ferrous (iron) sulfate is good, plus plain ol' sulfur. I am considering using a vinegar solution for temporary treatment for my new rhododendron while I wait for the spoil to adjust after treating with sulfur.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 7:12PM
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mike_rivers(z5 MI)

Sulfur is the cheapest and probably the safest way to lower soil pH. Sulfur acidifies the soil because it is slowly oxidized in the soil to sulfuric acid. Typically, about 4 ounces of sulfur is added to a square yard of garden soil to lower the pH by one unit. How much vinegar would supply the same amount of acid as 4 ounces of sulfur? About 32 cups of 6% household vinegar.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 9:45PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

Addendum: if you put 32 cups of vinegar on a square yard of soil, you'll certainly kill all the plant life there. Vinegar is a "chemical" and it is toxic to plants. People should get over the notion that stuff from the kitchen is necessarily more wholesome than stuff sold for use on plants.

Ten days ago someone reported killing all his rose foliage with a silly home-remedy fungicide recipe containing vinegar.

Use sulfur to lower pH (it may take a year to work) and an iron product for a temporary fix.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 3:48PM
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rosesnpots(z8 Tidewater area VA)


Thanks for pointing out the that vinegar kills plants. I use a vinegar and salt mix to kill weeds and grass in my gravel hardscape walk area and driveway. It keeps the the area weed and grass free for up to 6 months.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 4:10PM
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Could you please share the vinegar salt mix recipe. I have grass infestation around my back porch work area, and I don't like to use round up nor spend money to buy it.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 5:24PM
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There are many reports touting the use of vinegar as a weed control . . . But SALT??!!?? The thought of applying salt to soil (any soil) makes me cringe.

Obviously, there's little doubt that salt is an effective herbicide. Apply enough salt around a plant, water it in, & that plant is history -- as is any plant you might situate in that spot for a VERY long time to come. Please . . . let's think twice before we salt our soil, folks.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 6:14PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

There are places the local government salts certain soil on an annual basis. They then go back a few months later and mow that same soil because of all the unwanted plant life that has decided to grow there. Then the utility companies come by and do major pruning on the trees that have decided to grow there. A lot of people would probably be a lot happier if salt really did kill plants for a long time.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 6:20PM
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rosesnpots(z8 Tidewater area VA)


This tip was given to me from someone who has been using it for years and was passed down from her mother. It is mix 1 gal of vinegar and a full 1 lb container of salt, shake it up to mix and pour it on the weeds. What I do is use a watering can. I pour some of the vinegar in the watrering can, then add the salt to the remaining vinegar in the bottle, shake until all the salt is desolved and pour it all in the watering can. Then I "water" the weeds and grass I want to kill. The watering can makes it easy to target the weeds and grass.

I have also used straight up vinegar but it does not work as well as when I add the salt. If you are worried about adding to much salt into the ground cut the amount of salt in half and it still works.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 7:08PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

In areas of heavy rain, salt will work its way down past the plant roots pretty quickly. In areas where rain is rare, the salt can hang around in the root zone for a while.

It's enlightening to get an aquarium pH test from the pet store (get the drops, not the strips) and test your water to see what the pH really is. Since we built the pond, I test it all the time. Or if you get your water from a local company instead of a private well, they should be able to tell you the typical pH. Most water companies list the chemical contents and ppm levels of their water.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 8:43PM
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holleygarden Zone 8, East Texas

I'm interested in this vinegar/salt solution. Will it kill anything it's poured on (any weed)? If you want to kill some weeds with it, then plant good plants there, will it hurt the soil to where you can't plant there (and for how long)? And - what about animals? If it got into water, would it kill frogs?

Sorry for all the answers - seems like a great alternative to roundup if it's safe to plant later on, and it won't hurt frogs, etc. Or - is it just as lethal?

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 9:06PM
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rosesnpots(z8 Tidewater area VA)


I have used it to kill weeds in one of my beds (no roses are planted in it) and I have yet to kill a boxwood or holly bush (but then what does). Weeds do come back in the bed but not as fast a when I used roundup. On my hardscape it works better than roundup and a lot cheaper too. Here we do get a good amount of rain.

As far as safe for wild life if it got into the water, I could not answer that but then again we have a lot of brackish tidal water here.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 9:39PM
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roseman(Z 8A GA)

As a CR with ARS for over 30 years, I never cease to be amazed at some of the hair-brained ideas many come up with and post on here. Believe me, folks, if just half of this stuff worked, it would be wonderful. Also, if any of this profoundity were worth it, we would all be recommending it. In this case, if you want to find an answer, try it yourself and then you will know.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 11:57AM
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I attended an organic gardening talk and the speaker mentioned a natural process, think he called it vaporization, wherein a chemical applied during heat converts to vapor and can kill leaves without the chemical ever touching the bush. Specifically, he was talking about vinegar mixes. IMHO, desert rose gardeners should exercise extreme caution using anything stronger than water during summer months. Let the stupid bermuda grass grow if you can't pull it by hand during the cool mornings. When other people on this forum are complaining about snow and freezing temps, we'll be outside enjoying our gardens and the bermuda will be dormant. Weeds are a year-round nuisance but a hoe and a shovel go a long way towards keeping them under control.

Adding soil sulfur once a year should be sufficient in our region as it breaks down soooo slowly and most rose feeds have some form of sulfur in them. I prefer Dispersul which breaks down much faster than the yellow pellets.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 12:21PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

I recall Paul James recommends vinegar as a weed killer, not table vinegar which is around 5% acetic acid and is not potent enough, but rather pickling, agricultural or industrial vinegar which has a higher concentration of acetic acid, > 18%.

Care must be taken with this stronger type of vinegar because it can burn the skin. Also, like any other plant, a thirsty weed is more vulnerable than a well watered weed.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 12:27PM
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