Getting Rid of Thistles with Vinegar: Green Gardening Tips

Getting rid of the thistles in my gardens, lawn, and rock border always proves arduous for me during the spring and summer months. I live across from an open field, so the thistle seeds just keep floating onto my property, sprouting more and more prickly weeds. My husband and I tried pulling the thistles out by hand, but the task was tedious at best and painful at worst. Even with thick gardening gloves, the prickles on the weeds poked into our skin. Because I am allergic to most plants, I always broke out with itchy, red welts whenever I got poked by a thistle thorn. I needed a better solution to my thistle problem.

One day while perusing my Pinterest feed, I happened across a pin about using household vinegar to get rid of weeds in a stone path. According to the writer at A Garden for the House, spraying regular old vinegar on the weeds kills the plants without the use of harmful chemicals. Vinegar is a herbicide that is truly biodegradable. As a food, I knew that I could use vinegar around my house without worrying about the dangers to my daughter and pets. I was excited to have possibly found a solution to my weed problem that was truly safe for my family. Vinegar is also quite a bit cheaper than chemical herbicides.

After buying a few huge bottles of vinegar and a spray bottle, I proceeded to spray the weeds and grass taking over the rock border and path in the front of my house with straight vinegar. I sprayed every plant that I saw: grass, dandelions, violets, wild flowers, thistles. The next day when I went outside to check on the progress, I was thrilled to discover that many of the weeds were yellowed and wilting. Even more to my surprise, most of the thistles looked completely dead. I sprayed everything again that second day for good measure.

On the third day, I went outside and discovered that most of the small thistles that I had sprayed with vinegar had died and completely disappeared. Excited about my discovery, I started spraying all the thistles in my grass and taking root around my trees. After just one application, the majority of the thistles in my yard disappeared. I had killed the evil thistles taking over my property with a little kitchen vinegar and without the need to pull the prickly little weeds up!

The only caveat to using vinegar as an herbicide is that vinegar is not selective. Any plants sprayed with the vinegar will yellow and possibly die. As I quickly discovered, not only did the thistles in my yard die, but the grass around the thistles yellowed considerably. Fortunately, grass is pretty hardy. Unlike the thistles, the grass is still in my yard, just more yellow in color than usual. I am keeping an eye on the progress, but I expect the grass to make a come back eventually. However, in the battle against thistles, I am more than happy to sacrifice a little of my grass.

As for other weeds, the vinegar herbicide works okay. The other plants in my rocks are slowly dying. With multiple applications, I suspect that the weeds in my rocks will disappear completely too. However, for thistles, vinegar is also an immediate death sentence. Even if none of the other weeds die, I am still happy with the results of the vinegar on the thistles. If you too have a thistle problem in your garden or yard, try a little white vinegar. You will not be unhappy with the results!

Thistles in Rocks

Thistle in Rocks Spraying Thistle with Vinegar

Thistle Dying from Vinegar Thistle Destroyed by Vinegar

Weeds in Rocks

Weeds in Rocks Spraying Weeds with Vinegar

Weeds Yellowed from Vinegar Weeds Dying from Vinegar


Big Thistle Dying from Vinegar Thistle Wilting to Death from Vinegar

Thistles in Grass

Thistles in Grass Dying from Vinegar Dead Thistle in Grass from Vinegar

Yellow Patched in Grass from Vinegar

To recap, vinegar is an environmentally-friendly method for killing thistles and other weeds in gardens, grass, and rocks. Simply pour some undiluted distilled white kitchen vinegar into a spray bottle. Spray the plants that you want to kill with the vinegar. You may need to spray the plants a few times over a few days depending on the hardiness of the plants. Be careful about spraying other plants as vinegar is not selective and will harm any plants sprayed. After spraying the weeds, rinse the bottle out with water to avoid corrosion. Vinegar is a safe, simple, and effective herbicide, especially against thistles.

What other safe methods have you discovered that work to kill weeds around your house?

Image Credits

Thistle in Rocks © 2013 Heather Johnson
Spraying Thistle with Vinegar © 2013 Heather Johnson
Thistle Dying from Vinegar © 2013 Heather Johnson
Thistle Destroyed by Vinegar © 2013 Heather Johnson
Weeds in Rocks © 2013 Heather Johnson
Spraying Weeds with Vinegar © 2013 Heather Johnson
Weeds Yellowed from Vinegar © 2013 Heather Johnson
Weeds Dying from Vinegar © 2013 Heather Johnson
Big Thistle Dying from Vinegar © 2013 Heather Johnson
Thistle Wilting to Death from Vinegar © 2013 Heather Johnson
Thistles in Grass Dying from Vinegar © 2013 Heather Johnson
Dead Thistle in Grass from Vinegar © 2013 Heather Johnson
Yellow Patched in Grass from Vinegar © 2013 Heather Johnson

Heather Johnson

Heather Johnson is a mother, wife, writer, librarian, and linguist. She earned a BA in English studies with a minor in creative writing from Illinois State University in May 2007, an MS in library and information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May 2009, and an MS in English studies with an emphasis in linguistics at Illinois State University in December 2011.

Leave A Comment For Our Community


Pin It on Pinterest