We’ve already addressed the fact that I tend to try
ridiculous crazy potentially clever ideas with abandon. So it will come as no surprise to many of you that when I finished peeling and juicing tangerines for my Tangerine Triple Sec, instead of composting the waste, I decided to try making vinegar. Tangerine vinegar? Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking. Ick. But worry not – I didn’t want to use it in the kitchen; my goal was to create a natural weed killer.
In Wild Fermentation, Sandor Katz has a recipe for fruit scrap vinegar and, well, these were surely fruit scraps. I mixed the tangerine peels and the pulp in a big plastic container with about a gallon of water (enough to cover the fruit scraps) and one cup of sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolved. (Katz suggests 1/4 cup of sugar for each quart of water.) I covered the container with cheese cloth and set it out in my garage for about a month. Fruit flies managed to get into the container, but I since I didn’t plan to use this vinegar for cooking, I didn’t worry too much about them.
After a month or so, the concoction was smelling very orange-y but not so vinegar-y. I drained the solids from the liquid and let it ferment for another three weeks or so. By this time, my ‘vinegar’ had a creepy floating surface – the mother. (See the curved edge? That’s the mother, not a shadow.)
Still not much vinegar smell, but I decided it was time for my experiment. (I am impatient. If I’d let it go longer, would it have been more vinegar-like? I don’t know.) I removed the mother and strained the liquid several times, first through a fine sieve, then through cheesecloth. I put the liquid into my pump sprayer without diluting it at all, and sprayed several different patches of weeds.
And here’s what happened overnight. The broad-leafed vine type weeds and the invasive kava turned slightly brown on the edges. Not much to talk about at all. But the crabgrass actually shows a difference.
Before (what is that little string thing and why is it in my picture?):
After (Ooh, different camera, different color):
Here’s another shot of dead weeds (no before picture at this spot, unfortunately):
It’s not Roundup, by any means. And it wasn’t as successful as Kevin at A Garden for the House’s experiment. But I’m thinking this idea has potential. My guess is that if the acid content were higher, I’d have had more success. I’m definitely going to try making vinegar again – we’ve got no shortage of citrus peels and the stuff from the store is, as we’ve discussed before, likely full of gmos. But I think a little research is in order to figure out how to achieve a higher acid content.