How To Make Soil Not Grow Anything


While soil isn’t always in the best condition to sustain plant growth, it can be complicated to prevent any plant growth in soil whatsoever. Even if it isn’t a plant you necessarily want in your garden, soil naturally has the nutrients, moisture, and seeds to sustain life. How can you make your soil, so it does not grow anything?

There are seven steps you can take to try and prevent plant growth in your soil:

  1. Salt the soil so no plants can grow.
  2. Pour bleach on the soil to prevent plant growth.
  3. Pour vinegar on the soil so no plants can grow.
  4. Dry out the soil to a point it can not sustain life.
  5. Root out all vegetation to prevent future plant life.
  6. Apply heavy amounts of mulch to block out sunlight.
  7. Use a generic herbicide to kill plant life.

Preventing plant life from growing in your soil can be very difficult, but following these seven steps can often avoid having plants grow. Let’s take a deeper look at each of these seven steps.

1. Salt the Soil So No Plants Can Grow

Back in the middle ages, salting soil was a common method of total war to prevent farmers from being able to grow crops. While this tactic isn’t necessarily still used today, salting soil is still an effective way of preventing plant growth

Salting soil prevents plants from being able to absorb as much water, thus disrupting the roots of the soil, and killing the plants. This process is most effective with weeds but can also kill other plants.

If you decide to use salt to kill plant life, you can use many different types of salt. Typically, using rock salt is the most effective, but regular table salt can also work to prevent plant life.

Additionally, using salt only works when you apply it in large quantities and if you reapply the salt after the original application. Salt can only prevent plant life in the soil, so be sure to reapply it to avoid watering and rain from leaching the salt out of the ground.

2. Pour Bleach on the Soil To Prevent Plant Growth

Another way to kill plant life within a particular area is to use bleach on the ground. Bleach, in high concentrations, can kill both plant and animal life. 

Spraying undiluted bleach over plant life lowers the pH so much that no plant can survive the harshness of the acidity. Additionally, if not applied directly to the roots, the bleach will burn the vegetation and deplete the energy it needs to survive.

However, pouring bleach on the soil should be done in an even way, not clumps. Unlike a garden hose where the water will seep through the soil, bleach is less able to do so because of its structure which makes the particles “bigger” than water. 

You should pour the bleach into a spray bottle and then spray it over the vegetation to kill it. Do not use bleach tablets activated by water. It would be best if you used liquid bleach.

3. Pour Vinegar on the Soil So No Plants Can Grow

Like bleach, vinegar has an incredibly low pH, which is very acidic. By pouring vinegar onto the soil, you can kill plant life by destroying the cells needed for photosynthesis. Any vinegar, be it red, white, or balsamic, is acidic enough to kill plant life. However, vinegar is less potent than bleach, meaning it is less likely to kill larger plants. 

One incredibly effective way to isolate weeds is to pour vinegar over the ground; these smaller plants cannot survive the soil’s increased acidity. To kill all vegetation, use a combination of dish soap, vinegar, and water over the soil in large quantities. Doing so will draw the water out of the plant life, dehydrating them and causing them to die. 

However, because vinegar is much less potent than bleach, you must apply it multiple times a season to prevent plant growth.

4. Dry Out the Soil to a Point It Can No Longer Sustain Life

Plants rely on two major factors to survive: sunlight and water. Plants, unlike humans, cannot consume food that provides them with energy, so they need to create their source of food. This process is called photosynthesis. 

The plant absorbs water from the soil and carbon dioxide from the air around it and, using the sun, creates a chemical reaction. In this process, the plant consumes sugar and releases oxygen into the air.

If these plants can’t absorb water to power this chemical reaction, then the plants will die. You can use dried organic material like hay to help dry out the top levels of soil. Then, create a drainage system, so the water drains away as rain, or other moisture collects on the top level. 

This process, though labor intensive, generally does not need to be kept up over a season, meaning that you can kill plant life in one attempt.

5. Root Out All Vegetation To Prevent Future Plant Life

While the above steps will help to kill off plant life, they are not effective in subsequent years unless you uproot the roots of the vegetation. Like many forms of life, plants can regrow even if only some of the plant’s roots are left remaining. To completely kill the plant and prevent future life, you must pull the roots of all vegetation past and present.

To do so, use a shovel or a garden hoe and dig up the top level of the soil after weeding. Distribute the soil in a place outside of the plot you are avoiding growing plants. You can then replace the soil with store-bought, ungerminated soil.

6. Apply Heavy Amounts of Mulch To Block Out Sunlight

Similar to blocking out all water from the soil to prevent photosynthesis, this technique attempts to block out all sunlight by using mulch to prevent the chloroplasts in the cell from undergoing the chemical reaction necessary to make the plant’s energy. 

Unfortunately, blocking out all sunlight from the soil is tricky, so you may need to reapply mulch throughout the season to block all light. It would be best if you spread your mulch over an area where you have already eradicated all the plant and weed life, and the much must be thick enough to be effective.

When you use this approach, you should aim for at least 4inches (10.1cm) in sunny areas and 2 inches (5cm) in shaded areas. 

This technique is best when used in combination with bleach or salt to kill vegetation. Apply the vinegar, bleach, or salt before applying the mulch. This process will both destroy the vegetation at the moment and prevent future growth.

7. Use a General Herbicide To Kill Plant Life

When it comes to herbicides, there are two major types: specialized herbicides and general herbicides. Specialized herbicide, as the name implies, isolates certain kinds of plants like weeds and sumac, leaving flowers and vegetables largely untouched. 

General herbicide, on the contrary, is not selective. The general herbicide will kill any vegetation it encounters. Using general herbicides in generous amounts will help prevent growth in the soil.

Herbicide, of course, is most effective when plant life has already grown in small amounts. It is best to use herbicides at the beginning of the summer when plants might have germinated but only slightly will prevent other plant life and kill any plant life already in the area. The herbicide does dilute if you expose it to the elements, so you will need to reapply it multiple times over the season.  

Final Thoughts

Preventing any vegetation from growing in the soil can be incredibly difficult. Plants function to spread their seeds and grow in a wide condition of climates and soil types. The best way to prevent soil from growing plant life is by eliminating photosynthesis, so plants and seeds do not have the chance to grow.

To recap, these methods include:

  • Salting your soil
  • Using a liquid bleach
  • Vinegar
  • Drying out your soil
  • Pulling out all plant roots
  • Applying mulch
  • Herbicides. 

You can use multiple methods to prevent plant life from growing and you should use them numerous times a season.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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