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natural way to remove weeds from gravel?

 
pollinator
Posts: 1559
Location: Denver, CO
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I have a large expanse of "decorative" gravel over black plastic in my front yard. It is in view of a busy street in an area with picky code folks, so it has to be kept looking nice. Over time, the black plastic has worn, and soil has accumulated between the gravel, so that weeds are sprouting up; annual grasses, thistles, dandelions, etc.

I've tried hand pulling them; it takes too long, and they grow back faster than I can pull them.

I can't leave them, because this will upset neighbors and perhaps jeopardize my actual projects in the back yard.

I can't use hoes or similar tools, because they bounce off the gravel.

I can't use a flame weeder because 1. I don't have one, and 2. it is dry climate.

Tarps left on long enough to smother them would look terrible and break down quickly in our UV exposure. Similarly with cardboard, only more so.

I'd rather not put mulch over them; this would create a huge mess as it mixed with the plastic and gravel.

Removing the whole thing is probably the best idea, but it would take hundreds of hours and I don't have time this year.

I spend 50 dollars on horticultural vinegar, and hardly made a dent in the weeds.

I'd rather not use salt, since this would make it difficult to plant anything else at some other time.

What to do?

 
Posts: 76
Location: Kitsap Penninsula, WA
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Boiling water is what we use to clear weeds from our gravel walkway.

Just boil up a big pot and pour it over the weeds. Next day they are shriveled nothings.

Plus, it's basically free.

Of course, I have no idea how expansive your area is or how prolific the weeds are. But we have tried vinegar and found that it was no contest to the boiling water trick.

Good luck!
 
gardener
Posts: 2498
Location: Central Texas zone 8a
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Great idea with boiling water.

How about a 1 hour test. Pull weeds for 1 hour, then look at it from a percentage that is gone and determine how much additional time is needed. You may find you are overreacting, or find that it can be hired out (by the hour) and it should take x amount of time. Full disclosure, 20 minutes might fill like an hour. Redhawk has a thread about the health benefits of picking weeds and its not the exercise. Maybe someone will post a link into this thread.

TAKL app advertises in my area with a $50 credit for your first use of them. Pulling weeds is one of the advertised services.
 
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I'll probably catch hell for this, but I've got a similar situation where the patio made of bricks set in the ground get weeds and grass growing up between them.  I have begun to sprinkle some rock salt on the area before a rain and I find this kills the plants within hours and retards regrowth for weeks on end.  
 
Posts: 478
Location: Northern Maine, USA (zone 3b-4a)
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epsom salt dissolved in warm vinegar will do the job! use it on my gravel driveway all the time.
 
gardener
Posts: 1354
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Burn them.

Any sort of gas-fed torch will work.  They sell them on Amazon or at a lot of hardware stores.

https://express.google.com/u/0/product/4570456133002513783_16664088913726465293_118724597?mall=WashingtonDC&directCheckout=1&utm_source=google_shopping&utm_medium=product_ads&utm_campaign=gsx

Or you could use a little butane torch (like you'd use for sweating pipes).  They cost about $20 or so, with the nozzle and tank of butane included.

https://www.zoro.com/bernzomatic-torch-kit-pencil-flame-propane-ul100/i/G4723485/feature-product?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIiseZwZD12gIVg_hkCh3YmwJ_EAQYAyABEgIYavD_BwE

You'll be able to cruise along and torch the little suckers without even having to bend down.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2226
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Soil collecting between stones is such a common problem. All gravel areas like this should come with a massive health warning "will look great for 5 years, then will need weeding daily". It sounds like you could spend a LOT of time weeding over the next few years. I'd be tempted to try rehabilitating the whole area instead. You would basically want to separate the gravel from all the organic material that has washed/blown in, then put down a fresh barrier underneath.

I'm visualising something like a soil sieve suspended from a tree branch, with a wheel barrow underneath. Dump a shovel load of gravel in, give it a shake so the soil falls through, then tip the gravel off into a separate barrow. It won't be quick, but it will deal with the root of the problem, and you can use the soil/organic matter on the garden beds.
 
master steward
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Location: USDA Zone 8a
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Corn gluten

Unfortunately it may be too late in the year.  Maybe ok for Colorado?

wayne fajkus says:  Corn gluten applied at the right time may keep seed from germinating.   A better option that doesn't require a small window of time is to just keep pulling them. Dont let them go to seed



 
gardener & author
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Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:I can't use a flame weeder because 1. I don't have one, and 2. it is dry climate.



And also the nasty plastic under the gravel. But if you can borrow or rent one, it might be possible anyway. My understanding of flame weeding is that it works by wilting the plant cells, not by actually burning the plants. So you could water the area well, especially any nearby buildings and plants you want to protect, and then just go through with the flame weeder gently, quickly, just enough to wilt the plants.

Also consider the idea that weeding thoroughly by hand once might not actually be as bad as you fear, and then after it has been done once, it can be repeated.
 
Posts: 520
Location: Northern Germany (Zone 8a)
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there are special hot air guns for weeding. they have a long pipe and kinda slider that you can move over the floor.

you might try to use a steam-mop. These steam appliances for cleaning floors. could you borrow one and try? I tried it at my parents paved paths, somewhat successfully. That thing did not have enough power to quickly cook the bigger plants but worked ok on the small stuff. So repeated using this would be easier, when you only have small weeds. It s easy work, like vacc cleaning carpets.
 
Anne Miller
master steward
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Propane Torch at Harbor Freight is $19.99; all you need is a propane bottle off your gas grill.

I would not use it with the plastic nor the boiling water method.

 
wayne fajkus
gardener
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Location: Central Texas zone 8a
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Most people use propane weed burners incorrectly. You are not burning it to the ground. The intent is a blast of heat that curls the leaves.  This kills the plant. No need to catch them on fire.
 
Marco Banks
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If you are applying so much flame that it ignites the plastic below the rocks, obviously, you are overkilling.  Just a quick shot of flame so that the leaves curl, then move on.  You'll hardly even notice that the rocks heat up.  The goal isn't to incinerate the weeds, but to singe them so the leaves stop functioning.  Basically, you are raising the temperature of the cells within the leaves to over 212 degrees so that the water turns to steam.  The steam swells and bursts the cell walls.  Yes, the root remains intact and may re-sprout new growth.  No big deal.  Hit them again in a week and they'll give up.

If you are worried about it being too dry, water the area first -- perhaps the night before.  And then in the morning, give the weeds a quick little blast of fire and they'll curl up and die almost immediately.

Yes, you'll have to buy the tool.  If you plan to live in this home for a long time and will have to continually maintain that space, it's a relatively inexpensive investment compared to the time you'll be saving.  Beats the heck out of buying Roundup and spraying that cancer chemical all over the place.
 
pollinator
Posts: 285
Location: North Carolina, USA Zone 7b
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Replace the rocks with something easier to maintain.    Ha Ha!
Seriously - "landscaping pebbles" are just another silly design aesthetic that require constant maintenance.  I know.  I lived with them for 4 years from a previous owner.  EVERY WEEK.EVERY YEAR.  I was out there on my knees plucking, sifting, washing, replacing underlayment, raking, blowing............................ a stupid waste of time.
I would replace it with grass or a flower bed or concrete, whatever is appropriate for that space.

I do however, appreciate the non-toxic weed killing ideas for my gravel driveway.
 
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