Weeds in driveway cracks

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Gardening on Concrete With Raised Beds and Patio Containers

Containers come in all shapes and sizes and may be easily relocated if conditions aren’t ideal. They can usually be moved to a covered area for winter months, though they will have a more limited capacity for growing crops when compared to raised beds and larger planters.

Are planters and patio containers right for you?

Planters and containers are right for you if you:

  • Are trying to grow food in a small space.
  • Aren’t able to install a semi-permanent structure like a raised bed.
  • Want to be able to move your plants inside during the winter or to different locations during the growing season.
  • Have access to nutrient-rich potting mix to fill your planters and pots.
  • Are working on a limited budget or want to start small, adding a few containers or planters at a time.

What type of container or planter is best?

There are a lot of options when it comes to container or patio gardening. Here is a comparison chart to help you get started.

Container Material Challenges and Benefits
Plastic • Lightweight.
• Breaks down quickly when exposed to sunlight.
• Darker colors absorb heat when sitting in the sun, so may dry out frequently.
• Is inexpensive and widely available.
• Has a high environmental impact.
Terra cotta • Absorbs water, so has a tendency to dry out soil quickly. (You can prevent this by lining with a plastic pot).
• May crack if soil is left in pots over the winter.
• Is particularly beautiful and can be decorative.
• Size is often limited. Larger pots are heavy to lift and awkward to move.
Wood • Natural material that may weather over time.
• Comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, or can be built to suit.
• Low impact to environment, but often higher consumer cost.
Upcycled containers • May need drainage holes added.
• Come in all shapes and sizes.
• Make great use of old items.
• Can often be free.

Locating your planters

Before purchasing your plants (or planting your seeds), mark out areas of sun and shade in your yard, patio, or balcony, and place containers accordingly. If you’re unsure how to do this, consider using a sun calculator. Balconies and other covered areas will only be suitable for growing most vegetables if you get full sun for at least six hours per day. On the other hand, lettuces will grow in dappled light, so these plants are excellent candidates for containers or planters located in semi-shade.

Feeding and watering

Planters and containers will need more regular fertilization than raised beds, since your plants are working with less soil and a smaller space to search for nutrients. If possible, add manure tea to your weekly watering schedule and watch your plants thrive.

Soil mixes for patio containers and planters

Garden soil is often too heavy for container growing and plants usually do better with a lighter, more porous soil mix. Purchase potting soil at your local garden center, or add porous material like pumice to your containers. Pumice conditions and aerates the soil when mixed in. It also improves drainage. If planting into a pot without drainage holes, you can also add a layer of pumice to the bottom of the pot to provide air circulation and drainage. Coconut coir is another useful amendment for container gardening. It conserves water, improves soil structure, and helps plants retain nutrients. Alternatively, add an inch of coarse gravel to the bottom of your planters and pots. For more information about building soil for patio containers, raised beds, and planters, please read our full article.

You can also place spacers or small rocks beneath your containers to improve drainage. Even if the containers have holes, pavement or concrete may prevent the water from leaking out. Good drainage will keep your soil aerobic and well aerated.

Getting the most from your space

In general, you can plant containers and planters more densely than regular garden beds because there are more nutrients in potting soil mixes. Plants also aren’t likely to get as big in containers or smaller planter boxes.

To get the most from your space, mix quick-growing plants like lettuce, arugula, or radishes with longer growing plants like tomatoes (space-saving varieties like “Patio,” “Sugary,” or “Tumbler” are excellent choices). The quick growers will provide a lush and bountiful carpet beneath the slow growers, keeping out weeds and occupying the top layer of soil with their shallow roots.

You can also mix climbers (like pole beans, indeterminate tomatoes, peas, or cucumbers) with low growing plants or root crops like beets. The climbers will reach for the sun, leaving ample square footage for plants to occupy the lowest story.

Ideal vegetables for container and planter gardening

While almost any plant will grow in a container, some are easier to grow than others. Here are a few of our favorites.

Lettuce Works well in large, shallow containers, such as a window box or raised garden planter. Great for those semi-shade areas protected from the heat of summer.
Carrots Ensure containers are at least 12 inches deep. Rolling patio planters work well for carrots.
Cucumbers Plant in a container no smaller than 1 gallon. Include a stake or trellis for vines.
Tomatoes Use a 5-gallon pot or bushel basket. Choose determinate varieties for a contained plant, or try indeterminate varieties if pruning and trellising are possible.
Herbs Basil, thyme, oregano, chives, rosemary, and sage all adapt well to container growing. Vigorous spreaders like mint do well in pots, which can help contain their growth.
Squash Choose space-saving or bush varieties and plant into a 5-gallon pot or larger.
Strawberries Choose everbearing or day-neutral varieties to ensure a full season harvest. Strawberries are perennial, so be sure to store in a sheltered location over the winter. Refresh the soil in subsequent years with new potting mix, and prune where necessary to ensure the best harvest possible.
Peppers Ensure plants receive at least eight hours of full sun. Plant smaller varieties in a 2-gallon pot. Larger varieties will need a 5- or 10-gallon pot.
Beans Plant bush beans in planters or pots with full sun. Pole beans are good container companions for shorter plants providing trellises or stakes train the vines up and away.

Vive la Revolution!

While not everyone has a patch of soil at the ready, almost anyone can grow in planters, patio containers, or raised garden beds. With a few adjustments and a lot of passion, gardeners are converting concrete and pavement into productive garden space, one square foot at a time. Will you join in?

How to Create a Productive Raised Bed Garden

I’m often asked how to create a productive raised bed garden. Whether you choose to contain your bed within a raised border, or simply mound the soil up, the benefits of raised bed gardens provide a significant advantage in creating a productive and healthy growing environment.

Gardening in raised beds offers a simple and effective way to grow healthy and productive plants by manipulating the growing environment for the better. No matter how bad the ground you’re starting with, anyone, anywhere, can easily learn how to create a productive raised bed garden.

Just in case you think you’re ground just won’t work for having a garden, think again. With raised bed gardens, you’re growing above ground, not in it. In fact, some of the best gardens I’ve ever seen were built right on top of asphalt parking lots, all thanks to the benefits of raised bed gardens. So just because you think your soil is too bad, or all you have is pavement all around you, never let that stop you from having a garden.

Gardens that have great soil and drainage are a sure way to get your plants off to the best start. Raise beds are a reliable and practical solution to make that possible.

The 3 most important considerations

The choices are many when it comes to creating your raised beds. From how to contain the soil, to bed size, to what soil will go into them. The following considerations will get you well on your way to creating a raised bed garden that is ideally suited to your needs and preferences.

1. Options for containing the soil

Options for how you will contain your soil range from the most common choice of pressure-treated pine (relatively inexpensive and long-lasting) to large stones or bricks you can source for free, to custom-built beds with metal sides and everything in between.The key is to find what works best for you, and your budget. While raised beds don’t have to be permanent, when built right, they can remain in place for years to come. Some of the most popular options include:

  • Pressure-treated pine: If you’re purchasing material to build your raised bed, treated pine is cost-effective. It’s readily available, comes in uniform sizes and can last for years. The downside is the wood is treated with chemicals. The concern is that those chemicals could leach into your garden soil. While the likelihood and risk of that happening are low, for some, the hesitation still lingers from the days when those chemicals included arsenic. If wood-preserving chemicals are not something you potentially want in your edibles, yet you’d still like to use treated wood, consider lining the interior of the beds with thick plastic or other barriers such as polymer paint.

  • Rot-resistant hardwood: Cedar, cypress, redwood, locust, oak, and others can last for years without the need for chemical preservatives. The downside is the cost. It’s typically several times more expensive than treated pine. You should also be sure it is coming from a sustainable source. Look for FSC certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) on any wood you buy. The FSC is an international organization that has developed standards for responsible forest management.
  • Composite material consisting of plastic or wood fibers: Perhaps the newest kid on the block, this option is growing in popularity as it becomes more readily available. Like the composite material in some decks, it’s made from recycled material and last for years. It’s a nice way to recycle waste products while getting the look and consistency of wood. Pricewise, the cost is between treated pine and hardwood. The downside is some types of this product can look more plastic than wood and become a bit wavy, especially for the longer side pieces.
  • Cinder block/concrete masonry blocks: The appeal of cinder blocks stems from their uniform size, stackability, low cost, and availability. The biggest drawback to this option is the material used to build them. Masonry material can contain fly ash (especially older blocks). Fly ash includes heavy metals. While these components are bonded and insoluble in concrete, there is a chance that this hazardous material could become mobile if blocks were.

To play it safe, check with the manufacturer of your blocks if possible to find out what material was used to make them. You could also line the vertical surface with a heavy plastic.

  • Large stones, etc.: The remaining options including large stones, are quite varied. Cost, availability, and ease of use often determine what makes up the boundary of your raised beds. Just keep in mind, use materials that pose no risk of leaching harmful chemicals into the soil around plant roots whenever possible. In other cases, take necessary precautions to ensure any risk of hazardous materials being absorbed by plants is eliminated.
  • Mounded soil only (no physical boundary): A raised bed (my definition anyway) doesn’t require physical boundaries to contain the soil, although that’s the general implication. Many gardeners and especially farms of all sizes have great success growing in “mounded” raised beds. In such cases, there are no physical barriers to contain the soil. Instead, the edges of the mounded soil are tapered out at roughly a 45-degree angle. The taper tends to allow the bed to hold its shape while eliminating the need to build a physical structure.

Mounded soil

The simplicity of its design and elimination of extra material and cost certainly has its appeal and practicality, while allowing the inclusion of important soil amendments to create ideal growing conditions. The absence of any physical boundary is also the downside to mounded only beds. It is likely that you will need to reshape, form or even rebuild the beds after each growing season to return them to their original form.

Tips related to bed construction: When using wood that has the potential to bow or warp, note the direction of the grain at the end of each board. When constructing the bed, position the boards, so the grain pattern is pointing in, towards where the soil will be. Over time, boards will warp in the direction of the grain. By placing each board facing inward, the ends of each board will not pull away from each other but towards each other instead.

Also, consider inserting one of more stakes or anchor boards vertically at the mid-point (at least) on the interior side of each long side. The pressure created by heavy soil, especially when it’s wet, will cause your beds to bow outward. Placing an anchor stake or more along the run and screwing into it from the outside, will help hold the boards in place and prevent them from bowing out.

Do this for any material that has the potential to flex over time, so wood, composite wood, plastic, etc. For attaching all boards, use galvanized or weather-resistant decking screws. The longer, the better (although 3 inches is sufficient).

2. Bed size

By gardening in raised beds, you can make any size you want, and keep it there, and only there (if that’s what you like).

When building beds, or mounding up soil, it needs to be wide enough for roots to spread out and plants to grow, but not too wide that you can’t reach into the center of the bed from one side. The rule of thumb is never to make it so wide that you need to step into the bed and on the soil to reach any part of the plant. Therefore, my rule of thumb is no bed wider than 4 feet.

As for length, it doesn’t matter. It’s simply a combination of personal preference, space limitations, and budget.

But depth does matter. Plan for a minimum of 6-inches deep. Anything deeper is a plus. My beds are 18 inches. That’s more than enough. But I like giving my plants all the room they need for root expansion. The deeper the roots, the taller the shoots.

3. Creating soil for structure and drainage

Perhaps the greatest advantage to raised bed gardening is creating a contained space where you can provide the perfect growing environment, especially when it comes to the soil.

I amend the soil in my raised beds twice each year between growing seasons in the spring and fall. This image is a typical application. It includes a mix of compost, decomposed leaves, and aged arborists wood chips.

When considering what soil to put into your raised beds, whether you’re starting from scratch or amending an existing bed, ideally, it’s best to incorporate plenty of organic material such as compost, rotted leaves, well-aged wood chips, and even store-bought or bulk soil amendments.

That way, you’re instantly improving the native nutrients and quality of the soil at the same time. For an extra boost, consider adding a supplemental slow-release organic granular fertilizer to keep your plants growing strong through the entire season. As with containers, nutrients tend to leach out quicker in raised beds than when plants are growing in the ground. Adding slow-release organic fertilizer (such as Milorganite) is my low-cost insurance policy of choice.

The end goal is to create a deep, wide growing area that encourages roots to grow down and out and with soil that has good structure. An easy test for knowing when you’ve achieved the ideal mix is when you squeeze the soil in your hand; it binds together, yet crumbles apart easily when disturbed.

An equally important benefit to just-right soils in raised garden beds is superb drainage. Thanks to gravity, water wants to always run somewhere. Saturated soil and rotted roots are rarely a problem because the water is moving through and out of the bed, slowly but surely.

Fortunately, raised beds allow you to easily create the optimal combination of drainage and moisture retention at the same time by adding lots of organic matter.

My recipe for the perfect raised bed soil

The U.S Composting Council encourages all gardeners and growers to “strive for five.” The reference is to work at making the organic matter in your soil (by weight) 5% of the total.

Spreading organic material: I never miss an opportunity to talk about the importance of building the soil in raised beds with quality ingredients. I use a mix of organic material to create a diverse blend. But one thing I learned early on. You get what you pay for. Your biggest investment is in your soil. Don’t cut corners here.

The rough estimate to make that happen is to include organic material of about 30% by volume to the total. With that in mind, here’s how I make that happen. All references below are by volume and only approximate:

  • 60% high-quality topsoil: This makes up the bulk of your bed. Purchase in bulk or bags. For anything over a half pickup truck load, I suggest buying in bulk from a reputable landscape supplier. I also advise asking questions as to what goes into making their topsoil. I even go so far as to inspect it by giving it the squeeze test (as mentioned above). Good topsoil should not be sticky nor sandy, and it should tend towards the darker side vs. gray or clay in color.
  • 25% high-quality homemade or Certified Compost: Use what you can make but source the difference from a reputable supplier.I make a lot of compost at home. But it’s never enough, other than to amend my beds each year. Therefore, it’s very likely you’ll need to purchase compost beyond what you make as well. Not all compost is created equal. My suggestion is to do your homework. Find a reputable landscape supplier by getting referrals. Then ask them how they make their compost and where to they get their ingredients. An easy way to play this safe is to find a supplier that offers Certified Compost, as deemed by the U.S Composting Council. That’s how I buy my bulk supply and have never been disappointed.
  • 5% mineralized soil blend: Here’s another case where finding a good landscape supply company is important. I discovered years ago the value of adding soil containing locally–sourced minerals (such as granite dust) made a noticeable difference to the success of everything growing in my garden. Like adding salt to a food recipe, a little goes a long way but makes a world of difference in the finished product.

  • 5% worm castings: Here’s another example of not much is needed to make a big difference. If you can find this in bag or bulk, buy it. While it’s not readily available, nor is it inexpensive, it’s worth it. And again, fortunately, a little goes a long way. Worm castings are significantly higher in all the primary nutrients than ordinary top soil and adds one more layer of complexity to your overall soil makeup. Suffice it to say, worm castings (worm manure) is one of my secret weapons to creating highly productive garden soil.
  • 5% composted manure: For the nutrients, organic matter, and variability of particulate matter that animal manure adds to complement overall soil make–up, well-composted animal manure has been a mainstay of organic soil fertility for thousands of years. That has not changed.

But what has changed is the risk that composted manures added to today’s garden soil can contain synthetic herbicides that are still active, even in well-composted manure. The key is buyer beware when deciding what manure to include in your soil if any. Many people have poisoned their soil with killer compost, including me, by inadvertently adding herbicide–tainted ingredients, usually found in horse manure.

The bottom line is this. Composted animal manure can be a very effective and inexpensive way to build your soil quality and improve the nutrient value organically. Just be sure what you’re adding is free of synthetic persistent herbicides. If in doubt, leave it out, or use this simple test to know if your composted manure is safe to use.

Additional Considerations

Weed cloth: No! Plain and simple, you do not need anything under your beds. If your beds are at least 6-inches deep, few if any weeds will emerge from the original soil. And if they do, pull them out. It won’t take long before you eliminate all such weeds. Any new weeds that emerge got there from the new soil or came in after the fact. No barrier below the beds can prevent this from happening.

Wire mesh for critter control: Likely not. While tunneling critters such as moles could find their way into your beds, they’re after things other than your plants. I wouldn’t worry about them. Voles “might” be an issue but the higher the beds, the less likely this would ever be an issue. And they come from the surface down, not from underneath. Gophers, groundhogs, etc. present the biggest threat. If these critters are common in your area, adding a layer of wire mesh to the bottom of your beds would be a smart precaution. And it’s always easiest to do this before you add the soil, certainly. Galvanized hardware cloth with ½-inch or 1-inch squares should be adequate for any threat.

Irrigation: Raised beds will dry out faster than in-ground beds. Therefore, it’s even more important to make sure you keep up with the watering in the absence of rain. In our busy lives, it’s harder than ever to provide the appropriate amount of supplemental water consistently. And consistency is key.

Drip irrigation on a soaker: My gardening life (and yours too) will get infinitely easier when you put your irrigation on auto-pilot with an inexpensive portable timer and drip irrigation or soaker hoses. Top it off with a layer of mulch and your garden will greatly reward you for being so smart.

Placing drip irrigation or soaker hoses in your raised beds, combined with a simple battery-operated timer is the key to putting your watering duties on auto-pilot. I can’t speak highly enough about the peace of mind and great success having timers and soaker hoses in all my raised beds.

Mulch: The icing on the cake in your raised bed garden is mulch. A one– or two-inch layer of wheat straw, shredded bark, grass clippings, composted leaves, etc. is another key to the success of mine or any garden. While the mulch will eventually break down to add more valuable organic matter to your soil, while it’s working above ground, it’s providing an insulating layer to help hold valuable moisture in the soil, moderate soil temperatures, and keep weeds at bay.

Mulch is to soil above ground what compost is for plants below ground. I can’t imagine any garden under my watch without either.

Whether you choose to contain your bed within a raised border, or simply mound the soil up, raised garden beds provide a significant advantage in creating a productive and healthy garden. Gardens that have great soil and drainage are a sure way to get your plants off to the best start. Raise beds are a reliable solution to make that possible.

Kill WeedsHow to Clean Up Your grASS Crack.

If you’re one of these “I love everything that grows” types you probably think a field of dandelions is beautiful. You’re some kindda hippie, aren’t you?

When I see a field of dandelions (of which there are plenty now that no one’s allowed to use weed killer) I think. Wow. All those weeds are gonna end up right in my crack.

They might be nice to look at and even eat, but when a dandelion gets in your crack it’s pretty hard to get rid of without some sort of dangerous, deadly, dastardly poison. You know. The kind of stuff that makes birds start to grow beaks out of their bellybuttons.

I didn’t use a ton of poison around my house even before the ban on selective pesticides but now that I have chickens and vegetables and judgemental neighbours to worry about I obviously don’t use any at all. Even the illegal stuff I have hidden in my potting shed behind the “All Natural Weed Killer – made from the breast milk of Mother Nature“. The All Natural Weed Killer that not only wouldn’t kill a weed, but might even bring it back to life complete with dancing bugs and a miniature rainbow.

But I still had Grass Crack. Grass and weeds growing up through cracks in my sidewalk. You can’t pull those suckers out, you just can’t. You have to kill them. But how? I tried a shotgun. That was useless.

So, the hunt was on to find a way to kill weeds that wouldn’t anger Mother Nature.

And I found it.

Because I am brilliant.

And I know how to use Google.

I’d heard of this technique before, but wasn’t convinced it would work because it seemed too easy. Too simple.

So I gave it a shot and it worked. Immediately. Shockingly. Completely.

How to kill weeds in between sidewalk or paver cracks?

Boiling Water.

Yup. Just pour boiling water on them. I know. I didn’t think it would work either. But it did. For now anyway. I have no idea if they’ll grow back but even if they do, I suspect a few more treatments and they’ll be gone forever.

Weed before boiling water.

Pouring on Boiling Water.

1 hour later.

1 day later.

2 days later.

One half of the longgggggggg area I had to treat with boiling water.

The entire brick wall had hundreds of weeds sprouting out of where it met the sidewalk.

After 1 treatment 90% of the weeds were dead. At least on the outside. But like I say, I think with a couple of more treatments they’ll be gone for good. Dead to me. The larger weeds took 2 treatments of boiling water each to kill them.

Obviously you don’t want to use this particular method if you have weeds in your grass. It’ll kill the grass too.

In that case, just drag out the All Natural Weed Killer, give it a spray, wait for the bugs and rainbows and charge admission.

With the money you raise you can go find yourself some of that illegal stuff that’ll kill the weed dead.

Weed Killer Guide: Prevent + Remove Weeds From Walkways + Driveway Cracks

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Weeds seem to be a never-ending problem that we can never truly solve. No matter how much time we spend pulling, spraying or trying to prevent them, they always seem to magically reappear. They grow in our vegetable gardens, around our stepping stones, in our flowerbeds and — perhaps most annoyingly — in the tiniest of cracks in our walkways and driveways.

Although it has been somewhat jokingly said that the only way to truly have a weed-free yard is to concrete the entire thing, we know that this extreme solution really would not work either. After all, when that concrete cracks — and eventually it will — weeds will wiggle their way up through those cracks as soon as they have the chance.

If it is nearly impossible to have a weed-free yard, how do we go about killing the weeds in our walkways and driveways? And how do we prevent new weeds from popping up?

Here are 10 things you can do to achieve weed-free walkways and driveway cracks.

How to Remove Weeds from Walkways + Driveway Cracks

If your hardscapes are already installed and weeds are becoming a problem, then the first step in remedying the situation is removing the weeds currently growing in your yard.

Here are five ways to remove weeds from walkways and cracks in driveways:

1. Kill them with vinegar.

Vinegar is good for so many things around the house and in the yard that it is not that surprising that it can also help with your weed problem. One of the best things about this option is that it does not require chemicals and is a natural herbicide. However, it is not without its issues. For example, it will kill whatever you spray it on, so you need to be careful not to spray it around desirable plants. You may have to spray the weeds more than once to kill them if you use vinegar from the grocery store, but you can purchase higher-strength vinegar to get the job done quicker. Some people add a little dish soap in the spray bottle with the vinegar to make the solution more deadly.

2. Pull weeds the old-fashioned way.

Pulling weeds are not that fun, but it does burn calories and gets you outside in the fresh air and sunshine. Plus, it is the simplest and least expensive way to remove weeds from your hardscapes. Make sure to pull them out by the root so that they do not grow right back. If you pull them before they have gone to seed, you can add them to your compost bin to make nutrient-rich mulch for your desirable plants.

3. Use a Cape Cod weeder, V-notch weeder or soil knife to make removing weeds easier.

For tough to grab weeds or folks with back problems, a Cape Cod weeder or a notched weeder can make life much easier. Cape Cod weeders can have short or long handles and looks somewhat like a hoe with a narrow, pointy blade. V-notch weeders have a handy notch that allows you to hook the weed to aid in extraction. You can also use a soil knife for removing weeds, and you may prefer this multi-functional tool since you can also use it to cut twine, prune, harvest and perform a variety of other garden tasks. Putty knives and scrapers are also effective for removing weeds from cracks.

4. Use a commercial herbicide.

Commercial herbicides can be expensive, but they are often the best way to kill current weeds and prevent new ones from growing. While most herbicides are laden with toxic chemicals that are very effective but might not be healthy for your family or pets, there are organic, non-toxic herbicides available at your local garden center as well. If you decide to go the herbicide route, you might want to, at least, give the healthier options a try before resorting to the more toxic options.

5. Douse weeds with boiling water.

Pouring boiling water over weeds is another natural way to kill them in walkways, gravel driveways or in cracks in concrete. Like vinegar, this method is non-selective and will kill whatever plant it is poured on so be careful not to use it near desirable plants. If you would like to try this inexpensive, effective, natural weed killer, simply fire up the kettle and pour the boiling water directly onto the weeds.

How to Prevent Weeds in Walkways + Driveway Cracks

The best time to prevent weeds creeping up through cracks, seams and joints are to take preventive measures before you install your hardscapes. However, if your paving stone driveway, brick walkway or concrete patio is already installed, there are still steps you can take to prevent weed growth.

Here are five ways to prevent weeds in driveway cracks, paving stone joints and walkways:

1. Seal the cracks.

If your weeds are coming up through cracks in your concrete driveway or the seams between the slabs, you can prevent future weeds by sealing the cracks. Cement crack filler is inexpensive and easy to find at hardware stores and home improvement centers. Some options come in squeeze bottles with applicator tips that allow you to simply walk (or crawl) along the crack and squeeze the filler into it to seal it. Other options require a caulking gun and are applied like caulk to fill the cracks.

2. Pull weeds before they go to seed.

If you want to prevent future weed growth, it is very important that you pull current weeds before they go to seed. Once your current weeds have seeds, they can quickly spread to other cracks or other parts of your yard, and the seeds can even be transported and dropped while you are carrying the weeds to your yard waste bin.

3. Install landscaping fabric or a geotextile mesh before installing hardscapes.

Ideally, you will be able to start your weed prevention efforts before your hardscapes are installed. For example, if you are installing a paving stone driveway, make sure you talk to your installer about placing a geotextile mesh under the pavers. If you are installing a do-it-yourself brick walkway, you may want to look into geotextile mesh or landscaping fabric for your project to help inhibit weed growth.

3. Salt the earth.

One sure way to prevent weed growth is to sterilize the soil so that nothing will grow. Salt is an easy and inexpensive way to do this, but you need to be very careful not to get the salt anywhere near soil where desirable plants grow. You also cannot use it in soil where you might want to grow something in the future. If you are salting driveway cracks or walkway seams, make sure that runoff will not carry the salt to healthy soil.

4. Keep your garden tools clean.

Wipe down your weeding tools and other gardening tools after each use. Weed seeds are easily transported on garden tools, so even if you are just carrying your shovel from the flowerbed to the shed, you could unknowingly be depositing weed seeds along the way.

5. Douse the area with commercial herbicides.

There are plenty of herbicides lining the shelves at your local garden center or home improvement store and just waiting to come home with you to help solve your weed problem. Both natural and chemical options are available to suit your needs, and many are effective in holding weeds at bay. You will need to remember to apply your chosen herbicide regularly to maintain your weed prevention efforts. You will also need to be aware of whether or not your chosen herbicide is a selective killer. If it is non-selective, you will need to make sure you do not spray it in areas where desirable plants grow.

Your Turn…

We all have problems with weeds. What are your favorite ways to remove or prevent weeds in your walkways and driveway?

Kostenko Maxim/

Baking Soda

Looking for a safe way to keep weeds and grasses from growing in the cracks of your paved patios, driveways, and walkways? Sprinkle handfuls of baking soda onto the concrete and simply sweep it into the cracks. The added sodium will make it much less hospitable to dandelions and their friends.

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Bleach

Do weeds seem to thrive in the cracks and crevices of your walkways? Try pouring a bit of undiluted bleach over them. After a day or two, you can simply pull them out, and the bleach will keep them from coming back. Just be careful not to get bleach on the grass or plantings bordering the walkway.

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Boiling Water

Need to find out how to kill weeds on your driveway or walkway? Heat up your tea kettle. Pouring boiling water will kill stubborn weeds, according to HouseLogic.com. Like the natural approach? Here are 14 ways to control weeds without chemicals.

Borax

Get the jump on those weeds that grow in the cracks of the concrete outside your house by sprinkling borax into all the crevices where you’ve seen weeds grow in the past. It will kill them off before they have a chance to take root. When applied around the foundation of your home, it will also keep ants and other six-legged intruders from entering your house. But be very careful when applying borax—it is toxic to plants.

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Bottles

When using herbicides to kill weeds in your garden, you have to be careful not to also spray and kill surrounding plants. To isolate the weed you want to kill, cut a 2-liter soda bottle in half and place the top half over the weed you want to spray. Then direct your pump’s spraying wand through the regular opening in the top of the bottle and blast away. After the spray settles down, pick up the bottle and move on to your next target. Always wear goggles and gloves when spraying chemicals in the garden.

Carpet Scraps

Place a series of carpet scraps upside down and cover them with bark mulch or straw for a weed-free garden path. Use smaller scraps as mulch around your vegetable garden. Now that you’re learning the secrets of how to kill weeds, you should also check out these tips your garden center won’t share.

Corn Gluten Meal

Before weeds emerge, try some corn gluten meal. An organic byproduct of the corn milling process, corn gluten meal is made up of 10 percent nitrogen. It works by inhibiting weed roots from forming, according to TheSpruce.com. But the timing is important: You have to apply corn gluten meal to soil before weeds emerge.

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Landscape Fabric

The benefits of landscape fabric? This all-natural method takes longer to decompose than mulch. But don’t buy just any type. “Hold the fabric up to the light and make sure the pores in the fabric are small enough to prevent weeds from growing through the barrier,” the Family Handyman recommends. “Also, a good-quality landscape fabric is one you can’t tear or stretch easily. It should feel stiff, not flimsy and limp.

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Newspaper

Like carpet, laying down newspaper will block sunlight, prevent oxygen from reaching the soil, and smother weeds that are already growing. Put down ten layers of newspapers on the soil, wet it with water to hold it in place, and then cover with mulch, HouseLogic recommends. Once you get rid of those weeds, learn how to plant the perfect vegetable garden.

Salt

Those weeds that pop up in the cracks of your walkways can be tough to eradicate. But salt can do the job. Bring a solution of about 1 cup salt in 2 cups water to a boil. Pour directly on the weeds to kill them. Another equally effective method of how to kill weeds is to spread salt directly onto the weeds or unwanted grass that come up between patio bricks or blocks. Sprinkle with water or just wait until rain does the job for you.

Shower Curtains

Those old shower curtains will also come in handy next time you do any landscaping with gravel or bark chips. Just place the shower curtain under the mulching material to prevent annoying weeds from poking through. While weeds can be pests, bugs can be beneficial.

Spray Bottles

Fill one with undiluted white vinegar to get rid of the weeds and grass poking out of the cracks in your concrete, as well as ants and other insects—but be careful not to spray it on your plants; the high acidity could kill them.

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Vinegar

Are dandelions sprouting up in the cracks of your driveway or along the fringes of your patio? Make them disappear for good by spraying them with full-strength white or apple cider vinegar. Early in the season, give each plant a single spritz of vinegar in its midsection, or in the middle of the flower before the plants go to seed. Aim another shot near the stem at ground level so the vinegar can soak down to the roots. Keep an eye on the weather, though; if it rains the next day, you’ll need to give the weeds another spraying.

Vodka

For a quick and easy weed killer, mix 1 ounce (30 milliliters) vodka, a few drops liquid dish soap, and 2 cups water in a spray bottle. Spray it on the weed leaves until the mixture runs off. Apply it at midday on a sunny day to weeds growing in direct sunlight, because the alcohol breaks down the waxy cuticle covering on leaves, leaving them susceptible to dehydration in sunlight. It won’t work in shade.

Trowel

Looking for an extremely hands-on approach to how to kill weeds? A trowel is an easy way to dig them up, particularly if they’re big weeds, the Washington Post reports.

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WD-40

Don’t let pesky prickly weeds like bull and Russian thistle ruin your yard or garden. Just spray some WD-40 on them and they’ll wither and die. For more pro tips, check out these 13 things your landscaper won’t tell you.

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Problematic Popular Advice

First, let’s look at the most common suggestions found online. These get shared like candy and, as you’ll see, are mostly wives’ tales that can be harmful to the environment and waste money.

Keep in mind that a weed is not really gone unless the roots have been entirely removed.

These are NOT recommended:

1 Not Recommended: Pour boiling water on the weeds.

  • Result: Boiling water only kills the foliage (leaves), not the roots.
  • But, a steam cleaning machine can kill them at the roots. See my experiment here.

This IS Recommended

Here’s my experiment with the steaming machine. Turn your sound on to hear the details:

2 Not Recommended: Pour vinegar on the weeds.

  • There are various strengths of vinegar. Our common household vinegar is 5% acid, pickling vinegar is 7%, and industrial, sometimes also called Horticultural vinegar is 20%.
  • The two lower concentrations may kill leaves, not roots.
  • The industrial strength is a horrifically dangerous acid and completely inappropriate for any home applications.
  • Sorry vinegar, you’re not for the garden.

3 Not Recommended: Pour table salt (sodium chloride) on the weeds.

  • Yes, salt can kill anything it comes into contact with in the garden, but it also negatively affects the soil and water and never dissipates. In other words, it’s a bad choice.
  • Stop what you’re doing and go delete everything you have repinned on Pinterest that suggests using salt in the garden!

4 Not Recommended: Pour Epsom salts (Magnesium sulfate) onto the weeds.

  • Different salt, same problem. It is irresponsible to use Epsom salts in your garden unless there is a specific, proven magnesium deficiency in the soil and you are amending it to repair the problem.
  • Otherwise, the Epsom salts get in the soil and water and stay for eternity, creating a harmful imbalance.
  • Skip the salts.

5 Not Recommended: Pour neem oil on the weeds.

  • I could not believe it when I saw this one. Perhaps conspiracy theories are the answer: those with something to gain by promoting a product make up these ridiculous ideas to get people buying them.
  • No, neem oil is not going to kill weeds. Like any oily substance, it may suffocate or smother insects and microbes that come in contact with it, but other than that, the weeds will carry on and you don’t need oil in your soil or water.
  • Oils of any kind are not appropriate for weeds.

6 Not Recommended: Pour baking soda and/or vinegar on the weeds.

  • We’ve already established that vinegar will not kill the roots of plants, unless it’s industrial strength, which is totally inappropriate for home applications, and baking soda is not going to change this.
  • On its own, a diluted solution of baking soda in water does have a valuable use in the garden if used sparingly and cautiously for hastening the spread of powdery mildew on plants. But alas, it does not kill weeds so forgetaboutit.

7 Not Recommended: Pour milk on the weeds.

  • Sorry, no, not a weed killer!
  • However, a mixture of milk (1-part) and water (2-parts) can be effective in combatting blackspot, and mildly effective for powdery mildew.

8 Not Recommended: Spray dish soap on the weeds.

  • Dish soap is actually synthetic detergent. It breaks down oils and waxes on surfaces and, because of these properties, will kill or weaken plants—not just weeds—indescriminately so it is not recommended.
  • If you read the ingredients in many dish soaps, you can see that these are not substances that should be introduced to our soil or water.
  • I use a few drops of dish soap diluted in water to kill bugs like Japanese beetles (by dropping them into it). Even in small amounts, you don’t want this stuff poured on soil.

9 Not Recommended: Roundup
This is more effective than anything else listed here because it actually kills plants at the roots, but, as you can probably guess, is still not appropriate for home garden use.

Here’s a few notes from what I have read. I wanted to look beyond the politics and see what the research says.

  • The active ingredient in Roundup is the same ingredient in many weed killers available on the market today: glyphosate.
  • This is a non-selective (broad spectrum) systemic herbicide which means, unlike the other substances mentioned here, does actually kill plant roots, not just the foliage. If you want to read more, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glyphosate.
  • If you read the label on any product containing glyphosate, you will see that is (like many other garden products) indeed a toxic substance.
  • Given the risks and possible repercussions of using glyphosate, either due to improper handling or application, for situations like weeds in a brick driveway, it really has no place in the home garden.
  • If there was a horrific invasion of something like poison ivy or other invasive that is going to take over and choke out natural habitat, that may be a suitable application.
  • Again, we’re talking weeds on a driveway, not some other much greater problem with dire financial or health implications where the benefits would outweigh the risks.
  • The goal is always to leave nature the same or better than we found it, so, beyond the politics, no roundup.

How to Kill Sidewalk Weeds in 3 Easy Steps

Are your sidewalks plagued by weeds? They pop up in every crack and between every gap, not discouraged in the least by the concrete that covers them. Trying to kill them seems futile—digging them up by hand is impossible because of the asphalt in the way, and chopping the tops off will not kill the roots below. Spraying for weeds seems like a better idea, but harsh chemicals can be dangerous. However, there is a safe way to effectively kill sidewalk weeds in three easy steps.

Step 1 – The Weapon

While there is only one ingredient in this weed killer, proper setup is still important. When purchasing vinegar, use the highest concentration available. You should be able to find vinegar with an acetic level of 15 to 20 percent without difficulty. Using vinegar with an acetic level of 5 percent may not be strong enough to kill all of the weeds you will encounter.

Once you have found the best vinegar for your purposes, pour it into your spray bottle and take it outside.

Step 2 – Application

Ideally, you would spray for weeds on a dry, hot day. Vinegar kills weeds by destroying their ability to retain water, causing them to dry out and die. Naturally, this works the most efficiently at low humidity and high temperatures.

It is important to note that this technique should not be used on gardens or lawns, as the vinegar will destroy plants’ leaves equally well whether you like the plants or not.

Liberally spray vinegar on your sidewalk, far from any plants you have to worry about protecting. Because everything growing out of your sidewalk is a weed by definition, you do not have to worry about overusing vinegar, or causing collateral damage. You may need to repeat the process frequently as the plant dies off.

Step 3 – Maintenance

Once your sidewalk is free of weeds, you should take steps to keep it that way. Though you may not care if your sidewalk is free of weeds, being thorough and keeping ahead of the problem will pay off in the long run. For one thing, younger weeds are more vulnerable and will be easier to kill, so for this reason you should spray early and often. In addition, you should spray regularly to prevent weeds from producing seeds. If you wait too long to spray again, your weeds will produce more weeds, and more work for you. If you kill the weeds before they produce seeds, your sidewalks—and probably more importantly, your garden and your neighbors’ gardens — will thank you.

Fortunately for you, keeping on top of your weed problem should not be a lot of work, now that you can kill weeds so easily.

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