Weed Control Q&A

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Dear NH,

I'm not sure if you get "out in the yard" with your tips and help topics, but I'm wondering what to use to kill weed roots under a driveway made of small stones. I read that lots of salt and hot water will do the trick and in fact found this did work pretty well in a rock walkway. But this is a bigger project and it would take one whale of a lot of table or rock salt to treat this driveway. Any advice?

JH from New Hampshire


First things first… you have to kill the existing weeds. Boiling water is a tried and true natural remedy for weeds, plus it will also kill the seeds!  Of course, for larger areas boiling water is impractical.  The USDA Agricultural Research Service has found that spraying vinegar on weeds will effectively kill them when sprayed on the leaves.  They found that typical 5 % (acidity) white vinegar easily kills young weeds, while more concentrated vinegar (over 10%) will kill adult weeds.  More info at this link:  http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2002/020515.htm

Now, depending on your "green" temperament, you can either maintain the driveway with the above techniques or use a weed "blocking" chemical to prevent regrowth. You need not hunt for an exotic product.  One intriguing natural solution to weed growth is corn gluten meal.  This natural byproduct of cornstarch manufacture works by stopping the growth of "feeder roots" in seedlings but does not affect other soil organisms, bugs or growing established plants.  Since it breaks down in the soil, it does not cause any runoff issues for lakes or streams and is not hazardous to animals or people.

Of course, the same chemicals that are used on lawns to block weed growth can also be used on a stone walkway, such as Preen.  These products utilize chemical growth inhibitors which, though not shown dangerous to animals except in very large exposures, are nevertheless are not "natural" products.