Weeds vs. brick patio vs. barely competent yard owner
August 24, 2010 2:21 PM   Subscribe

Weeds vs. brick patio - help!

Weeds are constantly pushing up between the bricks of a patio that I'm trying to clean / restore - does anyone have any solutions that don't involve gallons of weedkiller?

Purely organic + non-toxic solutions are preferable (there may soon be an infant crawling around on it.)
posted by ryanshepard to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Good old boiling water, applied at intervals as necessary.
posted by maudlin at 2:25 PM on August 24, 2010

Vinegar works really well for this. You can make your own or buy a horticultural strength solution at Home depot or Lowe's or better yet a local organic gardening center.
posted by shmurley at 2:31 PM on August 24, 2010

Response by poster: Good old boiling water, applied at intervals as necessary.

Unfortunately, it is large enough (about 15x15' square) that boiling and spreading the water would be impractical. The weeds are coming up all across it, and grow back quickly once they're pulled by hand.
posted by ryanshepard at 2:32 PM on August 24, 2010

Torch 'em!
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:36 PM on August 24, 2010

We've been through this too. We stated by just trying to pull up all the weeds but that grew tedious very quickly. After that we planted grass which didn't work so well. it grows too tall to look nice and is a pain to keep trimmed. I tried weed wacking it which we thought worked ok until I shot a pebble out and broke the sliding glass door.

We've now trying some decorative thyme and it is nice and low so it looks good. It also doesn't require trimming and it has been spreading fairly quickly. It also is tolerant of being walked on but doesn't do so well in very shady spots. So far this is the best we've come up with.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:39 PM on August 24, 2010

Response by poster: Did you lay the brick patio by yourself? Was it done before you? How long before? These are all relevant questions.

No - done by a previous owner of the house, and it's at least 25 years old.

Was something laid down on the soil before the bricks were laid down?

I doubt it - if there was, it has long since rotted away.

Is undoing the patio, pulling out the weeds, spraying weedkiller (could be organic), laying a THICK BLACK plastic sheet, and then laying the bricks again an option?

Yes, but I'm renting and only willing to put in so much work to make this space more attractive. Landlord is cutting us a very generous deal on the rent, so I am not inclined to ask her to undertake the work, either.

I understand that this may be a lost(ish) cause.
posted by ryanshepard at 2:43 PM on August 24, 2010

FWIW. I have the same hassle, and the "salt + soap + vinegar" weed killer idea from the internets was a total waste of time.

If you have a sturdy metal shovel you can just scrape up some of the weeds with the shovel -- obviously a temporary fix, but.

Using dreadful chemicals was not a lasting fix, but it was a very satisfying one when I did go that route.
posted by kmennie at 3:26 PM on August 24, 2010

pull up the bricks. dig out some of the "dirt". replace dirt with what ever you have at your local "mine" (or "pit") that they advise for pavers. put weed cloth on dirt. level & compact the fill you got at the pit & relay the bricks. Then re-sand bricks & you are done! Yes it's a lot of work but the only way to deal with what you have. Then you can use weed killer sparingly to control any new growth. DO NOT use sand as your fill....it does not compact. IANYBL but i just did a 10' x 14' "deck" it's sweat!
posted by patnok at 4:44 PM on August 24, 2010

Can't you just simply pull up the weeds by hand? 15x15 is not a big space. It would be a 15 minute chore 4-5 times a year. With fewer and fewer weeds growing up each year.
posted by Vaike at 5:01 PM on August 24, 2010

I use a weedwacker to buzz down the weeds growing up from my patio stones. It takes about 5 minutes. Sweep, hose down the stones, and it's perfect.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:28 PM on August 24, 2010

Best answer: For future reference: The last time all our weeds were finally pulled out, I sprinkled sand into the cracks. That way the next season's weed seeds couldn't work their way too far down, and the ones that sprouted in the sand were easier to pull up.

I've also had good results with a pavement weeder, which looks like this.
posted by bunji at 5:50 PM on August 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have had reasonable luck with boiling water and with vinegar. Pour/spray the vinegar on the foliage; this works especially well if it's hot and sunny.

Also, I have heard good things about roundup, even from friends that are very concerned about poison and toxicity and environmentally friendliness: apparently it only affects the foliage you spray it on and does not leach into the surrounding ground.
posted by leahwrenn at 7:21 PM on August 24, 2010

In terms of using boiling water, you just need to pour it over the cracks, so presumably you could boil up a big pot of water and trek use a measuring cup or something to pour it on the cracks? It has the advantage that it's cheap and relatively straightforward, at least.
posted by leahwrenn at 7:23 PM on August 24, 2010

I have used the boiling water application with success on bindweed, but it didn't work on purple nightshade. It was going to be my first suggestion. It required a few repeats to work, but it's the only thing I have ever done that really got rid of bindweed.

Can you place black plastic over the patio for a few weeks to sterilize the soil underneath, then plant something like the thyme Confess, Fletch suggested?
posted by annsunny at 7:30 PM on August 24, 2010

Mr. MoonPie's suggestion of a flame weeder really is the best choice if you don't want to use glyphosate (Roundup). Confess, Fletch's suggestion of outcompeting it with something low-growing and decorative is a great long-term solution, but you may find yourself picking grass out of your thyme for a long long time until the grass is really overtaken.

If you just want nothing growing in the cracks, Roundup is incredibly effective and, at the risk of starting a flamewar, nontoxic to humans. (I will offer in support of that statement my PhD in biochemistry and a close reading of several Material Safety Data Sheets regarding glyphosate.)

If you do decide to go with glyphosate, the best way to apply it to minimize use would be: weedwhack the green stuff that has grown taller than the brick; sweep to remove the leaf debris; then apply the weedkiller in a very targeted fashion to the plant material that remains in the cracks, rather than just blasting the entire horizontal surface. You can do this by very careful spraying with the bottle dispenser, or you could pour some into a disposable plastic container and "paint" it along the cracks with a disposable paint brush.

Good luck.
posted by Sublimity at 6:27 AM on August 25, 2010

Response by poster: The last time all our weeds were finally pulled out, I sprinkled sand into the cracks.

I'm going to give this a shot, since I need to power wash the patio soon and can clean off the excess sand when I do that.

As much as I love the idea of using the torch, the problem seems to be seeds blowing down into the cracks between the bricks and germinating, so I need a less labor / fire-intensive solution :)

Thanks for your suggestions, everyone.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:40 AM on August 25, 2010

If you have a power washer, you can probably clear everything out from between the bricks and try polymeric sand. It's supposed to keep the weeds at bay even better than normal sand. We put it between our walkway pavers about a month ago and so far, so good. If it holds up as well as they say, we'll be putting it down on our patio next summer. We've also tried vinegar and the weed wacker with some sucess. Really hoping that the polymeric sand is a more permanent solution, though.
posted by rebeccabeagle at 1:47 PM on August 25, 2010

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