Need help with committing herbicide (with several complications)
February 13, 2016 8:41 AM   Subscribe

My condo has a deck that will probably need to be restored in the next few years, but I can't afford it now. The wood is shrinking some, which is enabling many plants to come up through the slats. Weeding the deck all summer is a real drag, but I believe that bunnies and groundhogs sometimes move in underneath, and I don't want to harm them. Also there are small trees. More inside.

The deck is close to the ground, so there is no getting underneath it (except for the woodland creatures). There are a few small trees that grow right up against the sides, some between the deck itself and the wooden fence that surrounds it (the space is too small to get any kind of tools in there). I can't get to the roots to dig them out - the deck is in the way - so I end up cutting them back as far as I can all summer - also a drag. I read that epsom salts kill plants, so I have tried pouring that in through the slats, but it doesn't seem to help. I am also concerned that using something heavy duty to kill the trees will kill the grass around the area, which will get the condo people mad at me, or kill the flowers in my neighbors' garden, which is just on the other side of the fence on one side. I was thinking that it might be best to get a jump on this before the bunnies and groundhogs start reproducing (I have seen baby bunnies run in under the deck during the summer). I live in southern Michigan.

So to sum it up, I am looking for a solution that is cheap, not too physically taxing, and will do as little harm to wildlife as possible.
posted by FencingGal to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure if this would work, but maybe you could put a big outdoor rug over the deck (blocking the light so plants can't grow, and blocking the cracks so you wouldn't see them if they did)...?
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:45 AM on February 13, 2016 [8 favorites]

I was going to suggest an outdoor rug as well, although that might not be cheap depending on the size of the deck.

Is there room enough to slide some heavy cardboard underneath to smother the weeds? Or could you pry up just one decking board to give you some access?
posted by mgar at 9:05 AM on February 13, 2016

I know this won't be popular, but this is what Roundup is for. The MSDS for the product says that it's safe for use near animals.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:39 AM on February 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

FWIW, Epsom salts are often used/sold as a fertilizer, so they could make it worse!

I would honestly look into making my own herbicide so I knew it had safe ingredients in it. I've done this to get rid of fungal infections on plants, and it works quite well. Never tried it to get rid of weeds but it's likely not that hard.

You could also hire someone to take it all out.
posted by Amy93 at 9:47 AM on February 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone who has answered so far. Don't mean to threadsit - just want to clarify a few things.

I'm concerned about an outdoor rug further damaging the wood of the deck if it rains. Does anyone know if this is a problem? Would I have to be continually dragging it into the garage and then out again?

Also, no one has addressed the issues of the trees yet. They have trunks that are a few inches thick. Would a standard weedkiller even kill those? The bases of the trunks are unreachable (I have seen some things elsewhere that suggest drilling holes in the bases - not possible.)

Finally, please remember that it's very hard to get to anything. There's enough space between the slats for the weeds to come through, but they don't need much. I poured in the epsom salts by making an almost flat funnel from a toilet paper tube. I could probably scoot some cardboard in under part of the deck, but it's too big to cover the whole area that way.
posted by FencingGal at 10:17 AM on February 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You can apply roundup in small quantities directly to the stumps of the trees and shrubby things. Cut them back as much as you can, and either spray or "paint" roundup directly onto the fresh stump. You might have to do it a couple of times, each time you notice new growth, but it will work with persistence. This is really the only way to kill some invasive trees, and is much better than spraying it willy nilly. For grassy and shrubby stuff, an outdoor rug is not a bad idea.
posted by natteringnabob at 10:19 AM on February 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: RoundUp doesn't travel through the soil and breaks down in a few days. So as long as you spray it into the cracks in your deck on a calm, wind free day it won't kill your neighbour's plants. Round up only works on growing plants (IE: it isn't persistent) so you need to wait until you can see fresh growing weeds.

Ditto the approach on the trees. Wait until they start to leaf out; cut the stems/branches/trunks as low as you can; then paint roundup on the cut surfaces with a paint brush. If you happen to have access to a big syringe you can also inject the stems with the roundup.
posted by Mitheral at 11:15 AM on February 13, 2016

If you happen to have access to a big syringe you can also inject the stems with the roundup.

And if you have a power drill and a half inch bit, you can drill a hole angled downward into the trunk, fill that up with herbicide, then plug it with a bit of blu tack or chewing gum.
posted by flabdablet at 11:25 AM on February 13, 2016

Double-strength vinegar works well on small weeds. For the trees, pulling them up is the best option. They make tools for the purpose but for just a few trees you may be able to jury rig something.

RoundUp doesn't travel through the soil and breaks down in a few days.

Roundup does not generally break down in a few days.
posted by ssg at 11:44 AM on February 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Roundup is systemic and will translocate through the plant if applied to the foliage. I would spot treat weeds using low volume applications.
posted by pilibeen at 11:55 AM on February 13, 2016

ssg: "Roundup does not generally break down in a few days."

Ugh, that is right; average half life is ~30 days. Don't know what I was thinking.
posted by Mitheral at 12:13 PM on February 13, 2016

I might consider going the old fashioned way and salting the earth. It worked for the Romans and it shouldn't harm any wildlife.
posted by Michele in California at 1:42 PM on February 13, 2016

One of the ways that some local forestry group has been selectively dealing with invasive plants is to wipde down the leaves with a rag soaked in a roundup solution. You don't want to get it on your trees.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:36 PM on February 13, 2016

Best answer: Nthing Roundup-- you just need to apply to leaves (not roots) to get it to work, and whatever its persistence where you spray it, it won't travel through soil to your neighbors' garden.

If you go the rug route, be aware that this will create an ideal environment for rodents (voles, rats, mice) to set up shop underneath (as I found to my horror after trying cardboard for similar purposes one season). A thriving vole colony will pose a considerably greater threat to your neighbors' garden than would a few stray drops of Roundup.
posted by Bardolph at 10:50 AM on February 14, 2016

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