What is the best landscaping solution for blocking weeds?
May 12, 2020 2:34 PM   Subscribe

I am wanting to partially redo my front yard that consists of a small piece of lawn (that I'm gonna keep) and then a mulchy/rocky area that encircles it.

Every spring, after the rain, the weeds just shoot up and take over any area that's not grass. Also, my neighbor across the street has a particular tree that drops millions of tiny petals onto my yard and it absorbs into the mulch and is impossible to clean. I have been looking into getting the mulch portion dug up and installing pavers, as there are some nice colors to choose from to seem more decorative and less barren. But are pavers good at keeping weeds away or are there better options? I know it might not be perfect, as my driveway even has some weeds growing between the cracks but those aren't really a big deal because they don't get out of hand.
posted by Forty-eight to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Idk anything about pavers.
But about the weeds growing in mulch: Have you been replacing the mulch? Mulch breaks down over time, meaning there is less left of it. Then it can’t do it’s job properly, which is to keep anything from growing in it. You can try adding more as a cheap solution. If it doesn’t work, then go with more expensive solution like pavers (maybe).
posted by Neekee at 2:51 PM on May 12

Last year I built a rock bed by digging down about 6", leveling and tamping the soil, laying down 2 layers of a fabric weed barrier (I used fabric to allow for drainage), then dumping a layer of sand, then gravel, then river rock. So far it's held up well and there is nary a weed in sight within it.
posted by mezzanayne at 2:55 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]

If your environment wasn’t bare stone before people moved in, it will grow weeds now. Life turns rocks into dirt. Your options are to rearrange your de-weeding into a form you mind least; hiring it out, paying for concrete once a... decade? More if lucky?, piling it with coarse mulch once a year and scratching out the weeds that establish in the mulch every so often. Coarse mulch like bark chips or wood chips, nothing rich to encourage invaders. Even that breaks down, but pleasantly it does so by making the underlying dirt richer for the larger plants you want.
posted by clew at 2:57 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]

Weeds can grow between pavers, definitely, and sometimes they even bust through, though not quite as easily as mulch. Do you re-apply the mulch every year or two? I have a non-grass area next to my lawn that had a bunch of weeds. I paid a friend to weed it; she then pulled back the mulch and put down cardboard, and put the mulch back over the cardboard. I'm going to get some more mulch to cover it all up. (The weeds came up in part because the mulch layer wasn't thick enough.)

What's the timing with the weeds and the unattractive petals? Could you re-mulch each year after the petals drop and before the weeds shoot up? The additional mulch would help keep the weeds down, especially if you had a good go at them for a year or two.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:04 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]

Most of our property is weedcloth and rock, and it's done an excellent job keeping the weeds away. Weeds still pop up from time to time — the result of a combination of weed seeds in the air, blown-in dust and dirt, and rain — but their roots are on top of the weedcloth so they're easily pulled or sprayed with weed killer.
posted by davcoo at 3:24 PM on May 12

fabric weed barrier

This is definitely the answer! When we moved into our current house, we got a small tree as a gift. We picked a spot to plant it, fertilized after we stuck it in the ground, and then laid down a fabric barrier on top of the raw dirt and some wood chips on top of that. Now, a few years later, the ring around the tree is great (the wood chips keep composting and need to be replaced every ~2 years), but beyond that 3-foot ring, the weeds are riotous. That fabric stuff really works. You could also cover it with pavers, gravel, whatever instead of wood chips.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 3:50 PM on May 12

If you go for pavers: I have had great success with killing weeds in between my pavers by pouring boiling water on the weeds, which is really easy!
posted by euphoria066 at 4:21 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]

A thick planting of things you like is an alternative; it does require work, but the payoff is way higher. Even rhododendrons or azaleas would be pretty and easy. Can't say more without location, pics, etc.
posted by theora55 at 5:17 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]

I have an area out the back of our house that I put weedcloth down on five years ago, then mulch on top of that.
The first three years it was great - no weeds.

After that I needed to add about two inches of mulch on top regularly. The weedcloth seems to have stopped working, or maybe the weeds are generating in the soil the mulch broke down into.

There's another area where I used cardboard instead of weedcloth. Honestly, it didn't seem much different.

I am trying the last year or so to smother the weeds by establishing thick groundcover plants. It's working fairly well in some places. Creeping thyme, oregano, creeping boobialla, sweet potatoes, pumpkins (in season), and even strawberries, planted thickly, all keep the weeds back pretty well. It's just a challenge to get them to spread across all the areas you want them to cover.

The cracks between my pavers produce as many weeds as the garden, if not more. Boiling water or weedkiller takes care of them, but you have to keep on top of it. Pulling them by hand is an instant result (the other solutions take a few days to kill them, and then you still have the dead weed sitting there looking ugly). I have to weed between the pavers about once a month.

My mother used a product called "pavelok" in between her pavers. You sweep it in, and then add water, and it becomes more solid than sand would, so the weeds have a harder time getting through. It seems to work pretty well for a year or so, but eventually it breaks down or the weeds break through.

Personally, I would rather deal with spreading new mulch on a garden bed once a season than the constant battle I have against the weeds among the pavers.
posted by lollusc at 6:37 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]

As noted above weedcloth often only lasts a few years. Have you considered planting plants in the mulch? Some shrubby or bushy fast growing plants that would out compete the weeds and form a hedge and potentially looks really nice and attract bees and butterflies and so forth. It's a fair bit of work the first year or two but it you plan well the work drops off dramatically after that.
posted by fshgrl at 7:36 PM on May 12

Landscape fabric is the absolute worst. You will regret your life choices in 5 years when the weeds start growing embedded into the fabric. Rocks are also awful because they heat up in the sun and burn plants growing in the rocks, and weeds give zero shits.

The only solution is to plant enough other things to crowd out potential weeds. You have to plant densely. Mulch around plants helps, but you have to replenish it every couple years if the plants don’t fill up the space by then. My yard aesthetic is “barely controlled perennial garden / urban farm,” though, so YMMV. If your aesthetic is “wide expanse of mulch around sporadic flowers and bushes,” it’s going to be near impossible to keep that bare mulch space weed-free.
posted by Maarika at 12:37 PM on May 13

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