How to defoliate a vacant lot?
April 9, 2008 8:38 PM   Subscribe

Short of agent orange, what are my defoliating options? I have a large open lot (45 x 100) in a major city. I need to spray something, lay something, chant something or light something that will insure that I do not have a repeat of last years 7' high weed-forest.

A lot of bamboo grass, it seems, and just general weedy nasties.

Area is too rocky to mow, so my only mechanical option is weedwhacking, would much rather prevent the problem before it starts. Any tips?
posted by aleahey to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You could salt the earth but that might be too drastic.
posted by carefulmonkey at 9:29 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Plant something that stays low and can crowd out the weeds.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:33 PM on April 9, 2008

Goats? We have friends here in the Bay Area that hired a heard to come and eat a huge lot that was hilly and had a lot of poison oak. Apparently, goats can't get enough of the stuff.
posted by Wolfie at 9:36 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

You could rent goats.
posted by mullingitover at 9:37 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Farmers use herbicides like Roundup to control weeds, so you could probably find some in quantity at any farm supply company. If the label is to be believed, Roundup is pretty safe stuff.
posted by amfea at 9:43 PM on April 9, 2008

Sheet mulch.

Soak ground, lay down cardboard (unwaxed), soak cardboard, lay down mulch, soak mulch.

Weeds be gone.
posted by iamabot at 9:56 PM on April 9, 2008

When we moved into our old house, the back yard was full of neck-high weeds, rocks, and various chunks of metal and glass. We hacked the weeds down, raked the shit out of it and rented a rototiller. A few months later we had a velvety green carpet of grass.

Instead of grass, you could also look for a hardy groundcover that wouldn't require a lot of maintenance and wouldn't grow to extreme heights, nor be crowded out by sneaky weeds, if you're not looking to create a lawn.
posted by padraigin at 9:57 PM on April 9, 2008

Another non-herbicide-solution could be to cover the ground with special ground-covers (dark, wowen plastic) to cut of sunlight for the weeds. It might not look very nice, but it is effective and quite maintanence-free once you got the plastics down.

If you need aestetics - make an container garden a-top of the plastics.
posted by Rabarberofficer at 9:59 PM on April 9, 2008

Plant something that stays low and can crowd out the weeds.
If you are going to go this route, might I suggest kudzu.
posted by bigmusic at 10:58 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Black plastic is very effective at killing anything under it. It works best when it's in direct sunlight; the combination of the heat and lack of sunlight is deadly to anything photosynthetic underneath. If you do that for a while (say, a few weeks), the area will effectively be sterilized of weeds. You can then roll the plastic up, and go through and plant something that will take over and displace them. I'm fond of Pachysandra as a groundcover, but it takes a few seasons to really take hold.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:11 PM on April 9, 2008

They sell roundup at any big box hardware store. Just go to Home Despot. If you buy the concentrated stuff it goes a fairly long way for a small bottle.
posted by GuyZero at 11:37 PM on April 9, 2008

If you really want to defoliate this lot, Roundup isn't the right substance. Use Triox. But don't put Triox anywhere that you think you might ever want to grow a plant. The guarantee is for one year, but in my experience the earth is still salted 10 years after application, and nothing will grow in it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:19 AM on April 10, 2008

Kadin and iamabot have it. You can get rolls of the stuff (about 8 feet wide) at Home Depot or Lowes. Put sand bags on top to keep it from blowing around. Looks like hell, but only has to be there for a week or two.

I don't know how it would cost vs. "Triox"
posted by From Bklyn at 12:58 AM on April 10, 2008

I would say that any of the glyphosate weedkillers would suit, they break down pretty fast once they're in the soil, and if you spray anything green in the area it should stay pretty dead.

However, I agree with the idea of covering up instead if you're willing to do that, it's quick and it's easily reversible.
posted by tomble at 3:19 AM on April 10, 2008

"general bamboo grass" combined with a rocky disturbed lot might mean Japanese Knotweed which has bamboo like stems but really is not a grass at all. This stuff is extremely difficult to kill with herbicides.

Current research on its control indicates a combination of repeated cutting and properly timed herbicide application is the best way to kill it. It will take you five to ten years of repeated cutting to get rid of it otherwise.
posted by buttercup at 6:12 AM on April 10, 2008

Also, if its is knotweed it will break through a layer of plastic and has been noted to be able to stay dormant for quite a while under plastic.
posted by buttercup at 6:14 AM on April 10, 2008

Roundup is rumored to be safe. But when I was in grad school in biology at Cal, I read a bunch of studies showing that it causes all sorts of weird mutations in mammals that come in contact with it, or eat plants that have been sprayed with it. I can't find the citations right now, but I remember being horrified: bunnies with deformed eyes, things like that. It wasn't pretty.
posted by Capri at 7:15 AM on April 10, 2008

Preen or Corn gluten spread on the ground will prevent most seeds from germinating. Existing plants like some grasses and rhizomes and bulbs will still sprout.
posted by Gungho at 8:35 AM on April 10, 2008

It's in a city, why not turn it into allotments?
posted by Lanark at 12:15 PM on April 10, 2008

Denmark outlawed glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup after discovering the active chemical building up in their precariously small water table. I would not consider any wide spectrum chemical a solution to a problem, especially since just about anything can be released into the public without it having to be proved absolutely safe.
posted by ZaneJ. at 3:11 PM on April 13, 2008

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