I recently posted a photo of my weeded patio on Facebook, and mentioned that I’d just spent a few hours working to clear it. This prompted many comments about how I should use this weed killer or that herbicide. Although all of the suggestions were organic products, they missed the point of my post, however. I wasn’t complaining that I’d had to spend so much time sitting and pulling weeds, I was feeling satisfied that I’d done it.
When weeds grow in the cracks of pavers, there are several options for digging them out. Each has its plusses and minuses.
- Spray with an herbicide. As my Facebook friends pointed out, there are several organic products including those based on horticultural-strength vinegar. (Don’t use that solution of grocery store vinegar and salt you read about all over the internet – it only knocks back the tops of the plants and adds salt to your soil unnecessarily.) The downside of this is that the dead plants are left in place. To my way of thinking, a patio filled with brown, dead plants is uglier than living weeds. And those dead plants provide great organic matter for sheltering the new weeds that will sprout quickly.
- Use a weed-whacker and chop them off. I did this earlier in the summer when the weeds that were growing in the cracks were taller, and it’s a good short-term solution. But in my area there are two very low, flat weeds that appear in late summer: carpet weed (Mollugo verticillata) and spotted spurge (Chamaesyce maculata) that are so prostrate that a weed wacker won’t get them. The other downside of a weed-whacker is that it leaves stumps that catch debris, and the roots, so later on the growth returns and is even reinvigorated.
- Boiling water, poured over the weeds in patio stones, will kill the weeds. You have to be careful not to splash yourself and get burned, and once again the dead plants remain to look terrible or be removed.
- Hand pulling produces the cleanest patio. A sharp weeding tool, such as the Cobrahead weeder, is helpful. The downside of this method is that it takes time. If you have a big patio to weed it’s best to do it in short bursts – easier on the body that way.
Another advantage of hand pulling is just sitting there and being a part of the natural world that always embraces your patio. I watched chipmunks, red squirrels, and woodpeckers jump in surprise as they encountered me unexpectedly. At one point a hawk swooped in, going after what he assumed was prey under the bird feeder, only to back pedal (back wing!) about three feet from me when it realized that a large human was making that scratching sound on the rocks, not something that could be easily caught. As I finished up a toad hopped by, blinked at me, and moved on. A satisfying job, and time well spent.
Yes, there are several options for removing weeds from pavers, but the fastest ways are not necessarily the best ways.