Here in the UK we have many garden birds that feed from the small cracks in our brick-paved patio. Unfortunately, those small cracks are also full of various weeds and grass at the moment.

What is the best way of killing it all, but without poisoning the birds that eat from the ground?

I appreciate it can be weeded meticulously by hand, but I feel that way lies madness...!

  • ...figure out what salad dressing birds like on their weeds?
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 11:39
  • Are you saying vinegar's the answer, or was that just meant as a "it'd be good if you could trick the birds into eating the weeds" joke?
    – Codemonkey
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 12:45
  • Pickling vinegar works quite well!
    – kevinskio
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 13:46
  • @kevinsky - would the acid be safe for the brick?
    – michelle
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 15:42
  • @michelle vinegar would be safe for interlock products which are concrete and for bricks which are hardened on all faces. Some people in milder climates use house bricks which are only face hardened (exterior side only). Vinegar would not be safe for extended use on this type of brick.
    – kevinskio
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 16:34

5 Answers 5


Your best bet is probably to pour boiling water on the weeds. The heat will kill the plants, and the water will of course be harmless to the birds as soon as it cools. Just be careful not to burn yourself!

  • Sounds quite tedious, but slightly better than trying to dig them all out by hand. Though obviously there will be some of that to do afterwards, too.
    – Codemonkey
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 12:44
  • It's much faster than pulling by hand, but yes, it will take you some time to boil the kettle, bring it out, pour it, and repeat until the patio is done. I suppose it all depends on the size of your patio.
    – michelle
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 13:38
  • 14 m x 3m at an educated guess
    – Codemonkey
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 13:57
  • 1
    People say to add a lot of salt to the water as well, unless there's a risk of run off. Commented May 26, 2016 at 9:47

They make tools for just this purpose with the slightly-rude sounding name of "Crack Weeder". They are either a very narrow hoe / knife, or a metal-bristled brush. Using one of these is less tedious than hands-and-knees pulling of the little weeds. For expensive and high quality tools see http://www.leevalley.com/en/garden/page.aspx?cat=2,2300&p=33275 - no affiliation except they have a lot of my money and have always given good service - where you can see that some people prefer a 6" handle and they get down to the ground, while others like a long handle like a hoe. I am sure you could find similar things in your local hardware and gardening store.


I have a propane weed torch that I use to burn the weeds in cement cracks. I got mine from a gardening supply store, but they are on Amazon. I can't use it near the house or the porch screen (plastic screen), but it works pretty good on driveways and cracks. You may have to revisit the weed area about every month or so. Just be sure to inspect all of the fittings for leaks when you attach it to a propane tank and every time before use. The one I have is a little cumbersome to carry around and I wish the hose was a little longer, but you could put it in a wheel barrow or wagon and move it around the yard. I cannot open the propane valve all the way. If I do open the tank valve all the way and try to use the squeeze valve on the handle the pressure will sometimes put out the flame. It may just be the one I purchased.

I've only had it for about 2 years but it works. It just isn't fun to do in the middle of the day in the heat and humidity. The burnt weed/plant may discolor the tile/bricks black.


If you want a viable low maintenance solution you should consider removing the bricks/tiles and replacing any soil with underneath or in between the bricks/tiles with crushed rock. You can usually buy it cheap in quantity if you have a quarry nearby.

If you don't want to dissemble the patio you can try to scrape out as much dirt as you can from between the cracks and fill them with finely ground stone. Make sure to use a breathing protection when handling it. You can use an old chisel or a flathead screwdriver for this.


Depending on how much time you want to sacrifice, you can also plant something in the cracks which will shade the weeds and make garden look nicer, here are some examples: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/jul/26/gardens-plants-cracks-paths

  • Can you add some details about specific plants? Link only answers are not a good fit for the site and may be deleted
    – kevinskio
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 10:00

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