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I am looking to maintain a small patch of loose rock/pebbles in my yard: enter image description here

There's a fair bit of weed growing through the pebbles. I am hesitant to use Glyphosate as its an over kill and I've heard has carcinogens.

How could I make an effective weed killer at home ? (Preferably using everyday ingredients (like vinegar etc), and not harmful chemicals)

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    Loosely pebbled 'concrete'? Is there no soil beneath the pebbles?
    – Bamboo
    Sep 19 '20 at 9:28
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    boiling water poured very slowly works ok. Sep 19 '20 at 12:15
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    Boiling water works if it's just a small patch of weeds with shallow roots - poured slowly like Polypipe Wrangler said (especially if you're dealing with deeper rooted weeds).
    – Kilobyte
    Sep 19 '20 at 19:10
  • @Bamboo Thanks for your comment. I posted a picture and edited to reflect what I have in my yard. Sep 20 '20 at 6:49
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You won't get very far with ordinary vinegar. Here in the UK some local authorities have tried using acetic acid (vinegar is a dilute solution of this chemical) as an alternative to glyphosate but without much success. Acetic acid does appear to kill very small annual broadleaf weeds, but not kill larger weeds. Also, in no sense is acetic acid not a "harmful chemical". Three of the downsides of acetic acid given in this University of Maryland study of vinegar as an alternative to glyphosate are:

  1. Severe eye irritation, burns, and possible irreversible damage potential. Vinegars with acetic acid concentrations of 11% or greater can burn the skin and cause severe eye injury, including blindness.
  2. Severe skin irritation and possible allergic sensitization.
  3. Prolonged or repeated exposure may cause dermatitis, chronic bronchitis, and erosion of teeth.

I would suggest you're better of using a proper weedkiller, such as glyphosate, which is used worldwide. Follow usage instructions to the letter. Choose a dry calm day. Spot treat weeds every two or three weeks.

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Instead of thinking chemically, think pyrotechnically - but only if you're in an area that's not subject to wildfires. A weed torch is relatively easy to use and kills all types of weeds. Here's a photo of one in use from a supplier's web site (note that I'm not endorsing this vendor). See the text under the photo for some additional information. This particular model uses propane (IIRC, I've seen others that use LP gas).

EDIT

Given that the added photo shows a fence (and car tire), then torching the weeds is not really viable for much of the area in the picture. I think using a string trimmer weekly would be a better solution. If you have dandelions, then spot-treating with a broadleaf killer (like Weed-B-Gone) would work well - you could mix up a gallon, pour it into a hand-sprayer, and spray only the offending weed.

The important point is to never let weeds set seed. If you can deadhead them, then you'll reduce the number of seeds in your own yard (you'll still get some airborne seeds and their sprouts because of your neighbors, of course). The more annual weeds that you can prevent from sprouting, then the fewer annual weeds you'll have - this cycle could make the area relatively weed-free in about five years (it's worked well in my vegetable garden - no intensive weeding, even without mulch.

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  • Flame cultivation was starting to get popular for crops ( eg.corn) in the early 70's,but the big increase in oil prices ended it's use for agribusiness. Sep 19 '20 at 21:37
  • Weeds growing in a patch of gravel is the perfect situation for using a weed torch. But there's a wooden fence next to this patch of gravel. I suggest waiting until after a rain, so the fence is less likely to catch fire.
    – csk
    Sep 20 '20 at 15:59
  • I now see the fence (photo must've been added). @csk is right - torching too close to the fence is not a good idea.
    – Jurp
    Sep 21 '20 at 2:49
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You could use salt - but it poisons the soil, may leach sideways into the rest of the garden, and destroys all the microorganisms within, so I would not recommend it. If you want a longer term solution, scrape off the top layer (an inch or so) of what's there, pulling out the weed roots too, cut some weed membrane (also known as landscape fabric and no, I don't mean plastic!) to fit, then cover with stones or slate or whatever. Over time, dust and bits of soil will build up in the stones, and that means weed seeds will eventually germinate in it, but not for a couple of years. I'd use larger stones, like pebbles - when weeds eventually start growing in between them, they're easier to scrape off from the weed fabric and brush off accumulated debris, then sweep over and clean up the weed fabric, then put the stones back. This procedure is next to impossible with shingle or very small stones. This way, you use no weedkiller or toxic household substances at all.

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  • Hi @Bamboo - there are two problems with landscape fabric here: White Sweet Clover and Queen Anne's Lace. Both weeds will easy pop their roots through the fabric and grow sideways, making it impossible to remove them. Neither responds well to weed killer, either. If the OP were vigilant in weed removal, this could be a non-factor, but it's amazing how quick these weeds (esp. Sweet Clover) go from Nothing to Problem. Wild Parsnip is another one that is difficult to remove, although it does die with RoundUp. Given that OP is in Southern US, Kudzu could also be an issue.
    – Jurp
    Sep 21 '20 at 0:30
  • There are pernicious weeds in the UK that will do the same thing too - japanese knotweed and equisetum spring to mind, but looking at the image above, most of what's there seem to be annual weeds, with the possible exception of what might be a bit of campanula and either a dandelion or possibly a thistle, can't quite tell. Looks like stuff that could easily be dealt with by using a garden fork...
    – Bamboo
    Sep 21 '20 at 1:30
  • Yeah, I see that now (the photo is new to me - I'll have to edit my answer). If we're only dealing with annual weeds, then deadheading via strimming could be a viable answer. BTW, a neighbor here in Wisconsin US has Japanese Knotweed and it's beginning to run rampant. She's about 100m away, so I expect I'll be dealing with it soon (kind of meant in humor, but with Knotweed you never know...). I have some fallopia here that's been evading death for over 20 years and three different homeowners. A zombie plant that just won't die.
    – Jurp
    Sep 21 '20 at 2:49
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Gasoline kills plants but I expect it is politically incorrect. A few drops on individual plants. Or pour a little on a small weed patch ,wait a few minutes and light it on fire . The wait is necessary to give vapor a minute to disperse or there may be an unpleasant flash. Safety is necessary ,like close the container and put it 50+ feet away before any flame.

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