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Exterminating Sidewalk Weeds

Updated on August 29, 2012
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Sean has been in the industry of gardening and landscaping since 2006. He is also a certified arborist that tends to focus on plant health.

Crabgrass growing in a sidewalk crack.
Crabgrass growing in a sidewalk crack. | Source

Weeds have the ability to grow just about anywhere. The cracks in sidewalks always seem to trap weed seeds and become an unsightly problem once the seeds germinate. There are many ways to tackle the eradication of sidewalk weeds.

Mechanical eradication methods require no chemical herbicides, but a little muscle is needed. Hand tools and some ambition will rid a sidewalk of even the most resilient weeds. Boiling water is also effective against sidewalk weeds.

Homemade weed killer can be made using several household items and applied with no risk to oneself, others, and the environment. Common items like vinegar and salt are very effective when mixed and applied properly.

Chemical eradication is quick and easy but not without a few downfalls. Caution must always be used when applying chemical herbicides to avoid exposure, limit drift, and reduce harm to the environment.

The chosen method of eradication is entirely up to those who are annoyed with weeds continually growing through sidewalk cracks.

Prying out weeds in sidewalks with hand tools.
Prying out weeds in sidewalks with hand tools. | Source

Mechanical Eradication of Weeds

Mechanical eradication includes physically destroying and/or removing weeds, like pulling or pouring hot water on them. This isn't the easiest method, but it is the simplest. Tools like screwdrivers and putty knives can be used to pry weeds out of cracks. Simply pulling out the weeds can be done as well. Pulling weeds can cause the foliage to tear off while leaving the root system still intact. Weeds like dandelions and thistles can regenerate lost foliage when plucked off. Be sure to get a good grasp on the base of the plant when pulling to ensure most of the root mass is removed.

Boiling water can be carefully poured onto weeds, which essentially cooks the plant. Enough boiling water must be poured into the crack to reach the roots and cook them as well.

The benefit of mechanical eradication is the simplicity. No chemicals or formulations need to be mixed and applied, and there is no harmful risks to oneself, others, pets, and the environment. Some hard work and sweat is the only cost when using mechanically eradicating weeds. Plus, it's free of cost!

Homemade weed killer ingredients.
Homemade weed killer ingredients. | Source

Household Weed Killers

Household weed killers like salt, soap, and vinegar can destroy weeds without impacting people, pets, and the environment. Some can be used alone, while others can be used in tandem to increase effectiveness. Here are a few household remedies for sidewalk weeds.

  • Vinegar - The acetic acid within vinegar is toxic to plants. Household vinegar is about 5% acetic acid, which will kill seedlings and young weeds. Stronger vinegar like horticultural vinegar will give better results for resilient weeds due to the 20% acetic acid concentration. Apply vinegar when rain is not in the near forecast to ensure an effective kill. For best results, spray directly onto plants and do not dilute with water.
  • Salt - Salt is very effective, but significant amounts will cause damage to surrounding soil and non-target plants. In this case, sidewalks are perfect for salt applications since no plants or lawns are in the direct vicinity. A ratio of 1 part salt to 2 parts water is usually enough to provide an effective kill.
  • Salt & Vinegar Mixture - Mix 1 & 1/2 cups of table salt with 1 gallon of household vinegar. Dissolve the salt thoroughly and apply via spraying.
  • Vinegar & Dish Detergent Mix - Mix vinegar and a few squirts of liquid dish detergent into a spray bottle. Spray during the sunniest and warmest part of the day.
  • Liquid Dish Detergent - MIx a soap solution of 1 part liquid dish detergent to 10 parts water. Drench the weeds with the mix.

Liquid herbicide concentrations mixed with water and applied with sprayers.
Liquid herbicide concentrations mixed with water and applied with sprayers. | Source

Chemical Herbicidal Eradication

Chemical eradication includes herbicidal formulations specifically designed to kill weeds and other vegetation. Chemical herbicides are quick and easy, but pose a risk to non-target plants, animals, and people. Caution must always be used when applying chemical herbicides to avoid exposure, limit drift, and reduce harm to the environment.

Glyphosate is very common and effective against weeds. Glyphosate is sold under several trade names - "Round Up" being the most common. Glyphosate is a systemic, nonselective herbicide. The systemic properties allow the herbicide to travel throughout the plant, while the nonselective characteristic is effective on just about every plant that isn't genetically modified to be glyphosate-resistant. Unfortunately, the nonselective characteristic makes it risky to use around non-target plants. Non-target plants can easily be killed due to carelessness during glyphosate applications. Glyphosate is one of the safer herbicides and dissipates quickly when exposed to the elements of nature.

2,4-D (2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid)is a broadleaf herbicide that kills only broadleaf plants which makes it safe to use near lawns and turf. 2,4-D is one of the most popular herbicides in the world. A few herbicide products that include 2,4-D are "Weed-B-Gon MAX" , "Trillion", and "Tri-Kil"

Dicamba is a pre and post-emergent herbicide. Dicamba is effective due to the chemical's ability to cause weeds to grow so rapidly that all available nutrients are exhausted. Ultimately, the weeds die. Dicamba is sold under the names of "Banvel", "Oracle" and "Vanquish."

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