Whether used for pathways, driveways, landscaping, or as a mulch replacement, gravel is a useful and versatile ground cover that helps to shape your yard.
But, it’s still prone to weed growth over time. And if left, they soon start to take over.
Fortunately, there are a number of methods you can use to keep on top of the problem.
So in this article, we take a look at how to stop weeds growing through gravel. You can also use the same methods for pebbles.
How To Stop Weeds Growing Through Gravel
These are my top 9 recommendations. We’ll start with the quickest and most effective:
Chemical Weed Killer
The easiest way to kill weeds growing through gravel and pebbles is to spray the area with a post emergent weed killer.
There are different types available. But it’s best to choose a systemic weed killer that kills weeds all the way to the root.
Why is this important?
Because by killing the roots you can stop the plant from growing back again. So you won’t have to do the job as frequently.
The best weed killers for gravel include brands such as RoundUp that contains the systemic herbicide glyphosate and Ortho Groundclear that contains Imazapyr.
As long as you don’t have grass or desirable plants in the area then you can use a non-selective weed killer that kills all vegetation.
But, if you’re spraying near your lawn then you’ll need to be careful. And it could be better to use a selective weed killer that won’t harm your grass.
Some weed killers have a residual effect. This means they’re persistent and will prevent any weeds from growing in the area for a number of months, sometimes up to a year. This makes them a great choice to use before you first lay the gravel down.
Vinegar works as a contact weed killer. When you spray it onto the weeds it burns them, causing them to disintegrate.
It can be quite effective. But, because it doesn’t kill the weeds to the root you need to spray the area more often as some of the weeds might regrow.
Normal table vinegar isn’t strong enough to properly do the job. Instead, you need to get acetic acid solutions of around 20 or 30% for this to work well.
Because vinegar is non-selective, it kills all plants it makes contact with. So if you’re spraying it near desirable plants you should be careful to make sure you control exactly where it goes.
If you don’t want to plant in the area again, salt can be an effective way of killing weeds.
Using it is simple. Mix about one cup of salt for every 3 cups of water. Then pour the solution over the target area.
The salt water soaks into the soil, salinating it, and creating conditions that are inhospitable to plants
But before you use this method, keep in mind that salt remains in the soil for years. And it will cause problems for whoever owns the house after you if it’s applied to an area they want to use for planting.
Another easy and cost-effective way of killing weeds that are growing through gravel is to pour boiling water over them.
This method is as simple as boiling a kettle and then taking it outside to give the weeds a good dousing.
But while it’s suitable for killing the occasional tuft of weeds, it’s somewhat impractical if you need to treat a large area.
Another household item you can press into service in your battle against the weeds is bleach.
Spray or pour the undiluted bleach over the patches of weeds that you want to kill.
Then leave it for a few days to let it do the job, before clearing away the leftover debris.
This is another non-selective herbicide. So you need to be careful using it near plants you want to keep.
Bleach works by changing the pH of the soil to such a level that plants can no longer survive or grow in the treated area.
Related: Does Bleach Kill Weeds And Grass?
Removing Weeds By Hand
It’s a time-tested method and it can be a lot of work, but it’s still one of the most reliable ways of removing weeds.
As long as the area you need to weed is fairly small, then you can use a tool such as a trowel or corkscrew weeder to dig out the weeds, roots and all.
But there are some obvious drawbacks:
Firstly, it can put a lot of strain on your back.
Secondly, it’s very time consuming if you’ve got a large area to weed.
And not only that, but you also have to take great care to remove all parts of the weed. Why?
Because if any of the root is left behind the plant can often grow back again.
Before you start, it’s a good idea to scrape back the gravel around the weed so you have access to the ground it’s growing in.
Good maintenance of a gravel driveway or path is one of the simplest things you can do to keep it free from weeds. Here are some things you can try:
Keep a thick gravel layer – Over time, gravel gets displaced due to vehicle or foot traffic. And this results in a thinning that leaves it more vulnerable to weeds.
Topping up your gravel every now and again helps to cover any bare patches. And maintains a thick layer that makes it harder for weeds to grow through.Try to keep it at least 3 to 5 inches thick.
Prevent irrigation – It’s a good idea to limit the amount of water that gets onto your gravel while spraying nearby lawns, flowers, or shrubs. Extra water will help the weeds to grow.
Rake regularly – By raking your gravel you can pull out the surface weeds. And the movement of the gravel makes it harder for weed seeds to germinate.
The drawback is that stirring up the dirt in the gravel can provide a suitable bed for airborne weed seeds to land in and grow.
Keep it clean – Muddy areas are colonized quickly by weeds. So try to keep your gravel clear of mud and debris.
If you want to kill weeds that are growing through your gravel, but you don’t want to spray your yard with chemicals or salt, then using a propane weed torch is a good alternative.
The flame easily incinerates any plant it makes contact with. And it can actually be quite enjoyable strolling around your garden burning the weeds as you go.
If the area is small and just requires spot treatment then it will get the job done quickly. But larger areas may take some time to complete. And because you won’t kill the weeds to the root, you’ll have to do it regularly.
Weed Suppressant Fabric
Laying landscape fabric underneath the gravel area forms a barrier that can prevent weeds from growing through.
But, opinions on this are mixed.
While some people find that it helps to reduce the amount of weeds, it’s not popular with everyone.
The fabric can tear if the area experiences heavy use. Allowing spaces for the weeds to get through.
And some people find that weeds are able to grow through the material regardless. Making them even harder to remove.
Also, weed seeds that land on top of the fabric can germinate and grow in any dirt that’s collected there.
To use this method successfully you may need to replace the fabric every two or three years, which can involve a lot of work as you’ll need to rake off the gravel first.
Instead of landscape fabric, or weed membrane as it’s sometimes called, you can also use black plastic sheeting.
The advantages are that it’s cheap, easily obtainable, and you can quickly cut it into any shape you require using a pair of scissors. It’s good at forming a barrier that cuts out light to prevent weed seed germination and kill existing weeds.
But on top of the problems listed above, it also has other disadvantages:
It won’t allow water through, which leads to puddles forming on the gravel pathway or drive. And if the area is sloped the water will run down to the lowest point and can lead to waterlogging.
How to stop weeds growing through gravel and pebbles?
The easiest method by far is to spray a chemical weed killer. It’s very easy to cover a large area, such as a pea gravel driveway, quickly. And repeated treatments will deal with most weeds.
To minimize the amount of problems you have, it’s a good idea to treat the area before you first lay down the gravel. Then you can use a post emergent weed killer to kill any weeds that start to grow through as time goes by.