Rock beds aren’t the easiest kind of garden to keep weed-free, right?
Once weeds start sprouting up through tiny crevices, they can be really hard to remove.
Luckily, there are some tips and tricks for killing weeds in rock beds easily so that it doesn’t start to become more of a hassle than the garden is worth.
I’m going to explain some measures you can take to prevent weed growth in rock beds in the first place and then how to keep weeds out of your rock bed once it’s established.
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- Little and often is key – hand pull regularly and don’t let it get away on you.
- Try natural alternatives to pesticides first: salt and boiling water, vinegar, flame weeding.
- Set up your rock bed for maximum success using landscape fabric and hard borders.
How to Prevent Weeds from Taking Over Your Rock Bed
There are a few things you can do when you’re still in the early stages of establishing your rock garden that will make your life easier further down the track.
Remove all weeds and roots from the area beforehand
Once you’ve decided on the area where you want to build your rock bed, be sure to thoroughly remove all weeds that are present, including their roots. Doing this step well means that you won’t need to rely on landscape fabric so much.
If you have time, another step you can take is to lay down black plastic over the soil and leave it for a few months. The heat of the sun will be enhanced by the plastic and effectively kill any plants and most seeds that are dormant in the soil. The downside to this method is that it isn’t great for soil health as very few critters will survive the high temperatures either.
However, it’s chemical-free and effective.
Install hard borders to your rock bed
Once you’ve established your weed-free soil, embed some metal landscaping edging into the soil around the perimeter of the bed. The purpose of this isn’t to look good, but to help prevent weeds from outside the bedspread into it via their root systems underground.
Lay down a weed barrier
Lastly, lay down some landscape fabric (or a more natural alternative like cardboard, newspaper or burlap). This won’t be a perfect solution, as once a tiny bit of soil or sand has accumulated on top, new windblown seeds can still take root, but it’s a helpful first step.
How to Get Rid of Weeds in Rock Beds
Once your rock bed is established and weeds start to arrive (and this will happen – it’s just nature doing its thing – don’t freak out!), what’s the best way to remove weeds from a rock landscape?
Sometimes it depends on the kind of weed. Some weeds are easier to remove than others. Some have a really long taproot that will be hard to remove by hand, and some spread seeds so you’ll want to make sure you remove the weed before that happens.
There are a few different options available to you, but the tip that will make the biggest difference is to stay on top of weeding. Remove the weeds as they appear and while they’re still small and whatever you do, don’t let your rock bed get overrun with weeds.
Regular hand pulling only needs to take a few minutes per week and can save you a LOT of work down the track. Pulling the weeds up from their roots means that they won’t grow back unless more seeds arrive on the wind. There are no consequences for soil health and it’s completely free. It’s by far the best method of removing weeds from rock landscapes.
Little and often is key!
Flame weeding is a slightly less labor-intensive method than hand pulling but still super effective.
Using a flame weeder is very quick and efficient and allows you to target specific weeds without harming surrounding plants or soil health.
Salt and Boiling Water
If you encounter some more stubborn weeds (for example thistles, dandelions, or doc leaves – these three all have a really deep taproot), then careful application of salt and boiling water will do the trick.
However, you must be careful with this method to be really specific with the application. Salt will easily kill any surrounding plants and is not really great for the soil, preventing anything else from growing back in the same spot for a while. Only use this method for really stubborn weeds in places where you don’t want anything to grow.
The best approach is to remove the majority of the vegetation first, this way you can minimize the amount of salt that you have to apply as you don’t have to kill the leaves as well as the roots. Simply pull the bulk off the leaves and leave the stump of the weed exposed. Pour a little table salt diluted in boiling water over the stump, and only the stump, not the surrounding soil.
If you’re concerned about soil health, boiling water on its own sometimes works.
Do you have a crabgrass problem? Boiling water and salt could be a good option for crabgrass. I have an article with more natural ways to manage crabgrass that you might be interested in.
Another popular alternative to salt is vinegar. Ideally, you want vinegar with around 10-20% acetic acid concentration, so your household vinegar may not be strong enough.
Follow the same steps above for best results – remove the foliage first and apply the vinegar to the stump.
I’m always reluctant to recommend herbicides in your home garden as a solution to weeds that can be removed effectively by less toxic means, as they do have consequences for all forms of life including children and pets.
Tree stumps are likely something that will need a more rigorous solution. If you have a stump you need to kill, I have an article on the best stump killers for you.
As you can see, there are a few different options for killing weeds in rock beds, but keeping your rock bed weed-free is easiest if you stay on top of weeding and regularly hand pull.
What’s your favorite method for getting rid of weeds in a rock bed? Please share your ideas with me below! I’d love to read them!