Weeding a Cobblestone Walk
Weeds invade cracks in stone walkway, but planting herbs is one method of overpowering them.
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Q: I recently moved into an older home with a great cobblestone sidewalk in the back garden. However, weeds like to grow between the stones. I hesitate to use an herbicide because I don't want to damage the nearby flowers, which include everything from tea roses to daisies. Any suggestions on how to rid the sidewalk area of the weeds? I once was told that common table salt could be used between the cracks of the stones. Is this a possibility?
—D.J., Vermillion, SD
A: It sounds like you've inherited a lovely garden retreat! Salt would probably make the soil inhospitable to plants and soil organisms in your walkway, but there may be danger of the salt leaching into the soil and affecting the plants you want to preserve.
How about these alternatives? Some folks like to plant low-growing herbs, such as creeping thyme or dwarf peppermint, between flagstones in a walkway. The herbs grow into a mat, discouraging other plant growth, and as you walk, you're surrounded by the fragrance of the herbs. You could rent or buy a flame weeder and burn off the weedy growth. You could also clean out the vegetation by using a low-impact, soap-based contact herbicide. The active ingredients are fatty acid salts, which kill plant cells on contact but do not persist in the environment. Once you weed the area, you could put down a thick layer of bark mulch, sand or other material between the stones to discourage growth in the long term.
—National Gardening Association