The stone patio on the east end of the house is awesome but for one small issue. We left bare soil between the rocks so that I could plant some ground cover and create islands of rock in a sea of green - poetic eh? Unfortunately, that sea of green turned into a knee-high mess of weeds. The ground cover that choked out grass in the lawn? Well, it failed to thrive in the sandy soil around the stones and the weeds quickly took over. Despite the fact that the ground cover I was using was, in fact, a weed. And here I thought I was being clever. *sigh*
So Chris and I spent a lot of time this summer filling 5-gallon bucket after bucket with weeds and taking them up to the chicken's compost area. I'm happy to report the chickens loved them and the patio is now weed free. But how to keep it that way? I've completely given up on the idea of the green sea and am perfectly willing to accept stones surrounded by dirt.
A google search for natural weed killers (the animals are out there all the time and I didn't want poison on the plants or soil) turned up a pretty common formula: 1 gallon vinegar, 1 cup salt, 1 Tbl dish soap. The vinegar is for defoliation, the dish soap helps it cling, and the salt is well, an old fashioned military solution to preventing your enemies from growing anything there ever again. Salt the soil, prevent growth - simple. So we bought a pump sprayer, filled it with the concoction, and I've been using it once a week for the latter part of the summer. And it works.
It's quick to do, easy, and the gallon lasted me most of July and August. I figure I'll use it more heavily in the spring and be able to do basic maintenance all summer. I plan to try just salt water once I get to the maintenance phase since I hope not to have anything to defoliate.
Not sure if I'll actually leave the dirt or start to fill in with small stones. If I can keep the weeds from growing at all, I think the small rocks would look cool - sort of like a stream bed around the bigger stones. Can't seem to let go of that "island" dream...