Weeding without herbicides

At my current abode there are quite a few areas of crazy pavers laid on sand . Weeds coming between the paver stones were being taken care of with Roundup Herbicide . I told the owner , as I am leasing the place , that I would prefer him not to use Herbicides and that I would take care of the weeds . /
I took him into the kitchen boiled my 1.8 litre Kambrook Electric kettle ( cash for comment …kachinka ) went out side with it and proceeded to apply the boiling water to the aforesaid paver weeds . He laughed at me . I told him to drop back tomorrow . He did .All weeds were dead ./
My gardener at my previous address had told me about doing this to weeds . Safer for the environment and most of all safer for YOU.


Yes, it certainly works well. I’ve run my property organically since I bought it in 1991 and used boiling water on large Scotch thistle and other burrs and weeds near the house with excellent results over the years. Dealing with heaps of them out in the paddock well away from the house is a bit more of an undertaking, so every now and then I chop some off and dig out the roots with shovel and mattock.

Not only is the boiling water method better for the environment, but it’s essentially free (if you have PV panels), or of minimal cost using mains electricity.


Many fertilisers, a small amount applied over the plant and then dampened will also kill weeds.

Along with gas torches…like those used for plumbing, will also kill weeds which don’t have tubers, bulbs etc. Just don’t use if fire restrictions apply or likelihood of setting everything on fire…works well for paver and spot treatment.

The only risk with boiling water is burning oneself or killing all the soil flora/fauna (e.g. worms) it also comes in contact with. Similiarly applies for fertiliser burning.


Sulfate of Ammonia (also known as Ammonia Sulfate) or similar acidic fertilisers eg Super Phosphate will kill weeds very effectively if applied in a smallish pile over the weeds and moistened. For a short time the soil will not support new growth but after some watering and a little time growth will return to the area with renewed vigour. Do not apply the fertiliser to kill the weeds when you expect rain that day.

Of course if you are growing organically a good spray of vinegar mixed with a little dishwashing detergent (about a teaspoon of the DW liquid to a litre of vinegar) to allow it to stick to the weeds, will achieve the same result on the weeds but will not provide any fertiliser effects. Also remember it will kill good plants as well as weeds so be careful on what you spray the mixture. It is not as effective on grasses as on other weeds so repeated application may be needed for unwanted grass varieties. Also try to do your spraying on hot, dry days as this makes the solution more effective.

The acidic compounds create local high soil acidity which locks up the nutrients in the soil and the weeds get both chemically burnt and denied nutrients. Once the acidity reduces, the ability to support growth returns. You, of course, can quickly restore the ph value by applying Lime, Dolomite and similar alkaline compounds after the weeds have died.

If you want to kill off an area permanently add salt to the vinegar, in about the following proportions for every 4 litres of vinegar add 1 cup of salt and one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid. Remember this is a pretty permanent effect so be careful in your planning.

Don’t use antibacterial dishwashing liquid in the mix that you use where you want things to growth again as the antibacterial properties will kill off the soil organisms. Also try to get the strongest vinegar you can, as the stronger the acid in it is the better it works, pickling vinegar is fairly strong.


For larger woody weeds I use a Cut Stump method, it does use Gylsophate (Round-up). I researched this as our neighbour offered to blanket spray our fallow 30 acre cultivation which had a lot of black wattle regrowth (they love disturbed ground and grow quickly) to allow more grass to grow for his cattle. He & my husband both subscribe to the philosophy that “if a teaspoon works, then a tablespoon must be better” and if it kills this, it must kill that. So to avoid a toxic cloud of over-strength ineffective chemical, I did cut stump.

Basically you cut the tree / sapling stem and paint or spray the stump within 15 seconds (later and the stump has sealed itself) on the exposed outer ring. It uses very little Gylsophate (should be at least 20% active ingredient - use neat - dilute as per instruction if higher). The chemical is taken up and into the root where it dies off and does not affect the soil (although it is a salt and will add minutely to the possibility of salinity) I also include a small amount of wetter and a marker dye. I return with a touch of a biological agent to the larger ones to kick-start the decay process. I chip out as many as I can with a grubber as it won’t work on small stems.

Uses less chemical than a complete foliar spray, is quick, especially using two people; one cutting, one painting, removes the tree, if you cut close to the ground, but still on the trunk (not down to the root) there is little left to stake tyres or trip over. The neighbour’s spray would have made the regrowth attractive and poisonous to cattle for up to 6 weeks and taken up to 18 months for a complete kill, and we still had to remove the dead woody weeds which would be sheltering the next generation.

Be kind to your soil. I did a course through Future Learn (free uni courses) on Soils - Lancaster University - absolutely amazing the amount of biological matter in soil - so PLEASE don’t kill it off with anti-bacterial detergent!

So, not entirely organic, but uses far less chemical.


Great one @vax2000, saves money too. Thanks for sharing :+1:

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How does one get rid of onion weed that thrives in Sydney. For the last 5 years, have been digging it up trying not to let the bulbs multiply. old cooking oil as suggested on a gardening program doesn’t really do it.

Onion weed is a really hard one to eraticate…as it produces dozens of pups each year.

We had gardens full of the weed when we bough our house, but over the years have managed to bring it under control.

We used two methods…pulling out the leaf and bulb as soon as it is seen protrudng through the soild surface (this is before it has had the chance to make more bulbs) and glyphosate (painting carefully on the leaves).

Glyphosate is used where digging is not possible (cracks in concrete for example) or difficult (if growing amount other plants). Gylphosate is also systemic and will kill the bulb…but not the pups…which will also need to be treated when they emerge from the soil.

Burning the leaves of onion weed won’t work unless you do it possibly for a number of years each time the leaf penetrates the soil surface. Eventually the bulb will run out of food and die.

I also squash the bulbs in my fingers or using the back of the garden trowel when I dig them out to ensure that they die (gives me a little pleasure knowing that one more has bitten the dust).

Even after about 20 years, it still comes up but in more manageable numbers (possibly pull our 4-6 each month on average) rather than the thousands which originally existed.


When I was first dealing with thistles, my ex put a drum on the trailer and we drove along the dirt road digging the thistles out and burning them on the spot. This could have been successful if followed up more often.
Then I was dealing with them by myself, still too far from the house to use boiling water. They were growing in clay by the road, so digging was backbreaking and gave me a frozen shoulder. Finally I just cut of the top of the plants and added salt, but I think it was a losing battle.

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Last summer I was joining poly-pipe using hot water to soften it. When finished I poured the water onto a weed. The next day the weed looked wilted and a day later it looked dead. I’ve left it in place for months to see if the roots sent up new shoots but it’s not recovered. After years of using gallons of glysophate I couldn’t believe it so I tried again with a morphy richards kettle full of boiling water. It works. I don’t think the brand of kettle is a factor.


Thank you for the onion solution, it has taken me 15 years to bring it manageable weeding, I think that getting the onion before it forms pups is the answer, but getting as much of the pups out when they do form helps.


A couple of months ago I bought a weed burner, like a rocket booster on a stick. It seems to me to be a pretty benign way of eliminating weeds fairly permanently from difficult spots whilst doing minimum environmental harm.

It burns Propane (MAPP which burns hotter than regular Propane), which releases a small amount of greenhouse gas, but doesn’t involve chemical toxins or carcinogens. It has been good treating weeds in paving, and seems to destroy seeds as well as the weeds, though I’m yet to test it on weeds in open lawn, but then they are easy to remove by hand anyway. The MAPP cylinders cost ~$16 (mine from Supercheap Auto - no interests) and I’ve used one for an hour or so of total burn time so far & its still going strong.

As a bonus, it would start a barbecue or pizza oven in seconds. Also a bushfire - not to be used on days of fire risk.


Hiya vax2000

I have known about your fabulous idea for years, and use it all around my precious garden with no ill effects - except to the weeds.

Safe, sensible and kind to all but certainly kills the weeds quickly, cheaply, easily and FAST.

Thanks for posting and sharing this cheap and easy idea!
Natale :slight_smile:


I seem to be constantly weeding the dock weeds creeping over from my neighbour’s yard. It creeps along 4-6 inches in the soil. So it spreads two ways i.e. underneath the soil and by the seeds. Does anyone know of any other way to get rid or control this weed other than spraying by herbicites?


Burn a boundary of about 45 cm (18 inches), you can get the weed burners that do a great job. This requires constant repetition but only when weeds start to again become evident in the area closest to your neighbour in the burn zone. You can decrease the burn zone size but I wouldn’t go under 30 cm (typical ruler).

As an example of one but this is no recommendation of the particular product:

Get a pull along trolley to take a couple of 9 kg gas bottles to stop having to go back to refuel as often. Don’t do this when the foliage is very dry and make sure to comply with “No Burn” notifications and or get a permit to burn…

For a single plant boiling water as previously mentioned can be very effective and some acidic fertilizers can also be useful.

More selections of burners from the Amazon site:




The Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment has information on dock weed control and management.

If it is from your neighbours, it may be worth discussing with them so that a joint control program is implemented.


I had a neighbour who used the DIY approach to weed burning. He would run a line of petrol around his garden beds and strike a match. It was quite alarming to find the house filled with the fumes of burning fuel on a Saturday. Even more alarming was his car that remained in the driveway a couple of metres away while the burn was done. I am not sure of the make but we used to call it the Molotov. The reason was that he economised with car spares too. The missing petrol cap was replaced by a ball of rag. True story.


The main concern about this approach is some of the petrol will soak into the soil and won’t be burnt off by the subsequent fire. In effect this is the act of causing soil contamination which the environmental authorities won’t necessary think is a great idea.

Notwithstanding soil contamination, when it rains the residual petrol (or any petroleum/oil products) has the potential to enter downstream waterways impacting on aquatic biota. Also the petrol will also prevent regrowth on the surface of the soil treated increasing the likelihood of soil erosion. As fence line are typically straight, this can lead to significant erosion along property boundaries.

All in all, not a wise thing to do.


You may also like to consider digging in a suitable edging on your side of the fence to hold back the roots and plant on your neighbours side. An assumption is your neighbour likes weeds?

You may need several seasons for it all to germinate on your side, and depending on a how you attack it risk more of some other weed. Burning or boiling water or steam all affect the grasses that you might like to take back the site. Until you get an alternate dense cover the weeds always seem to rule supreme.

Hand weeding may still be your go for now?

I hand weeded bindi for years, with around two seasons a year for five years about the bench mark to return to bare feet. Your dock sounds persistant!

I now take a broad view and try to work with each neighbour (12 of) to find the best outcome. I use a selective herbicide to take out any significant sections of weeds by spot spraying which allows the grass to take back the fence line. That assumes the same neighbour has not already nuked it all with glyphosate to make more room for more weeds rather than mowing and trimming their side! Nothing is easy?

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Thank you for all your suggestions on removal of dock. Unfortunately my neighbour has no interest in helping me reducing the dock problem. I am hand weeding,and can’t do any burning as suggested as on my side I have plants. However, my neighbour has allowed me to spray herbicide on his side which I have done, but the dock is still wandering under the fence. May need another round of spraying on his side.