15 September 2011

Weeds in Pathways

Patrick has written an interesting post about keeping gravel pathways clear of weeds by using a weed-burner. I think this is an excellent idea! I use a small blowtorch for periodic debugging of the Chook House, preferring to scorch the inside surfaces and roosts rather than use noxious poisons. I confess it has never occurred to me to use it to get rid of weeds. I'm slow, I know...

And weeds, in the veggie-garden paths, have been a perennial bugbear forever.

A year or so ago I had an inspiration for "dealing" with the pathway weeds. A method that differs quite radically from Patrick's strategy, approaching the problem from an entirely different angle. But, in fairness, our circumstances and constraints are completely different. I am not working in a community garden, so I don't have to deal with common pathways, nor with rules about how I may run my garden! Nobody comes to give me dirty looks if I neglect the weeding of pathways!

Nor are my pathways gravelled. I shudder at the thought, since I am wont to wander about the place in my bare feet (and, frequently, barefoot in my head, too) and gravel is  - along with stone chips - one of the nastiest, most barefoot-unfriendly things you can do to the world. Don't.

I freely admit that I had not thought much of my solution to the weed-in-path problem, until Patrick's post made me re-look at it and realise that, perhaps, it is quite a novel idea for some people.

For years I fought the weeds. Sans gravel, this was mostly achieved with a conventional push-hoe, and took me about 15 minutes per pathway. But sometimes it got neglected, and then it ended up taking a bit longer. Especially in Winter, when the Winter grasses take hold with their strong, tough, bushy roots. Then it takes quite a lot more energy. Until my epiphany...

Pennyroyal clumps planted into newly-weeded
pathway. Clumps derive from the bits weeded
out of veggie beds. The whole process is a little
slow to start with, but that's the nature of all
exponential growth systems!
I realised that, outside of metalling the pathways - a concept I dislike - weeds were always going to infest the paths! Given that something always wants to grow in the bare-soil paths, perhaps I'd be better off planting something more manageable and less rampant than the usual motley collection of weeds.

So, for the past year or so, I've been planting and expanding Pennyroyal as my preferred Pathway Plant Of Choice. It mostly keeps the weeds out once established. It grows fairly slowly and is shallow-rooted, so the bits that do grow into the veggie beds themselves are easily sliced out with the spade. It smells great as you walk around the garden, and it's kind to bare feet!

The only downside of Pennyroyal Pathways that I've come across is that, when the Pennyroyal wants to flower, it grows loads of long tendrilly flower-stalks, and the leaf-mat tends to become a bit sparse and thin. This is not a big deal for me, since the rest of the year it presents a dense, and above all weed-resistant, pathway covering.

All win!


  1. What a lovely idea and pennyroyal is reputed to deter ants too.

  2. Yours is a much better solution! Much less work, and fewer fossil fuels. I think something like white clover might work well here too, but you might need to cut it back from time to time.

    I would worry a little about winter, because almost any live path cover would die here and turn to mud by spring, but it's still better than gravel or grass.

    Alas, I don't think it's likely my community gardens will adopt something like this anytime soon...

  3. @dND: I didn't know about Ants, but I do know that it repels Fleas (hence it's botanical name.)

    @Patrick: Not sure about "better". I think the point is really that our design choices and solutions are always contextual and situation dependent.


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