Gravel driveways add a bit of rustic charm to your home, are a lot cheaper than block paving, cleaner than tarmac, good for drainage, look better than and more eco friendly than imprinted concrete and also help with security, (burglars hate walking or driving over crunchy gravel).
The problem with weeds in gravel driveways.
Gravel driveways that have light traffic or are untended can quickly become overgrown with weeds and grass, so let's look at ways of preventing your gravel becoming a bed of grass and weeds.
Weed suppressant material will stop weed growth before it begins by forming a barrier between the soil and the gravel.
The benefits of using geotextile fabric is it will stop deep rooted weeds seeding and growing up through the gravel.
The downside is, over time and quite quickly with heavy foot or tyre traffic the fabric becomes punctured by the gravel allowing long rooted weeds, like dandelion to seed and grow through it anyway. Digging weeds out that are growing through weed suppressant material is almost impossible without further damaging the material. Another problem with using weed suppressant material is.....
..... most weeds are airborne and will seed and grow on top of the fabric. If you are going to use this method of weed control be prepared to rake of the gravel and replace the landscape material every couple of years.
I have laid a lot of gravel driveways over the years and have come to the conclusion that unfortunately weed barriers are not the answer to weed problems in gravel.
Killing weeds in gravel driveways.
If weeds have already taken over your gravel driveway there are a few things you can do, I have listed the weed control methods with the pros and cons below.
Hand Weeding. If the area is relatively small and your back and knees can cope, pulling out the short rooted weeds that are growing over the weed suppressant is fairly easy. Using your fingers, try to get as low down the stem as you can so as not to leave any part of the weed to regrow.
Removing long rooted plants like dandelions that are growing from below and up through the weed suppressant fabric is more of a challenge. It's very important to remove the complete root, leaving nothing to regrow (even the tiniest bit of dandelion root will regrow) and at the same time minimise damage to the liner, The easiest way and the method least likely to damage the liner, is to use a special weeding tool like a corkscrew or long bladed trowel.
Scrape back the gravel around the weed, find the tear in the fabric and use either the trowel or corkscrew to dig out the complete weed root and all.
This trowel is the ideal shape for removing long rooted weeds from gravel, It's also more comfortable to hold and work with than a standard trowel.
I especially recommend this trowel for people with less natural gripping strength, and for those with arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome, see my article here about gardening with a disability.
Corkscrew weeder Takes the backache out of weeding gravel. Ideal for removing tap-rooted weeds growing through weed suppressant fabric, simply screw the steel spiral through the gravel into the ground and pull. lifetime guarantee
Raking your gravel driveway regularly rakes out surface weeds and moves the gravel around making it difficult for weed seeds to germinate so preventing weed from growing. Unfortunately raking also stirs up the dirt that has got into the gravel creating a seed bed for new weeds.
Topping up the gravel by spreading a fresh load over the driveway every five or so years will cover the bare patches and the weeds, but as I discovered years ago, spreading more small stones over the top of dirty gravel produces the perfect environment for weed seeds to germinate and thrive also making it even more difficult to pull them out.
Treating weeds growing in gravel with vinegar, simply use vinegar at full strength, white vinegar is often used, although any vinegar will work. Vineger is effective and will kill weeds but does not discriminate so be sure not to spray it on or near plants you wish to keep.
Because Vinegar is a disinfectant it kills beneficial bacteria in your soil sterilising the soil for up to two years, could be a problem if you want to plant in it.
Using salt to kill weeds, salt works as a weed killer when it dissolves into the soil around the plant roots. Salt kills plants indiscriminately and is very environmentally unfriendly as it stays in the soil for years, so if you must use it, only use salt where you don't want other plants to grow, such as gravel driveways.
Alternatives to decorative gravel.
Imprinted concrete can be used to make weed-free driveways( well until cracks appear in the concrete!), but they look plasticky are slippery when wet and also produce more daytime glare. I personally think they look awful, real footballers wives stuff and they are not permeable so will need a drainage solution.
Block paving is permeable, long lasting, looks OK and if brushed occasionally and the silica sand kept topped up to fill the gaps between blocks, driveways should stay weed free for years.
Always check Strength actually is 360g/l when buying concentrated Glyphosate weed-killer from other sources.