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A Simple Trick for Eliminating Difficult Weeds

Boiling away weeds -

Although weeds can be frustrating, I try to remember that they are basically just lonely plants that have set up shop in the wrong place. They got there by wind or birds or other act of nature and they can’t help where they end up.

Sometimes I even welcome some of these surprise plants in my garden. But when that happens and they appear in the “right” place, their name magically changes to “volunteer plant” instead of “weed”. Ha!

However, most weeds are unwanted.

I can usually make quick work of unwanted weeds by simply yanking them out. They end up in the compost or I toss them to the chickens as a snack.

But sometimes, those weeds can get deep, down in the tiny nooks and crannies of my bricks or sidewalks.

Well..THOSE are even more frustrating.

They just don’t come out easily and the crack is too narrow to use a tool.

But I have a trick.

Boiling Weeds - organic weed control:

Boil Away Your Troubles:

You see, we have a brick walkway leading to our house. When weeds take root there, it is next to impossible to pull them out from between those cracks.

Naturally, I refuse to use Round-Up or other herbicide on them because that is not organic, I have food growing in the area and I don’t want to support the companies that make those poisons.

So instead, I boil those hard to reach weeds.

Yep. You read that right.

I just pour boiling water on the pesky weed and it kills it dead, instantly.

No herbicide. No residue.

Boiling weeds - Organic weed control:


Now here in Los Angeles we are in a drought. So I am not suggesting that anyone goes out and pours gallons and gallons of water all over the sidewalk.

But for a couple of weeds, a few cups of boiling water works beautifully. And if you can use recycled water, rather than fresh, drinkable water, all the better. (see below)

Before the drought, I would use my giant coffee urn to heat the water and then carry it to the front porch. There, I would refill a small pan and run around hitting the various weeds with the hot water.

But now because of the drought, I do it differently.

Gray Water:

I save my leftover cooking water from making pasta, etc. and I also use the leftover boiling water from canning.

Whenever I have stockpot of leftover water from any cooking project, I just reheat it and carry the whole pot outside to “water the weeds”.

If I don’t need it all for weeds, I save any leftover water, let it cool and then water my potted plants with it the next day.

That way, the water serves double duty.

I know it may sound like going to all this trouble is just a drop in the bucket (pun intended) to the huge drought issue we have here. But I feel better doing that rather than pouring the left over water down the drain.

For another tip on smothering weeds, read my recent post on using cardboard against weeds.

Do you have any other tips for getting rid of weeds organically?

Tell me in the comments! 

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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy® and is the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two teenage boys and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.


  • Teresa says:

    LOL…watering the weeds indeed!

    You know, we do that sometimes after boiling water for cooking something (can’t do it most of the time since we put salt in the cooking water for most things). The other thing dh does is use the flame thrower (but not too often either since that uses propane).

    The best way to weed those babies is to send the kids out to do it. 😉

  • […] I think all organic gardeners have their favorite weapons against weeds. One of my favorites (for weedy walkways) is boiling water. […]

  • Mary E. says:

    That is an excellent use for many kinds of grey water. Thanks for the tip!

  • Lisa R says:

    Something we just stared to do: When I’m waiting for the tap water to get warm/hot, I’ve started collecting in a pitcher. It cools down rather quickly and I use it for watering the dog, watering my houseplants & seedlings , and then work my way to the thirsty things outside.
    We practice your post all of the time! I’m so very glad that you took the time to put together these easy ways to save water! The place that we moved to is supplied by city water, and to top it off, everything that gets used goes through an in-house system. So I try to re-use our cooking water and cut back however I can. If there are smaller amounts, I even add it to my compost bucket b/c it makes me feel better than adding it to our septic.
    We’re not in a drought situation, but it seems wrong to me to be using water that was colllected and treated to go right back into the system.

  • JJ says:

    Ha! I had just come inside from dousing some weeds with boiling water when I read this. We have a patio area in our yard that is always a struggle to keep weed-free; boiling water has been our best alternative to using chemicals. In the flower and vegetable beds putting down cardboard and newspaper under mulch helps keep weeds from settling in; the ones that settle into the top layer of mulch can only root shallowly, and are easy to pull up. The trick I’ve learned over the years is to put down a thicker layer (10 or so sheets) of newspaper to get through the growing season without the paper breaking down completely. Otherwise by midsummer the newspaper barrier is gone and the weeds can really settle in.

  • Renee Mustard says:

    Weeds are my nemesis. I love the gray water idea! I have tortoises so I can’t use any kind of pesticide. They eat everything. Weeds included….

  • My husband just bought a torch and is burning the whole garden before we plant. It works but you do have to re-do it within a couple of weeks. I too use my canning water to pour on weeds.

    • theresa says:

      I have to say those torches look like they would be fun to use. I am afraid to give one to my husband because he might have so much fun, he would torch the wrong stuff. Ha ha.

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