How to Remove Dead Weeds from Rocks [6 Effective Methods]

Once you’ve killed weeds growing through pebbles, rocks, and gravel, the battle’s only half over. Brown, dead weeds in rocks are just as ugly as living weeds. Follow the suggested methods below on how to remove dead weeds from rocks.

  • If weeds are stubborn, they may be alive but dormant. Spray them with a weed killer to make them easier to uproot.
  • Use a rake for fast removal.
  • Try a long-handled weeder to rip out dead weeds.
  • Once weeds have been removed, spread pre-emergent herbicide to prevent new weeds from sprouting.
  • After removal, rake back the rocks and lay landscape fabric to prevent future weeds.
  • Avoid using propane flames or flame weeders. This is not the intended use of these tools and poses a high risk of a brush fire.

These methods will help you remove dead weeds from your rock pathways, landscaping, or driveway quickly. They will also keep your home safe and help you prevent weeds from growing through pebbles and rocks in the future. In just a short while, your worries about dead weeds in rock areas will be a thing of the past.

How to remove dead weeds from rocks

6 Ways to Get Dead Weeds Out of Rocks

To get dead weeds out of rocks and prevent them from sprouting back up, it’s important to kill them down to the roots before removal. Otherwise, you’re in for recurring work as the weeds continue to poke up through rocks from the soil below. The following methods will allow you to get rid of dead weeds among rocks easily.

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Make Sure the Weeds are Really Dead

If weeds and grass in rocks are brown, they’re dead, right? No, this isn’t always the case. Many species of weeds and grass will turn brown from dormancy, but they’re still alive. These weeds still have living roots that will cling viciously to the soil, making them extremely hard to remove. In order to determine if the weeds in your rocks are dead or dormant, do the following:

  • Test a few “dead” weeds by hand-pulling them.
  • If they come up easily, including the roots, then they’re truly dead.
  • If the weeds resist being pulled or break off at the root, they’re alive but dormant.
  • Kill dormant weeds down to the root with a herbicide spray.
  • Avoid homemade weed killers such as white vinegar and boiling water—these only kill visible weed growth, not the roots.

It’s essential to perform this step first. If weeds are brown and dormant, but not dead, raking, weeding tools, and hand-pulling will be difficult and frustrating processes.

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Use a Groundskeeper Rake

You can rake out those dead weeds as long as you have the right tool for the job. This groundskeeper rake has stiff, closely-spaced tines that snag dead weeds and rip them out with ease.

Garden rakes have stiff tines, but they’re so widely spaced weeds slip right through. Meanwhile, leaf rakes have flexible tines that struggle to uproot weeds in rocky areas. With the right tool for the job, weed removal in rocks is a much easier job.

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Try a Long-Handled Weeder

Sick of pulling dead weeds out of rocks by hand? A weeder with a serrated blade, like this one, can chop dead weeds off at the base quickly and easily. As long as you’ve followed the first method and killed the weeds with herbicide first, you have no need to worry about them growing back from the root.

This is a no-mess alternative that saves the backbreaking work of raking and moving gravel. Plus, the sturdy metal blade won’t be damaged from contact with rocks. You can get rid of those dead weeds in minutes. It’s also much safer than using a weed eater or string trimmer, which can throw small rocks back at you.

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Spread Pre-Emergent Herbicide to Stop New Weeds from Sprouting

Now that you’ve removed the dead weeds from the rocks, spread a pre-emergent herbicide in the area. For up to 12 weeks after application, any weed, grass, or plant seed that attempts to sprout among the rocks will be killed as it germinates.

  • Pre-emergent herbicides stop all grass and weed seeds from sprouting for 8–12 weeks after application.
  • Spread this high-quality pre-emergent on the rocky area and water it in to penetrate the soil.

Pre-emergent is best used in spring and fall to stop weeds from sprouting.

Stop Weeds Before They Start
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Prevent Weeds from Returning by Laying Down Landscape Fabric

If you want to stop weeds from growing through rocks the natural way, simply use a rake or shovel to move rocks and gravel out of the way, then lay water-permeable landscape fabric beneath. Then, move the rocks back into place on top of the fabric.

This physical barrier blocks any weeds trying to sprout in the soil beneath the rocks, preventing them from reaching sunlight and air. It will keep your rocks weed-free. Make sure to use a water-permeable fabric. Plastic and tarps can trap water, flooding rocky areas, and inviting pest insects.

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Avoid Flame Weeding Tools

It’s important to never use a flame weeder or propane torch to burn dead weeds in rocks. Flame weeders are designed to kill weed using the radiant heat of a flame held 1–4 inches above a living weed. The flame should never touch the weeds. Using these tools to set fire to weeds is dangerous and improper use of the tool.

  • Flame weeders are designed to be used with the flame several inches above the weed or grass to kill it with heat alone. The flame should never directly touch living or dead weeds.
  • Using flame weeders or propane torches to burn dead weeds in rocks is a common cause of brush fires and house fires.
  • Burning dead weeds in rocks is against most state and local laws. If you start a fire, you will be held responsible for damages.

Many areas with rock and gravel landscaping are extremely dry. This includes Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and California. Attempting to use flame tools to burn dead weeds in rock is extremely dangerous because it poses a large risk of wildfire in these regions.

What to do With Weeds After They are Dead?

Once you have removed the dead weeds from your rocks, dispose of them right away. Dead weeds can still cast seeds. If you leave them where they lie, they will drop seeds on your soil and new weeds will come up through the rocks.

  • Remove dead weeds from your yard immediately—dead weeds can still drop seeds.
  • Bag and trash dead weeds immediately after removal.
  • Do not use dead weeds in compost. The seeds will not decompose. When you spread this compost, you’ll be sowing a crop of weeds.

Weed seeds are extremely resilient and won’t break down in compost. The best course of action is to dispose of the dead weeds as green waste. This will prevent weeds from returning.

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How Do You Remove Dead Weeds From Rocks?

To remove dead weeds from rocks, first make sure the weeds are truly dead, not dormant. If the weeds resist being pulled up, they are likely just dormant. Kill them down to the root with a herbicide. This will make uprooting the weeds much easier.

Once you are sure the weeds are dead, use a groundskeeper rake or long-handled weeder to remove the weeds. These will get rid of dead weeds quickly in areas where you can’t use a string trimmer without throwing rocks and debris into the air. Finally, spread pre-emergent on the area or lay landscape fabric beneath the rocks to prevent weeds from returning.

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