Weed-killing before Chemical Herbicides: A Kettle and Water

Is your weed killer making you fat (at best) or killing you (at worst)? I have never personally used store bought chemical weed killers such as Roundup but I’m surrounded by people who do. All my life I have just pulled the weeds manually to keep the yard looking nice but some people are just too busy and some are physically unable to weed. What to do? Everywhere I go with my kids I notice the ubiquitous ‘brown weed’ line where someone has used chemical herbicides. Glyphosate is a serious health hazard that science is finding to correlate with incidence of cancer and birth defects.

My previous home was in a neighborhood with very strict HOA rules. Needless to say, weed killer was used everywhere on any dandelion that dared to raise its golden head. At one point I actually had to tell a neighbor that lived 7 blocks down not to spray the cracks in my concrete drive because my children played on it every day and I pulled any and all weeds by hand. He was trying to be friendly but tried to convince me that herbicides were nothing more than salt and therefore harmless, and that he used them around his grandchildren. It blew my mind that people actually believe this, when there is a significant body of research finding links between these chemicals and pet illness, infertility, birth defects and cancer.
However, since the neighborhood was full of older people I did begin to wonder what were people with arthritis, bad backs or people who are just too busy to weed to do? What methods did folks use a century ago?
Online I came across two good suggestions: boiling water or torching. I decided to do an experiment to see if simply pouring some boiling water on weeds would be effective. I have an old patio with some cracks in the concrete which was a perfect candidate for the task. I let the weeds grow up a bit, poured some boiling water on them and waited to document the results.
The weeds didn’t die immediately. It took about 2 days to see the full effect: shriveled up brown dead weeds just like an off the shelf chemical fertilizer would do. After a few days the dead leaves were crushed from being stepped on and the cracks were almost completely clean. I found the deeper the taproot, the less effective boiling water seems to be. I used a pot of water, but I’d recommend a more directional application using a tea kettle. That should mean the water would treat a larger area.
So my conclusion is that boiling water really does kill weeds and is perfect for sidewalk, patio or driveway situations. For deeper taproots, I’d recommend 2 or more applications.
A few days after my analysis, I stepped out with my morning coffee and my mind was blown: no weeds at all! When I told my husband he laughed and let me know he had since taken a torch to the remaining weeds. So while boiling water works, especially with repeat applications, nothing can beat a good old propane torch at weed killing.

Results on the second day. Leaves were shriveled and dead. After being stepped on for a few days they disintegrated and the cracks were mostly clean.
Results on the second day after one application of boiled water. One application killed most of the weeds.

 

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