Weeds. Everyone wants to get rid of their weeds, right? So what can you do to help those areas such as alleyways, gravel driveways, vacant lots or other non-grass areas where weeds seem to pop up? Other areas of concern might be along the road, RV parking areas, or locations where equipment is parked and you don’t want weeds growing. Luckily, there is a solution! There are two types of treatments you can do; a short-term treatment or a longer, sterilant type treatment. In each of these situations and areas, the homeowner has to take into consideration how long it will be before they want to plant in those areas, or if they are putting gravel there permanently. This will determine what to have applied; whether a short term bare ground a few times a year or a sterilant to prevent anything from growing for the full year. Let’s talk the pros and cons of each to be better prepared for these problem areas.

Systemic Herbicide

Short term bare ground treatments active ingredient is often glyphosate, which is used to kill all growing plants. It is a systemic herbicide that is absorbed into the plant and trans-located to the roots to kill the plants with which it has come in contact. This application only kills what is actively growing, it does not kill seeds that have dropped and not yet germinated. Because of this, repeated applications will be necessary as new growth occurs. Glyphosate is an excellent chemical to use if you want to grow something in that area later that season or the next year.  The bad side is that repeated applications are needed if you want to keep the weeds down for the whole season. Often you are looking at least three to four applications though the year. Of course this also depends on the size of the area and if you apply the product yourself or have a professional company do it. If you choose to do it, you will need the right kind of application device in order to get the right coverage, whereas if you hire professional spray company to apply the product they have the right equipment to cover the ground evenly and thoroughly resulting in the maximum kill. If the area is large, hiring a spray company would be better as they can cover the area quicker and completely for you.

Sterilant Herbicide

If you do not want anything to grow in the area at all for a few years, a sterilant would be the best way to handle the situation. A sterilant is an herbicide with a residual property that does not allow anything to grow in the target area for a year or more. If the area has never had a sterilant applied, then the area will likely have some weeds break through, but can be killed with glyphosate as the weeds start to grow. After the first year, as repeated applications are made on a yearly basis, your area will stay weed free until you stop having the sterilant applied. Sterilants, like I said earlier, will last a year or longer, but a yearly application will guarantee weed free areas for a long time. One downside is if you decide you to want to plant something in that area you will either need to wait a few years for the residual to go away, or apply charcoal and other nutrients to get the ground prepared for planting. For this reason, deciding to do a sterilant needs to be weighed heavily before you have it applied.

Again you can buy and apply a sterilant yourself, but it is best to have a spray company do the application as they know the damage that sterilants can cause if applied wrong. Sterilants can damage trees and shrubs and even grass as it stays in the soil longer. If trees and shrubs are not watered properly then their roots can grow into the sterilant barrier and can cause damage and even death of the trees and shrubs. A sterilant can also do what’s known as leaching, which means the sterilant can move in the soil. The amount of moisture in the ground at the time of application must be factored into how and when to apply the sterilant.


Unlike a sterilant, glyphosate doesn’t leach too much in the soil unless again poor watering practices are being used in watering of trees and shrubs. Glyphosate binds in the soil so unless the soil is really moist then it will stay where it has been applied. Soil moisture is one of the biggest factors that needs to be considered when choosing what bare ground path you choose. When in doubt, call a professional spray company and they will advise what would be best for your property.