Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Dirty Dilemma

Mary Stone, Garden Dilemmas, Ask Mary Stone,Gardening tips, Garden Blogs, Stone Associates Landscape Design, Garden Blog, cleaning natural stone patios

Hello Fellow Readers,

A few weeks ago, we spoke about how to evict ants from a natural stone patio without spoiling the charming moss in the joints. The topic brought to mind how to the clean the stone itself; one of my nagging dilemmas. The presence of moss often goes hand and hand with mildew which is slippery when wet. I’ve used a power washer which is risky in terms of damaging stone. Then there’s the ick factor of scum kicking back at you. More than that, the likelihood of kicking out the sand and plant goodies in the nooks and crannies. My power washing outcome was clean centers of each stone while the areas near the joints remained green. Not so pretty. So, I sought out other remedies – all of which are best to do on cloudy days so the cleaning solutions won’t dry on the surface. Of course, first blow off the surface dirt.

Folks swear by a product called Wet and Forget. As the name touts, all you do is spray it. The ingredients are water, benzyl ammonium chloride and ethanol which they say is safe for plants. I hate to break the news, but you need to scrub the patio for it to be effective. Here are other remedies to try:

1. Good old soapy water made from 3 tablespoons of biodegradable dish soap, free of harmful bleach or fragrance, to one gallon of warm water can do the trick. Be sure to use a plastic or natural bristled deck brush; never a metal brush as it will scratch. Keep in mind plants have a wax covering that is affected by soap. Simply dilute the soapy water with the garden hose after you scrub to keep your plants happy.

3. They say you can use 2 cups oxygenated bleach to a gallon of warm water which, unlike chlorine bleach, doesn’t have a toxic smell and is safe around pets. Oxygenated bleach is made of sodium carbonate (soda ash) and a dry form of hydrogen peroxide. The challenge is finding one without harmful additives. There’s a product called Stain Solver with no added fillers or fragrance. Spray the mix with a garden hand pump sprayer and allow to soak for ten minutes before scrubbing. Then rinse with water. You can also use the oxygenated bleach and water combo to clean wood or composite decks; even tile grout indoors. Some reviewers said it may hurt moss so do your best to stay away from the fuzzy.

4. I read 4 tablespoons of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) dissolved in a quart of warm water is safe on wood, concrete, natural stone and won’t harm plants. In fact, they say baking soda helps lessen the impact of powdery mildew and several other fungal diseases. Sounds promising! After you scrub I bet you’ll need to rinse thoroughly so no white residue is left behind.

On a rainy day, I gave the baking soda option a spin and here’s the outcome:

Mary Stone, Garden Dilemmas, Ask Mary Stone,Gardening tips, Garden Blogs, Stone Associates Landscape Design, Garden Blog, cleaning natural stone patios

Trying the Baking Soda Technique

Mary Stone, Garden Dilemmas, Ask Mary Stone,Gardening tips, Garden Blogs, Stone Associates Landscape Design, Garden Blog, cleaning natural stone patios

Oh the dirty water!

Mary Stone, Garden Dilemmas, Ask Mary Stone,Gardening tips, Garden Blogs, Stone Associates Landscape Design, Garden Blog, cleaning natural stone patios

Clean stones on the left …Encouraging 0utcome!

While the half-hour test run proved encouraging in terms if outcome, multiplied by the square footage I figure the total task will take about six to eight hours. Oh my!  Like in life, everything has its ups and downs and there’s no easy way out of cleaning your dirty dilemmas. Garden Dilemmas? Askmarystone@gmail.com 

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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