How to handle laarrge beds

demeron(Zone 6)March 29, 2013

Hey, all-- I have been working with my LA on our backyard. I was out there with a tape measure and landscape paint trying to visualize it all. Planning to work in stages, but our modest initial outlay should cover the grading, some large boulders to help define the slope above the bit of curving lawn, and some bigger 8-10' trees and larger shrubs to help address the fact that we are dealing with the immediate problem of a massive building looming over the back. (I didn't realize they are planning for an access road in addition to the berm in the 45 feet they've left themselves... no wonder they want to plant the trees at the base. No room.)

There will be very little lawn (my request) and most of the 60'x90' space will be beds with trees and shrubs. Until I can fill those beds, that's a lot of ground to keep covered and weeded. I will start planting groundcovers but it's going to take a while to get to it all. I know Preen is often recommended but I don't want to use it for health reasons. I put cardboard under my mulch last fall but am rather dismayed by the amount of cardboard our fierce winds unearthed. Any suggestions I might be missing?

For fun, here is my plant list:

layered behind the bit of someday-maybe-flagstone patio:

Franklin's Gem boxwood, Twist and Shout Hydrangea, Hoop's blue spruce

Autumn Twist Encore azalea, hemlock

Cayuga viburnum

At the back--

Edith Bogue Southern Magnolia beside my trio of 15' Green Giant arborvitae-- I was hesitant to plant those GG, but they shrugged off the wind and went to town. They were six feet six years ago.

For a windbreak in the NW corner-- five Vanderwolf's Limber Pine

It will be such a help to have the structure and the big plants in place. Hope everything does well! I've never had any landscaping installed for me before... I feel so grand :)

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Obviously if you have a personal health issue that would make a pre-emergent problematic I could see not using it. But unless the runoff from the beds goes right into a water source, granular pre-emergents are pretty safe. I designed an estate property's plantings and until everything really started filling in, pre-emergents are the only thing that kept the weeding manageable. I'm NOT a huge "hey let's throw chemicals at it" kind of person but sometimes it's the best solution.

Cardboard - I tried it and had no luck. Where it didn't get exposed the weeds just seeded in the mulch above.

Honestly the best thing I could think of if pre-emergents are a no-way, no-how, is to plant some sort of a legume/cover crop and till it in when you're ready to plant. If you choose the right cover crop for your area you'll prevent erosion, boost nitrogen in the soil, and out-compete the weeds.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 7:20PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

You aren't going to want to hear this, but lawn. It doesn't have to be perfect, just green and mowed. Easy, idiot-proof, easy to out-source, socially acceptable, prevents the really horrible weeds from getting established - just a long list of good points. Then, as the beds start to fill in, you start losing lawn around the edges.

Given the emphasis on weed control, I am assuming you are not in a part of the country that is dry enough to do weed control by withholding water.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 7:57PM
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^^ ok, or that. I just explained how to build a car when you just need a skateboard.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 12:39PM
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