Dig out flower beds and start over?

pamperedpedenApril 1, 2012

We are experiencing our second spring in our new (to us) home. Our flower beds are a mess. They are full of dandelions and canadian thistle. Last year we pulled and pulled weeds, and sprayed round up. So far, the dandelions are back with a vengeance, so I expect the thistle to do the same.

We are thinking of completely removing the soil with a skid loader and starting over with scratch. This leads me to several questions. Is this a good idea? How expensive will it be to replace the soil? How do we build the beds back up?

I want to add too, that these are poorly designed...contractor grade if you will. We want to pull out the over grown bushes and redesign, but not the size or shape of the beds.

I will add photos in the next post.

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Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 11:31AM
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    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 11:37AM
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If things grow well, there is no need to replace soil. You will end up with the same weed problem in the new soil. The solution is keeping after weeds and don't let them get ahead of you. This means spray with herbicide (Round-up and/or Weed-b-gone,) use thick mulch and possibly a pre-emergent herbicide after spraying to counteract sprouting weed seeds. Keep after it ruthlessly in the beginning and it will get much better. I've never seen "landscape fabric" be the least useful for controlling weeds. I think it's a waste of time and money. I have always found that a good back-pack type sprayer is essential for maintaining a yard. The "carry" type sprayers are good only for areas no bigger than a bedroom. They will pull your arm off. Also, I always replace the spray tip with a flat fan spray pattern tip instead of round (cone shaped). It's easy to spray with precision that way.

As far as new plants, I'd submit a better picture taken from farther away that shows the context of the area. From your picture I can't tell what it is, but the small tree off the corner may be useful in a new scape. Some of the shrubs may be useful if they're relocated.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 12:04PM
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From the limited view that has been posted, it looks as if there are open areas (fields?) around you - that would be a source of your dandelions and thistle. If they are not controlled around you, the weeds will always be popping up in your yard as well. Sorry!

I wouldn't go through the headache of digging up the old soil to start again. Instead, try taking out the landscape fabric completely and then be really, really vigilant about using a good old fashioned garden fork and digger to remove the long weedy tap roots. Then mulch heavily. Don't get discouraged in the early stages. As the rest of the bed matures, fewer and fewer weeds will be able to take hold and maintenance becomes so much easier.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 2:29PM
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Thank you both for your responses.

Yeah, the landscape fabric was here when we bought the house, we didn't do that. We just spent three hours working on the front beds and pulled as much of the stuff up as we could. The beds look better. We are going to spray round up and lay down some preen tonight.

Here are some better pictures of the front of the house. The first two I just took, the other I took last summer.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 4:10PM
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You've got a lot of lawn to contend with and dandelions will proliferate. Many peope here simply mow the grass at the yellow flowering stage to keep them from going to seed. In other words, green is green. And the best defense against weeds is a healthy lawn - that'll help crowd them out.

I have a big yard, with big expanses of lawn. For anything problematic I topdress with compost and I also use alfalfa pellets twice a year. A 50 lb bag of pellets from the local feed and grain store is inexpensive and goes a ways simply by hand broadcasting.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 4:59PM
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Duluth, you're not kidding about the lawn. We are new to having a property this large and are accumulating the "toys" to take care of it. Lawncare is now a possiblity, this is our first year with that. We plan to put some crabgrass control on it now and then broadleaf control/weed and feed on it in about a month. We're just spacing it out so we don't over whelm the soil.

I like the idea about mowing at the yellow stage, that makes total sense!

Adrienne, by good old fashioned digger, do you mean shovel? That I have.

Sorry the pictures are so hazy, I'm not sure why they turned out that way. I will try to get pictures tomorrow at a different time of day.

And again, thank you so much!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 5:44PM
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What a beautiful home and setting! And I love the colour palette of the structure too.

I'll show you a digger below. There's all sorts on the market. What you do is get as many tools as you have kids (plus at least one to lose), then send them out to dig weeds rather than play online. I was paid 10 cents a pail when I was young but the price must have gone up since then. Even if they can't manage to get all the tap root, as long as they get to the base before the weed flowers, it will weaken the plant. Ya just gotta keep doing it.

I think that the wind-blown seeds will always be a nuisance for you but I agree that a thickly growing healthy lawn and mulched garden beds will definitely save you a lot of heartache. That and a lawn service.

I see what you mean about the shrubs. It seems like there is a nice little collection but they are all planted in a huddle around your house, not relating at all to the rest of your property. So much landscape potential...

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 6:28PM
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Well, if you're not adverse to the use of Roundup and the like, you can hit them harder. The gallon containers you see stacked in the aisles of Home Depot contain, as I recall, about 2% glyphosate. Rumage around the shelves a bit, and you should find a 45% concentrate. You can experiment with this until you find an effective solution. Alternatively, a lawn service company can get the weeds under control for you.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 6:59PM
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Yes, a lawn service will definitely take care of it - broadleaf control, pre-emergents, weed & feed. People feel pretty strongly about those, though, (sometimes I suspect in direct proportion to the size of their lawns) so I was hesitant to mention it. The lawn services pretty much advertise using as environmentally friendly formulas as possible.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 7:30PM
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I think there is definitely a place for judicious and educated use of selective herbicides for other than cosmetic purposes but usually not in small areas and definitely never near open water or environmentally sensitive land. Even biological control is often preferable in those circumstances.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 7:57PM
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Adrienne, thank you for the compliments! We love it here.

Hiring a lawn service is definitely out of the question. We are DIYers since we have five acres. We have an ATV with a sprayer and boom, so we plan to go to the local ag store, where the farmers buy their chemicals, and buy our stuff in bulk.

I love the idea of using alfalfa pellets. I had to read up on that, what a great suggestion! I'm not opposed to using round up in the beds because they are just out of control. But once we get a grip on the situation, then we can switch to using more natural approaches.

So, I won't dig out the beds. Thanks for helping me put the brakes on that. LOL. I do still want to rip out the bushes though.

They are lined up like soldiers around the house. Plus, there are lilacs in the shade, so they never bloom, and we have a honeysuckle right up next to the house. It needs to change. The little decorative tree on the corner is nice and there is a beautiful wiegiela (sp?) I'd like to keep.

Thanks again! Beth

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 9:04PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Yes, I'm afraid that I'm going to say I find your foundation plantings horrible, especially as the house doesn't need them to start with! It's got great form, great roofline, looks very settled and grounded, doesn't need plants crammed at the foundation, especially on that size of lot.

Instead of foundation plantings, what you might want are companion plantings near the house that give the eye a place to stop rather than being sucked out into the wild blue yonder. Similarly sized companions for the house (ie trees and shrub groupings), not fuzzy slippers for it.

I'm no expert on either lawn care or large properties, as I have neither, but one thing I would say is that if you want shrubbery and trees, where they shade/cover the ground you would eventually need neither lawn nor much weed control. Big evergreen trees with sweeping skirts, for example, seas of juniper or microbiota, or burgeoning evergreen shrubs, and other woodland arrangements do not usually have much growing under them.

Any plants that cover the ground will function as a form of weed control.

Karin L

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 12:51AM
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Here is clearer picture that shows the front of the house well.

So let's say we rip out everything but the ornamental tree on the corner and the three burning bushes on the far side of the drive, although I'm not married to any of it. I dont even know where to start. I'm afraid i'd end up making it look about the same. I've thought about putting a new bed between the corner near the garage door out to the three burning bushes. Of course, we can find a better place for the composter, although its pretty convenient where it is.

Its hard to see, but the large window between the front door and the garage has a small flower bed in front of it. It just planted with perinneials now.

Karin L, I really like the idea of ground cover once get the weeds under control. What are companion plants? I know what that means in regards to gardening but not pertaining to landscaping.

Thanks everryone for your input!

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 9:55PM
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I like to add some bulbs,flowers.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 10:25PM
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Right now, all the plantings you have are separate objects sitting around the house without much of anything cohesive happening. Here, I'm only scheming up a general landscape concept that avoids covering architectural features. And showing that the overall picture needs some larger trees to make the house look nestled in. However, there's plenty of places to add detail planting interest. Everything would need to be worked out in plan in a cohesive design. While I think that to the right of the drive needs a tree or two or three... something OVER your head (though I'm not showing it) I would not barricade in the drive with shrubs or a big bed (unless it's set back several feet from the drive and is not too high. It depends on the details.)

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 12:39PM
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Min3 South S.F. Bay CA

well if you ask me, i think yardvaark has got it exactly right. his (her?) plan only adds to the beauty of your house and doesn't look like too much work over time. i say go for it. min

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 2:22PM
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Thanks min3!

... his.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 2:25PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

What you should ask yourself about any proposed design, whether proposed by others or by yourself, is whether it achieves your objectives. What do you want to achieve?

Yardvaark and I have such different objectives that I rarely like his designs, nor he mine. Where we can often agree is on diagnosing the problem, and your existing foundation planting is certainly a problem. It does not enhance your house or make it welcoming; it does not cover ground well enough to keep out weed seeds, and is boring to boot.

I have linked a thread below that has a photo of how tall plants next to a low roofline might look, and it is a look I personally do not like - because it does not meet what would be my objectives in this setting, which would be to showcase the overall form of the house - one of your best features of which is your roofline. I would sooner put bigger plants somewhere else where they might provide a nice vista for you as you look out the window, and also, make your house something less of one isolated big thing in a field. (understood that you need to be able to water wherever you plant, so maybe the length of hose you're willing to invest in would be your limiting factor). That is where I would put shrub and tree plantings, with lower, more decorative installations around the house - but again, selecting plants that cover the ground in summer like spreading evergreens, hostas, and the like.

The side of the garage is certainly a natural place to want to put some plantings if they are desired, if this view is indeed one that arriving visitors see, but I find I prioritize letting light into windows, so there's another reason I would keep tall plants away. Yes, even in the garage, which could have a workshop function. South-facing windows often want shade in summer, but for that a tree can be a bit of distance away.

Your beds around the house are some odd shapes that do not lend themselves to the best in creating an attractive setting for the house. Maybe draw a plan view of your site so you can scribble around with some alternative bed shapes. Since they are weed magnets, why have more than are really needed?

On the other hand, much else about Yardvaark's proposal makes sense, and you can see how a pleasant planting can draw the eye away from your bins in the driveway.

Karin L

Here is a link that might be useful: tall shrubs

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 2:59PM
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