Veg Garden Relaunch

elrajaMarch 20, 2012

Hi everyone, long-time lurker here. I'm relatively new to gardening, Colorado, and naturally bindweed, in that order.

I started a vegetable garden with a few raised beds last year and they were promptly swamped by bindweed (see here for the sad story). So...partly because of that and partly because I wasn't thrilled with the layout, I decided to redo the garden this year, and hopefully better control the bindweed. I would appreciate any thoughts on my plans before I head off to do it.

My initial thought was to clear the area, lay down lots of landscape fabric, build the new beds on top, and lay plenty of bark mulch everywhere. Until I read more about bindweed and learned that it easily grows through the fabric. So, short of laying down concrete, I've settled on doing landscape fabric topped by a 4" compacted crushed gravel (road base) base, topped by bricks laid in patio sand. Yes, bricks. The money must be burning a hole in my pocket. I'd essentially be building a brick patio around the raised beds.

Going the brick route actually led me to design a more formal 40' x 30' garden. The new beds (wood) would be 16" high and lay on top of the gravel base. I think that would be enough room for most plant roots. Also, I planned on laying pvc irrigation pipe to the beds under the fabric at the beginning. This would help run a drip system to the beds without unsightly drip lines laying on the brick.

Thoughts? Concerns? Any gotchas? Appreciate any feedback. Thanks.

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It sounds like a beautiful reinterpretation of a formal English kitchen garden. Check your soil drainage before laying the fabric, because standing water in winter may dislodge the brickwork. You want to manage any run-off or water draining through the masonry work so that it Also, be sure you are able to properly drain any irrigation system that is permanently installed. An air compressor is a handy tool in cases where access or slope is complicated, but you definitely don't want to deal with frozen pipes under all of that work. I hope you're going to show us the progress - it sounds like a great project.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 7:48PM
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Thanks for the suggestions. Yes to winterizing the irrigation pipes...I planned on being able to blow out the lines. As for the soil drainage, great point. I wondered about that. The existing soil is rocky/clay and I was planning on compacting it before laying the gravel. That will probably worsen the drainage situation. Do you suggest a french drain system under the beds (ugh)? Or would building up the gravel under the brick paths suffice? I was hoping that in the latter case the beds would drain about 2" below the bricks.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 11:46AM
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We had a huge bindweed problem in the greenhouse of a farm I worked on in Connecticut. Nasty stuff. At the end of the year we took to the greenhouse soil with digging forks and sifted through the whole area about 18 inches deep, exposing and pulling up all the bindweed roots we could see. We filled 2 large Heafty bags with the white, rubbery roots. It remains to be seen how this strategy will work, but I expect that the bits of root we missed will take about 3 years to reach the crisis level again and then the forking chore will have to be repeated. Its a lot of work certainly, but so is laying brick. I would tent towards this solution myself, as I know how frost heaves had wreak havoc on patios, and I have pulled up bind weed that grew horizontally under landscape plastic for 3+feet before emerging out a small tear and choking a tomato plant. That stuff has so much life stored in its thick roots, that covering it doesn't seem like a permanent solution. My 2 cents

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 3:34PM
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It's a tough one. French drains would be a good solution if you have an outlet where they would carry the flow away from the brick work. My inclination would be to install drains beside or below the irrigation pipes. The bedding sand and compacted gravel will drain fine, it's the clay that is a problem, especially if that's compacted. I would think a perforated pipe in the same trench as the buried irrigation would be the least labor intensive, but that would mean draining back to wherever the water was being pumped from, unless the drain was sloped in the opposite direction, and then you would need an outlet or a dry well (I'm assuming you have both cold and wet winters).

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 3:51PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

I tend to agree with ParmaJon that forking is really the only way to deal with bindweed unless you are prepared to repeatedly Roundup it. I fear that it will come up through your bricks eventually. Also I'm not sure what would stop it from just coming up in the beds themselves if there are roots anywhere near them. I have it on my allotment and in 20 years I have not got rid of it completely. My BiL dug one section and was not as thorough as I would have been. From the little area he did the dreaded BW has sent out raiding parties constantly every year. Unfortunately, the bit he did was then planted with berries so it can't be dug thoroughly again.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 5:12PM
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Yawrrghh. Will no one rid me of this troublesome weed?

The reason I thought of the compacted gravel base approach was that I had read somewhere that denying light would eventually kill the BW. I.e., simply laying fabric would not do that. And I thought that BW roots can only survive within 10 feet of foliage exposed to air.

Thank you all very much for taking the time to comment. I see your points. The only thing worse than having to dig up BW roots, is to have to destroy a brick/irrigation network to do so later.

So...back to square one. I still want to redesign my garden (about 40' x 30' with raised beds) and plan to have certain perennials: asparagus, raspberries, herbs, strawberries, etc. How would YOU go about a brand new garden in a BW-infested lot? Completely dig/fork for roots in the beginning is fine. What about later, when I have perennials in some areas and can't dig thoroughly? Also, what do I do about the paths? Do I lay landscape fabric + mulch at all, or do I look to constantly till/hoe the paths? Appreciate your advice.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 7:02PM
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t-bird(Chicago 5/6)

Just to offer you an alternative - I've been battling bind weed here for a few years, and yes its tough. Unfortunately, I let it grow around my veggie beds unknowingly in the beginning, thinking - oh what cute little white flowers, lol!
So been on the case for 2 years, and the difference is amazing, you just need to be a little vigilant.

I'll never get rid of it, unless the neighbors all also target it, but I can keep it out of the raised beds. When you dig up the bed to amend or whatever - just grab out all those white roots. any time you se them in the bed, pinch out what you see, or pull up if you won't disturb the other plants.

I only wish I'd known in the beginning, before I built the beds - but oh well. I would have covered the entire area with 3-4 layers of cardboard, built and filled the beds, and heavy mulched the paths with wood chips or whatever - that would take an inital heavy bite out it, then just be vigilant.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 11:28AM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

One thing I would be absolutely vigilant about is not using any local manures. My favorite mom and pop nursery has llamas. She says she absolutely will not give away their manure because the area used to be ranged by cattle and there could be bindweed which could end up in the manure. You definitely do not want to import more.

I think in your situation, I would still go ahead with the plan for the beds but do it the soil sifting slowly and meticulously. I also would not be afraid to carefully apply Round-Up as needed. While not the most popular remedy, it could be essential in your case. I do not have much bindweed on my property but, on my walkway which was lined with landscape fabric and has at least 3 inches of compacted crusher fines, there is a bind weed that has made it through. We pull it, it comes back, and on and on it goes. I may just spray the d*** thing soon because this dance has been going on for several years now.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 4:14PM
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