corner planting bed along rock wall...also, preventing weeds/wall

grullablue(5)May 10, 2011

I'll include a pic, this is my back yard, exposed basement patio door area. Eventually I WOULD like to landscape this, have an actual PATIO down there. As you can see from the pic, outside the window, there is a spot where the mower just can't get to because it's in a corner. So I'm considering putting a planting bed of sorts in there...maybe finding some more rocks to make a border for it (so it matches)... looking for input? I don't care too much if some plantings cover the window somewhat...I plan to have curtains over that anyway. I am IN LOVE with tropical looking plants, and am considering putting a musa basjoo banana tree in there, with maybe some yucca shrubs around it. What do you think? I already have a couple young basjoos, I found a local supplier to get another if need be. (I've done all the research on wintering/planting them in cold zones).

The back yard has been so neglected, I don't know if you can see how the brick is stained near the bottom, not sure if that can come off or not. When the house was built 10 years ago, the gutters were not put on until the following spring (it was finished in December). So, we had all the melting/runoff, and no grass yet either, so all that wet clayish stuff splashed up on the brick, all the way around the house. The backside is the worst.

Another question, we have a lot of rock walls on the property, similar to this. I knew nothing when we hired a guy to put them in. you'd think he would have had a clue and suggested it. No landscape fabric. As you can imagine, we have a lot of weeds coming up through. We spray sometimes, but usually just weed whack the walls. Is there a good spray that works a long time? Or, are there plants that we can put in the cracks that spread so well and rapidly that drown out the weeds? Sedum, hen and chicks, I don't care.... I would just like to have weed free, nice looking rock walls. Why he didn't suggest the fabric, I don't know. But, it's too late now. We have 5 rock walls on the sides and back of our house........all full of weeds.... Thanks for any input! here's the pic of the corner where I'd like to consider putting in a planting bed. Both for looks, and to fill in that corner space where I can't reach with the lawnmower.


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Wow, this space has soooo much potential! Everything from an outdoor kitchen, to a nice seating area, to a hottub. Not too many spaces have character like this. I think you would be absolutely amazed by the site If you post this picture on that site, designers from all over the world will compete to provide you the best rendering. From $199 to $399, you will get to see 10-20 different patio/landscape options for this space. To give you an idea of what you will see, I did a quick sample and put it on our Flickr page. This is only a sample, a paid project will have greater detail (and the weeds taken out!)

Check out (you may recognize a picture the picture).

If you want to see 10-20 more, go onto

We would love your feedback - email me at

Here is a link that might be useful: Your sample landscape design

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 10:40AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

That response is a flagrant violation of the terms of use here. Please go away, Mr. Wow.

Be patient Grullablue... you will no doubt get some legitimate help.


    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 11:47AM
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I apologize for the flagrnt violation. By no means did I mean any harm.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 8:14AM
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Rock walls can be beautiful and yours are a good example of ones made with boulders. Because there are large spaces between the rocks, plants and weeds will grow there. The areas abutting the walls should be planting beds with mulch to control the weeds. I would kill and remove all the grass between the two walls and make another planting bed below the lower wall. Don't skimp on the width of the lower bed. A pleasing curve that ends somewhere logical 3-10' wide would be good. The lower planting bed should be edged so the grass could be mowed along the bed. You should not have grass next to the walls on top or bottom.
Landscape fabric would not help the situation. It collects soil on top and weeds grow anyway.
When you have the beds made, plant creeping perennials at the top of the walls and they will cascade over and look good. You can also plant in the cracks. You will still have to spray/pull the few weeds that grow in the cracks but that will be manageable.
The area can be beautiful and not require a lot of maintenance.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 11:38AM
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One appearance issue that you have now is that the boulder wall looks man-made as opposed to a part of nature. Scattering a few small rocks in between the large boulders will really help the look a lot. To add even more character, fill the remaining gaps with top soil and plant different types of flowers and vine. This will have to be done over time as some plants will not hold. After two years, you will have a colorful, natural looking wall. Enjoy!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 4:36PM
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I am offering advice because of the crap that has been posted here so far - sorry about that.

You could dig out the weeds, place landscape fabric down and then cover it with 3-4 inches of stone. It would be a clean low maintenance solution. Another very low maintenance solution which I am sure I will be grilled for on this forum is round up. If you apply round up around the bottoms of walls about a foot out from the walls, it will kill the weeds and grass. It sounds a little harsh, but it actually doesn't look tremendously different from the stone, which also has a somewhat hard effect. You would need to reapply every 2-3 months.

You can strip the sod between the walls and install a ground cover like juniper, bear berry.

In terms of the guy who installed the walls, its my understanding that he should have installed landscape fabric behind the walls to mitigate the runoff issues down a slope. over time its possible that the water can push the stones out of position and effect the integrity of the wall. But there are other people around on this forum who can better comment on this.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 4:50PM
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I would expend some energy and dig out the weeds - thinking about it is often harder than actually doing it. Some situations call for Round-Up (especially between the boulders) and this might be one of them.

Some chinking would be nice to break up the regularity in the boulder stacking, but barring that... I'm in zone 4 and hens & chicks, phlox subulata, some errant scilla, an even more errant ostrich fern or two, creeping Dragon's Blood sedums, self seeded forget-me-nots, and a mat forming cultivar of dianthus deltoides all thrive in my wall.

I've got a brick patio at the base and going after any weeds that crop up between the bricks with Round-Up doesn't bother me a bit.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 5:36PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

I'd begin by spraying a lot of Roundup in the walls and for 6-12" on either side of the walls. Buy concentrate and mix it yourself -- it's much cheaper; buy a good sprayer that will hold a gallon or more and limit its use to weedkiller; consider a backpack sprayer.

Next spread a pre-emergent; the cheapest might be a bag of corn gluten from an agricultural supply place like Tractor Supply Company.

Then add 3-4" of mulch to either side of the walls (you may want to remove the sod/lower the soil first). The Roundup and corn gluten will give you a significant breather, and the mulch should slow down weed growth quite a bit after that. If you don't have a source for inexpensive mulch, talk to tree companies in the area.

Since you have so many walls, you could test various tactics in different areas.

Don't plant anything in or near the walls until you figure out if you'll ever be able to stop using the weedkiller.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 8:45AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I think Drtygrl was responding to Wow, not to Steve, but either way, I agree with Steve and others that grass cannot be adjacent to rocks. And that the rock walls are lovely. I think quite masterfully done.

To fight weeds you have to understand how they spread and grow. Yours appear to be seeded into those cracks, and it's true they will do that with or without landscape fabric. Plus, the landscape fabric looks like crap and if you do want to plant in those openings (I would) then fabric will mess you up. I wouldn't want to use the fabric at all, but that might be influenced by the fact that I hate the feel of the stuff.

Anyway, what you need is to limit (a) sources of weed and grass seed, and (b) light to enable them to germinate if they do land. Mulch right into the openings between the rocks. You will have to be vigilant for a few generations of weeds, probably.

Weeds and grass will fill a vacuum, and if you don't make a decision about what plants, mulch, or hardscape will occupy those spaces (once you evict the weeds), mother nature will!

Count your blessings if you don't have a weed in there that spreads by root suckers!


    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 11:53AM
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Thanks for all the input! Unfortunately, the source of the seeds probably come by the birds and groundsquirrels which are everywhere, and just behind where I stood to take that picture is the woods we live on the edge of...where I'm sure lots of seeds stray from. I'm not at all opposed to using round up! If I use the stuff, how soon after can I try to plant something within the cracks? I found some creeping phlox on sale and bought some. I love it...cascading down other peoples' walls...may take awhile, but I'd love to have that effect myself. I am not sure if the ground squirrels will mess with any plantings....our yard is overrun with them (rock walls especially), but I'd like to try. Thank you for all the suggestions! I am going to read them all more thoroughly and take some notes.

I saw a rock wall belonging to a neighbor of a friend of mine on Thursday. They have phlox on the top of actually grows into my neighbors yard. Perhaps that might even keep the weeds off the top of the rock walls as well?

To the person who suggested inserting smaller rocks in the larger spaces...I've actually started doing that, on another wall, the largest on our property. If interested, I have a photo album that contains pictures of most of our yard...and I believe all but one of the rock walls... you can see them on the link below. yes, I know my whole yard needs a lot of work. Some of you have seen some of these photos before.

Here is a link that might be useful: yard album

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 1:01PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

There may be some contribution by birds and ground squirrels but I'd bet the bulk of the weed growth is from the adjacent growth - the lawn itself and its resident weeds. I would not be optimistic about achieving any level of success in the long term unless you remove lawn by the rocks, either partly or entirely.

I'd also fill the holes with mulch rather than with small rocks. Small rocks will just create more harder-to-reach crevasses for weed growth.


    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 4:15PM
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You can plant in about a week after using roundup. Leave the sprayed weeds for that week to let the chemical get to the roots and kill the weed.
Creeping phlox will be nice. Dianthus will creep over rocks as well and has nice blue green foliage. You have many varieties of sedum to choose from as you mentioned. Choose plants that do well in that hot, dry environment.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 4:36PM
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Thanks for the input! I'm trying to get my hands on some more phlox, and I'm going to look up the dianthus you mentioned, Steve. I did plant some sedum in a couple places last year, and where they are planted, they seem to keep the weeds away. In one spot, the sedum has taken over, which is what I want to see....but this rock wall is so big, I've got a long way to go. I've started with round up, but again, a long way to go!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 7:28PM
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