Dig an empty bed?

alaMel(4a)June 9, 2011

I have big plans for the side of my house, but budgets are tight. I did order some Clematis to start a very long stretch of garden out. My question is should I dig up the whole bed and leave it mostly dormant, or dig it out as I get plants? I have a few others to transplant, but not enough to fill up the 60ft stretch. I assume (newbie) that working in some organic matter and leaving it will help the soil when I do plant. I just don't know if I should leave the soil bare. The astetics of this also seem off putting. lol I know I cannot afford proper boardering and mulch for 60 ft this year. I could however, afford the peat moss/compost. And has anyone rented a sod cutter? Cost, ease of use? Thanks, I really need to figure this out as the plants are on the way. (silly newbies)

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If you leave bare soil that long, weeds will germinate and you risk soil getting washed away by rain.

How about spending a few dollars on perennial and biennial seeds (or visiting the seed swap forum here) seed starting mix and trays. You should be able to start literally hundreds of perennials/biennials now, plant them out at the end of summer, and have your bed virtually full next spring. At least, I did this in my zone 5 garden and I'd expect you could also in zone 4. I planted campanula medium, sweet william, verbascum, baby's breath, shasta daisy and foxglove. I tried lobelia, but didn't have much luck. Last fall the perennail seedlings were only a few inches tall, but they overwintered and most are blooming now.

Check to see if your town/city has a mulch/compost program for residents. If they pick up fall leaves/yard waste, they may compost it and give or sell it to citizens. You might get ground tree clippings from a tree cutting company, but these may be from diseased trees...I don't really know the risk of spreading diseases this route.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 12:37PM
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The soil is best with some kind of cover, you could cheaply seed it with alfalfa and dig it in in the fall. I am a bit confused by the sod cutter request, you already have bare soil you don't know what to do with and you want to cut out more??

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 3:48PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

If memory serves, you're the person with the 60 foot strip of lawn adjacent to a public sidewalk that you want to garden up. So as TrovesofTrilliums says, leave well enough alone - the lawn will suppress the weeds until you know what you are putting there. Uncovered dirt is an invitation to weed disaster.

I would actually not advise you to garden the whole thing up. You don't know how good you have it with lawn until you try the alternative! So try a bit of the alternative first, and see how it works out. You will find that plants catch more garbage from passersby, that you have to weed out there quite regularly, as well as tuck, dead-head, and just generally maintain. You will get people picking your flowers and otherwise damaging what you put in, or stealing things. It's basically a hellstrip, and they don't call it a hellstrip for nothing!

The nicest installation of this sort that I've seen has a regular wavy brick edge installed about halfway between public sidewalk and wall (fence in this case actually). Outside the edge is lawn, and because of the edge, mowing is easy. Inside the edge is extravagant garden, and the amorphous nature of a flower garden is so neatly defined by the wavy edge that it makes a very controlled impression.


    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 5:14PM
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Memory serves and it is most definately a 'hell strip'. Last year 3 of my windows were broken by teenagers during winter. I just found a rock chip or (bb chip) in one of my new windows. My baby lilacs only bud got plucked before it bloomed. I planted climbing roses hoping the thorns would keep them away. No luck. No fence. Maybe some small raised beds for the clems. Maybe a new house. Lol

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 9:07PM
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Ahh, maybe some tough and easy to replace annuals? Cosmos, sunflowers and zinnias. You could make it a public cutting garden. I know, I am a hopeless idealist. Or, maybe a hedge of rugosa roses. IN this case, definitely dig it out as needed.

For now I'd try to protect the clematis with wire or stiff plastic netting type products. You could try yard sales, craigslist and thrift stores.

Grass is easier, for sure. But I know how it is...if you gotta garden, you just gotta do it.

You could plan on making some nice leaf mulch for next year. Collect as many bags of leaves as possible, chop them up with lawn mower, pile them up all winter long. In the spring should be a decent soil mulching material.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 11:35PM
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Yea, I've thought about putting up a sign asking people to knock if they want some flowers cut. Nothings really big enough yet, but at least I can cut them properly. I've thought about an apple tree just so I could get a kick outta kids 'stealing' them on their way to school. ;D Alas, power lines. :(

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 12:41AM
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