Question: How do YOU prep your beds to prevent weeds and bad bugs

lblack61(z5 NY)March 9, 2007

Just curious because as a new gardener, I'm not really up on these things.

I've heard some people do a preliminary spray of Round-up and other things. What do YOU do?


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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

Hi Linda,
I make an instant bed. I don't have a sod cutter. I sometimes just cover the entire area with paper then layer any organic materials I have. Other times, I may flip the sod then layer with organic materials. Most of the times, I plant into the bed right away. Then I mulch. I rarely use Round-up. I save it for brushing bindweeds only.

I top all my existing beds with a lot of mulch to keep weeds down and slow down evaporation. I think we will really need a lot of mulch judging from the drought and length of summer heat we have had the past couple years. It will only get worse, I am sure.

I hope this anwers your questions.
Have fun. :-)

Oh, bugs. What bugs? lol. I seem to have a lot of cucumber beetles and Japanese beetles. I knock them into soapy water. Not very effective, but it helps some. Maybe I need to spread diamatoceous earth or something. I'll think about it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Donn's thread on instant bed

    Bookmark   March 9, 2007 at 7:23PM
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lblack61(z5 NY)

Last summer got so hot so suddenly, and the combination of just enough rain and extreme heat made the weeds absolutely horrible at a time I thought I'd be able to go out in the morning and weed.
So I'm trying to stay on top of things this year.

I just wondered if there was some magic process I was missing out on. I do get a lot of beneficial bugs in my yard (tons of Dragonflies and their relatives, some Lacewings and Walking Sticks...and always lots of lady bugs). I don't want to hurt them.
If I put down that black plastic stuff (of which I have a lot) early, then mulch around the plants, do you think that would be enough?
I'll have to read Donn's post more closely. I read it, but I wasn't totally "gettin' it". I always wondered how you could put down Round-up and still plant seedlings in the area.
Thanks for replying, Pit :-)

    Bookmark   March 9, 2007 at 7:41PM
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Hi Linda,

I used to do all sorts of things, but in the last few years have been trying to go more or less organic to see if it would make a difference. There's no doubt that at times it a bit more work, but the results have been great.

Pit is right in suggesting mulching the beds for weed control. You mentioned some black plastic material, but I would stay away from it. The mulch that is placed will provide nutrients to your soil and allow moisture to get through. Even if it's just bark mulch, it can still biodegrade and feed the soil - also invites the worms to help you out. Before you mulch, if you can put down some good compost go for it. Feeding the soil = feeding the plants.

For bugs, I used to spray with insecticides/pesticides. UGH! Our Municipality also implimented a pesticide bylaw in 2000. Doing a bit of homework, I discovered my worst bugs were rose slugs, aphids, and slugs in general. Then I found out that a spray made with garlic and applied to plants generally kept these pests off. Last year was my first year doing the garlic thing and I was really pleased. In addition, we nurtured some very nice Monarch butterflies to adulthood, something we had never noticed in our gardens before. We were probably killing them with the sprays...

You are already ahead of the game with your beneficial insects. Wish I had the collection you have!! We rarely see ladybugs and lacewings. But I do have the beneficial wasps which I've learned not to be scared of. LOL!! They keep things in check.

I get a lot of info on the Soil and Compost Forum as well as the Organic Gardening Forum, but do be careful... Some folks are there just for controversy. I've learned which opinions to value there by visiting frequently. Donn is a visitor at both forums too.

Books are a great rescource as well. Sometimes I just get an armful of them at the library for a few days. I don't read from cover to cover - just what info I need.

OK, I'm going on and on, eh? I just think there are so many great ways and alternatives to creating great gardens and outdoor living spaces.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2007 at 11:00PM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

Ditto what tiffy said. I have decreased my use of chemicals if none at all in my garden. Bindweeds really defeat me, though. No matter how much I pull, a hundred would come back with vengence. I use a Q-tip dipped in Round-up to brush them. Other than that, I go organic.

I used some plastic ground cover many, many years ago. It turned out to be a major headache. The same goes with that woven material that was very popular in the 80s.

I tend to avoid the term lasagna bed, but that is a popular term. When you build a bed using that method, i.e. covering the sod with cardboards and/or newspaper ( + organic materials), they will prevent most grass and weeds from comimg through. There is no need to use Round-up. Further, earthworms love to congregate under wet cardboards and newspaper.

I mulch with anything I can find: shredded leaves in fall, aged horse manure mixed with horse bedding, wood chips, and compost. I make compost in garbage cans too.

I used to hang out on the Soil, Mulch & Compost forum a lot. People there are crazy about composting as much as we are about WS. Beware of certain ones as tiffy said. Check out its FAQ. Monte wrote very long articles over there that are informative.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2007 at 11:52PM
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laurelin(z5a/4b Upstate NY)

I mulch each year. It doesn't prevent all the weeds, but it makes pulling them a bit easier. I garden organically too, and I think I'm one of the people that finds weeding relaxing, not a huge ugly chore. A little bit of weeding every day, getting the weeds young, goes a long way - waiting until the weeds are well established and doing the weeding all at once is a major league PAIN in the BEHIND.

I use a product called Escar-GO for the slugs - it's an iron phosphate pellet bait, non-toxic to kids and small animals, but it is very effective in controlling the slugs. It's sold under other names too - Sluggo comes to mind. Diatomaceous earth is also useful, but has to be reapplied after rain - it works better in dry weather. The pellet bait can stand a couple rains before it needs to be reapplied.

I'm hoping to be much better about using organic sprays to combat aphids etc. in my yard. Not on everything all the time (I'd prefer to have the beneficial insects thrive and eat the damaging bugs), but for my roses, and any other "problem spots" that arise.

One thing I've learned - it's better NOT to rake or disturb last year's mulch before you spread new mulch on top. Raking up the mulch stirs up any weed seeds that are buried and dormant, and they sprout like grass if they're disturbed. I just put down the new layer without disturbing the old one. When I apply organic granular fertilizer, I put it just around the base of the plants that need it. Using ground cover annuals and perennials between taller plants also helps inhibit weed growth.


    Bookmark   March 12, 2007 at 8:34AM
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lblack61(z5 NY)

I want to write more specifically regarding all your advice (which I really REALLY appreciate. You are all so wonderful :-).
Unfortunately, I'm trying to prepare for a presentation AND I'm sick and can't get my doctor on the phone. --I think it's time to switch doctors! The minus end of life in a small town...:-(

So I'll post everything I WANT to say and can't right now probably on Thursday (when the presentation is over).


    Bookmark   March 12, 2007 at 1:32PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I haven't tried this before, but I'm going on a three week vacation in July,so I need to do some preparation. I think I will put several layers of newspaper down between my perennials as they come up. Then cover the newspaper with thick mulch. This will (hopefully) decrease the weeds and help the soil retain moisture. I scavenged 50 or so bags of leaves last fall, so that is what I'll use for mulch. Though, it's amazing how much my leaf pile shrunk over the winter. Just goes to show, you can never have too much oranic matter to add to the garden. By the way, Round-Up only works when it is sprayed directly on the leaves of a plant. So, spraying it on beds to prevent weeds won't help.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2007 at 3:27PM
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Maybe my neighbor should be reading this thread! She complains EVERY year about the weeds in her garden, but yet listens to nobody. First she allows all the weeds to get really tall, flower and set seed AND then decides to pull them! Last year spring she decided to use roundup...I told her it wouldn't help unless she had growth either that or use Preen pre-emergant..but OH NO she did it anyways LOL! Guess what she had a few weeks later? Won't take any advise yet sees that my beds are always weed free!! I don't resort to chemicals either in my beds, but sometimes will do spot treatment to the gravel road *where the cars don't get to) after hoeing because of hundreds of weeds/weedy grasses that sprout there every spring.
In the beginning, that fall before planting anything I spent time identifying and pulling weed seedlings, hoeing, watering and allowing new seedlings to germ...on and on to get as much of the seed bank as possible. I repeated same that spring. I have pretty much elimated all weeds from the area and only lightly need weed now and then...mostly annuals...and I get them as seedlings. It REALLY helps if you are good at ID'ing weeds at the seedling stage. My preferred mulch is straw and I lay it as soon as the soil is warm enough...will prevent or make it really hard for summer annuals to sprout. Some of my beds don't get mulched at all because of selection of plants and no weedy mess here either. Lately I've been volunteering to help pull weeds with my neighbor too every spring only cause I don't want'em!!

A bed never mulched.....

The gravel road around the corner.....already full of spring annual weeds grasses....

The field where it all comes from.....

    Bookmark   March 12, 2007 at 7:24PM
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lblack61(z5 NY)

Okay, I'm ready for tonight, so I figure I'll reply now :-)
I made instant beds since I heard about it on WS forum two years ago. Even convinced my FIL on it. Amazing how the worms flock even to an area with one piece of cardboard on the ground!
And thanks for the tip on the Soil and Compost forum. I think that was why I have such a hard time getting the point from things people say when I lurk there...too much underlying contentiousness.
I have had to use black plastic for reasons other than weeds (to keep my and the neighbors dogs out of the beds. My dog is good with the beds any time of the year except when nothing looks like its growing in them. She digs holes and lays in them). But staking the area seems to keep her out, too, so I may just stake more areas this year. It just makes me feel (I spoil EVERYBODY'S dogs)

I'm nervous about mulching in some areas because I don't want to prevent reseeding annuals from doing their magic. Will they still come up, or is there something about the timing of when I put the mulch down?

I do have mulch in the beds from last year-- thanks for the tip on not disturbing it, Laurel :-) I'll just reapply on top of the old stuff.
I have TONS of Escar-Go and Sluggo, bought from previous years. We had VERY dry winters those years, so I have lots for this year (which I suspect is going to be a slug fest, due to a wet Fall and the snowstorm). So I'm prepared like a Marine, there :-)

Straw...will that prevent reseeding annual flowers from coming up? Straw sounds like a great mulching product-- it's cheap around here.
I like your method of weeding, fall and spring, because when it gets really hot, I have to stay inside. I garden in the morning and evening, despite my allergies, but sometimes it's just too much and I have to stay indoors. If I could get the beds to be "self-sufficient" by the time big allergy season rolls around, that would be great! Then I could just go out and cut flowers and that's it!

Thanks so much to everyone for all your advice and help. I know I'm looking at a busy summer (hubby's having minor surgery and I'm working on graduate courses and applying to grad school, along with painting). Since I'm the only one who does ANYTHING to do with the yard (other than mowing the lawn), I have to prepare EARLY and really stay on top of things to have a good growing year.
Thanks again, you wonderful bunch of people ((hugs))

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 1:01PM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

I sympathize with you regarding dogs. My front yard is not fenced in at all. However, dog owners seem to have more respect for my garden because I find fewer piles of dog poop in recent years.

I have been adding mulch all over my garden over the years. shredded leaves in fall and horse manure with bedding whenever I can go haul it. I don't have any problem with reseeders, especially Aquilegia, Larkspur, Rudbeckia, forget-me-not, Johnny jump- up and Feverfew. They come through no matter what. I also have a lot of reseeding bulbs such as Scilla and Eranthis.

When the seeds ripen in summer, I scatter them around too for good measure. Now I don't worry much anymore whether they will come up. :-) With WS, I always have too many seedlings to plant anyway. lol.

Hope you feel better and good luck with school. :-)

    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 6:56PM
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lblack61(z5 NY)

I've started prepping the beds. Despite the tons of rain and snow melt (and a stream that overflowed into the yard, which until this year hasn't happened in the five years I've been here, the drainage is good and I was able to walk on the patio that was "landlocked" on Monday.

I put some WOW from Gardens Alive on the beds where tomato plants were last year, moved the oregano in that bed, and started weeding two other beds. The weather seems to be cooperating, so hopefully I'll get a little done each day. By the time I get it done, the soil should be warm enough to put down mulch. I'm determined to beat the weeds this year.

--BTW...I got a 100 on my presentation/paper. I actually got applause too (the only one who did). And this is doubly good because the prof I have for this class is one of the people who has to approve my graduate application. Thank you for the well wishes...they worked! :-)


    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 8:45PM
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