As part of this Spring Spruce-up series, I spruced up our entry porch on Monday, a couple vegetable beds on Tuesday, and today I’m sharing with you a couple of flower beds I cleaned up and prepared using five easy steps to control the weeds- not only for spring, but summer, too!
That’s right, spring and summer- well actually I won’t have to worry about them again until next spring. All in a couple hours. All that’s left to do is water and enjoy the blooms.
How? Well, I have a little method that I’ve written about before- but it bears mentioning every season because it’s such a time saver. If I get all our beds done using this method, I have a lot less work in the summer and fall- and even the next spring. Here’s proof:
This is one of our front borders that we covered in newspaper and mulch (we use purchased garden compost for our mulch) last summer. There are just a few weeds (which are easy to pull thanks to all the mulch), with more concentrated around the stepping stones. That’s because it’s hard to get the layers of newspaper in between the stones unless we lift them, and obviously we didn’t take the time.
As a comparison, look at this picture:
This is the other end of the same bed. We ran out of mulch and never finished the bed- in fact you can see on the right where we ran out of the paper and mulch close to the stones. There are some plants in there, but most of the green “groundcover’ is little baby weeds, plus those “poppers” I can’t stand.
Ugh. Here we have another bed that hasn’t had any layers added for a couple of years. If you do this yearly, you won’t ever have to see a bed like this- here’s a case of do what I say, not what I do. *blush*
Step 1. First, cut back and trim shrubs and perennials. I always wait until late winter, early spring to do this, as the dead growth helps protect plants from frost damage, plus provides habitat and seed heads for the birds.
Plus, there’s no way I’d find time in the fall to do this. But I like the bird theory better.
Step 2. Then pull any dead plants and weeds. Try to get the roots of the perennial weeds (like dandelions), but for the annual weeds (like the poppers…) just pull the biggest ones so that the paper can lay down flat. The layers will kill any little ones left.
Step 3. If your bed is edged with just grass, go ahead and edge it before the layering begins. This bed has cement edgers, but most of mine don’t. I often will just pull the longer grass back to clean up the edge- only actually cutting a new edge every 2-3 years as needed.
Hey, and if all your beds are edged, you only need 4 easy steps!
You can see here that I’ve cut back the plants and gotten rid of the big weeds (but not all the little ones…).
Step 4. Now it’s time to lay the newspaper down. You can also use cardboard, but it’s thicker, so I use it only in areas I don’t want any thing to grow (like under trees). Paper grocery bags are good, too, cut and opened up, but what I can get a lot of is newspaper.
Here are some points to remember when laying the paper:
- The thicker you layer the paper, the more weed-blocking it will do- I like to use 6 to 10 layers.
- Don’t use shiny, colored ads- just regular newsprint (which may have color, too- that is OK, just not the shiny paper)
- Overlap the edges of the papers a good inch or two- the idea is to not give an opening for the weeds!
- If there is wind, keep a hose nearby and spray the papers as you lay them to keep them stable before adding the mulch.
- If the ground is dry (like, you didn’t get to it and it’s already July *smile*), water well first, and then spray the paper as well- then the mulch will help hold in the moisture for that time of year.
- If you use soaker hoses, lay the paper under them.
Step 5. Lastly, cover all the paper with mulch. Many people like bark dust or chips (straw or sawdust could be used, too). I always use garden compost we purchase at a landscape place for about $20 a truck load (we could never make enough of our own!). I like the dark look of it much better than the red-brownish bark color.
I’ve also read that wood used as mulch doesn’t feed the soil as it decomposes like this compost does- it’s pretty much the only “fertilizer” I use for my flower beds, and it helps build up my soil.
So about an hour later I’m done for the rest of the year with this bed! Whew- I get to check another thing off my list. This is SO worth it for me- I love not having to worry about the beds again.
Note: You might think, “Can I plant something later in the season?” Yes! I simply push aside the mulch where I want to plant, use my trowel to cut into the paper and bend it back (like a book cover), make a hole and place the plant in it. Tamp it down and replace the paper, tearing as needed to fit around the new plant and recover with the mulch. No problem.
This method can be used around trees, too, instead of buying expensive “tree rings” or using plastic edging (than invariably gets nicked with the mower…). Simply lay a LOT of layers of paper (10-15 layers) right over the mown grass in a loose circle, tucking the sharp corners in on the outside as needed. Cover with mulch, but don’t mound it up to the trunk.
This tree was done last year, and you can see how it stayed grass-free all year. I will give it another layer this spring to see it through another year. Of course, you can give it a nice, cut edge if that’s something you like…I guess you can see which camp we fall in.
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