We were finally able to finish our backyard border and I wanted to share how easy it is to transform a weedy patch of yard into a neat and tidy shrub and flower border in just a few steps and a minimum of time!
We had one last, wild area of our yard, located on the side of our house. It used to hold a cyclone-fence dog run (yeah, it was a beautiful thing to look at, let me tell you) left by the former owners. Since our dog doesn’t run away and sleeps inside, we didn’t need it (we’re reusing it as the run for the new chicken coop).
We need this area to be easy-care, but look good because it’s seen from the guest bathroom window inside and the gravel patio outside. So we decided to plant only shrubs in this corner that will help connect it to the rest of the border around the yard, but not take much care.
Every time we make a new bed for shrubs and flowers in our yard, we take the same easy steps, no matter if we’re starting with grass or weed-filled ground (like this area):
1. Remove perennial weeds and any large weeds. The large weeds were easy to pull in this area and there weren’t too many dandelions, so this step went quickly. If it seems overwhelming, use black plastic to kill the weeds about a month before planting and then just rake them away.
2. Add a layer 2-3 inches of good garden soil. If you’ve got any composted manure, mix it in this layer. We’ve successfully used horse manure here (notoriously full of weed seeds) because we cover this layer with more layers.
3. Place the plants, in their pots, where you’d like them to go. Moving them around during this step is much easier then after digging holes! Think about the size of the shrub when grown and leave adequate room.
This is the hardest part, I know! It looks so bare – but take it from someone who’s moved too many overgrown plants in her day…leave room for growth. Perennials I don’t worry so much about – they often need dividing and fooling with anyway, but shrubs are there to stay, so place them where they can grow fully.
4. Once you’ve decided on where the plants go, dig the holes. Now, instead of digging the whole bed (which in all honesty, we’d never do, so we cut corners in order to get it done!), we just make the holes for the plants extra big while incorporating some of the good soil and compost. This has worked really well for us – especially with shrubs.
5. Fill in around the plants with original soil mixed with good soil, and step down around the plant to get the roots firmly in contact with the soil. Then give each plant a good soaking with water.
6. Lay a soaker hose or a drip-type system down (for those of us without sprinkler systems). Make sure that the hose is next to all the plants, but it doesn’t need to circle them – only if you have enough hose to spare.
7. Cover the entire area with thick layers of newspaper or cardboard. Since we aren’t planning on planting anything else in this bed, we used cardboard which lasts a bit longer than newspaper. Put the paper underneath the soaker hoses (you could switch 6 and 7 and lay the paper first, of course, I just find that the hose helps hold down the paper, though I do have to keep lifting it up).
8. The last step is to cover the paper with a 2-3 in. layer of mulch (cover the hoses if you can, too). I like using the stuff labeled “garden compost” at our local yard products center. It’s black (instead of orange like bark dust), and feeds the soil as it breaks down, providing all the nutrition these shrubs will need.
That’s it! No heavy digging and a few hours of work and our weedy area was gone forever. Whew.
How do you plant your new borders?
Here’s something I wanted to pass on to all of you TGP-ers, since I know watering is on our minds right about now:
OSU Professional and Noncredit Education has recently launched a new online course offering—the WaterWise Gardening series—which teaches participants how to design and plant a water-efficient garden that is both economical and environmentally friendly.
The two WaterWise Gardening courses they currently offer allow participants to earn Irrigation Association, PLANET, and Oregon Landscape Contractor’s Board-certified continuing education units, making it appealing to landscape professionals, garden designers and Master Gardeners as well as hobbyist gardeners.