Brand new to all this!

scraplollyJune 24, 2006


If I'm posting in the wrong spot, please let me know!

I'd like to begin to reclaim a few plots in my backyard. I know I'm a bit late--but better than waiting (again) for next year, lol!

The first thing I need to do is get the weeds out. What is the best way to do that? I have tried using a trowel in the Spring--but I really didn't know if I was getting anywhere. Now I can see that I didn't get anywhere, lol! I'm absolutely over run.

The patch I want to tackle this year is about 25 feet long, three feet wide--it's between the side of the house (beige stucco) and a concrete paver walk way. It faces South.

We have heavy, dark and thick clay soil.

I put a few extra boards we had lying around and just threw them on top of the vegetation to try and kill it. Was that a good idea? Should I continue with that or just get them out live?

Secondly, what's the best time of day to do this? It's a spot that is in full sun most of the day, even in the morning....but I notice that there's too many bugs in the evening.....

Thanks for your help!

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Just read the FAQ's for new gardeners--and did a little search on weeds--so I know what has happened.
In the Spring I got aggressive and took a spade to a small section--turned over the soil and probably made them all very happy!

One of the suggestions in the FAQ was to put down black and white newspaper and then soil/mulch on top and plant away. However, I don't think that'll work for a perennial garden--which is what I want (eventually).

I have looked at books in the library--very few, and none I remember address this problem fully--everything dealing with a "new" garden assumes you are working with a recently developed lot...and I had a subscription to "Canadian Gardening" for a few years but it was too overwhelming!

Any help would be greatly appreciated! TIA.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2006 at 12:22AM
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Welcome to the forum scraplolly, you'll like it here.

You might want to start a lasagna garden in that spot, from my understanding it would work well for your situation and makes a great start for a perennial bed.
Try posting your query over in the Far North forum as well, it is very active. Also, there are lots of Edmonton & area gardeners posting over there.

Have fun!

Here is a link that might be useful: Lasagna gardening

    Bookmark   June 25, 2006 at 8:46AM
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Thank you Garden chicken!!

Took me a while, but I finally located the "lasagna" instructions on the BHG site. We're off to a gardening centre today--so I'll price out compost and mulch...we have none as yet!

I have two concerns with this, though.
(1) it seems as if the new bed will be quite high. This doesn't concern me on the side next to the house (and building it up will be good for drainage) --but next to the walkway! We have big old thick concrete pavers as I mentioned and I'm thinking I may need something between the lasagna bed and the concrete?

(2) I do have a healthily blooming rose in the middle of the mess. dh planted many years ago--and I quess I pruned it right (though I can't remember what I did, lol) because this year it actually put out multiple blooms! I'm thinking I should clear around it by hand and then build the lasagna around it--leave 6" or so all the way around?

I'll do my research on the rose later tonight....

And I took some "before" pics at noon--will have them developed this afternoon and see if I can figure out how to post later.....

They'll be good for a laugh if nothing else!
Thanks again. I am encouraged. :)

    Bookmark   June 25, 2006 at 3:12PM
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jroot(5A Ont. Canada (near Guelph))

Re read the section on lasagne gardening. It takes a while to fully understand the construction and benefits of this type of garden preparation. I have seen AMAZING results with it. I may be easier than you think, and not as costly as going out and buying compost. What you do is create your own. It does take some time however.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2006 at 9:16PM
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Thanks jroot!
But I'm confused by your comment: "not as costly as going out and buying compost."

The stuff I saw at BHG suggests using compost on top of the newspaper/cardboard layer. I almost bought some today while we were out but held off and I'm not sure exactly what I'm doing, yet.

Shouldn't I get a soil analysis done before I start? Or will it matter with the lasagna?

We'll be gone the first two weeks of July, so I was wondering if I should wait to lay down the cardboard, etc until when we get back.

Time I do have....I think, lol!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2006 at 10:33PM
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Hell there and welcome to gardening.

I too had a very hardpack clay yard which was improved greatly with the addition of good triple mix, manure compost, and builder's sand. If I may, I would suggest that you do not use the lasagna method right away until you have been able to aerate your soil. To add such a huge volume of material on very hard impenetrable soil would not be too effective if you are planning this area to be a good perennial garden. Extra work in getting the soil broken up and mixed in with very good triple mix, peat, composed manure and builder;s sand would give you a very rewarding yard later on.

You can simply kill off the very weedy area by temporarily blocking the weeds' access to sunglight, by using newspapers or cardboards or black thick garbage bags that have been weighed down. It will take a couple of weeks to really get the weeds killed off. If my observations on farming practises is correct, the black plastic strip method is particularly effective because the sun heats up the soil to the degree that weeds are 'cooked'.

The lasagna method is something to use to kill off and to continue to improve the soil when you have accomplished the above. When you have a garden with shrubs and whatever plants, you will get weeds. Others use mulch to kill off those weeds, while others use the lasagna method which also includes continued improvement of soil.

To answer your question about adding compost on top of the newspapers. Many gardeners have their own organic materials for compost, like leaves or freshly cut grass, whaterver clippings. If you don't have these, then it's best to start off with buying bags of compost to start you off with. (I wouldn't use rotting fruits because it can attract unwanted pests)


    Bookmark   June 25, 2006 at 11:21PM
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peatpod(Z5b Ontario)

Hi Lolly
I made a huge lasagna garden in my front yard right on top of the grass. I didnt make my own soil but I do add to it throughout the fall and spring.

The whole garden on the right hand side is a lasagna garden and it actually extends past there to the fence where the trees are. I just put down a series of layered newspapers (about 12 sheets together) and soaked them down as I went along .. then I dumped about 2 yards of triple mix on top. I didnt have time to wait for leaves etc to decompose. This year I did widen the area ... here is a photo of how it looked liked during the summer season. This is in August and it was planted full of cannas.

In the fall I put mulched up leaves and some compost and again in the spring I put more compost in. I left alot of the cut down canna stocks and leaves in the bed but chopped them up so they would decompose well. I have to admit I have the biggest earthworms in that bed. They would be great for fishing.

So in answer to your question .. why wait .. it will only take a day or two to put it all together. When you get back you can plant it. I would look into having some soil delivered ... its much cheaper by the truckfull than by the bag :o) Oh and what I did because the bed was fairly high .. I planted some hosta and daylillies around to hold the soil in. The plants will grow though the newspaper into the clay with no problems .. the worms will gravitate to that area because of the dampness the newspapers hold in and airate the whole area thus breaking up the clay :o) Its so easy.


    Bookmark   June 25, 2006 at 11:37PM
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I took into consideration your description of very hard, heavy clay soil and gave my recommendations based on that alone. I say this with utmost respect to the other opinions on improving soil and it's entirely your decision on how to go about it. However do so with some more information on improving clay soil and I suggest that you check the soil forum for this information. YOu will find much insights from others.


    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 10:32AM
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Hi there scraplolly... just wanted to say that I 'dig' your enthusiasm!

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 10:37AM
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Just popping in to say "Hi" and "welcome"M

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 10:33PM
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Ianna - I would disagree that you need to improve the underlying soil first. With the lasagne method, the newpaper and/or cardboard underneath eventually breaks down. The frost and roots will then start moving the soil on top down into the clay, then the added compost, etc. I created a bed last year over grass on very compact soil. I ordered 5 yards of 'garden soil', 50% topsoil and 50% mushroom compost, from the nursery up the road. By the time they delivered, I had all of the newspaper/cardboard laid over the grass. I overlapped generously. I have never had any grass or weed grow through, and the soil was completely free of weed seeds. it is the easiest way to create new bed. Just my humble opinion.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2006 at 3:34PM
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bonniepunch(USDAz4 AgCanz5a)

You guys debating the merits of digging and improving the existing soil first and not digging are both right :-)

Ianna's way is better faster. The bed will be ready to support what you plant in it from day one. If you don't have a huge area to do, and you want to plant the whole thing at once with deep rooted perennials and shrubs, this is probably the better way to go. Peatpod's way will take a couple of years for the worms to do their job and work the compost and organic matter down through the clay. This is a good way to make a large bed that will have annuals or shallow rooted perennials for the first couple of years (her canna bed was a perfect use of the space). After two or three years have passed, the 'no dig' bed will be easily able to support those deep rooted plants you might want to add.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2006 at 4:24PM
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I'm so glad I'm not getting creamed for voicing a slightly different view. I would have fared differently in other forums. ;0)

Thanks BP for the support. And you have good observations too.

What I am saying is really that lasagna method over an aerated ground achieves a far better result (as opposed to lasagna method over hardpack surface) if you wish to create good perennial bed. Don't skip the step of aeration. Lasagna method, essentially compost material set on a hard surface is really not that much different than a planter's box set upon a hard surface (without the planter). It's loose material in which plants can grow. It can be as deep as it is mounded. The plants roots will always follow the path of least resistance and so the roots will be growing more sideways rather then deep down which is necessary in the case of perennials. This method over a hardsurface is far more suitable for annuals which are shallow rooted. There are of course, plants that can grow in clayish conditions like daylilies and coneflowers.

To leave aeration to nature is going to take far too long and possibly not too successfully. If the lasagna pile was set upon a hardpack clay surface, I'm willing to bet, not much improvement has been made to the clay portion of the soil. Again, please check the soil forum - specifically a thread on how to amend clay soil. Quite a good debate as well.

I first learned of how important aeration is by watching a garden show in which Geoff Hamilton, who was a very well respected English horticulturalist and who demonstrated from start to finish, how to create a garden. It had created UREKA moment for me. Suddenly, the sky was the limit when it came to planting. (Well, I'm into vertical gardening with various vining plants in my backyard) It was a valuable lesson which I would never forget.

So this is my last contribution to this debate. If I haven't not convince anyone yet to aerate clayish soil, then I have not been successful. I just think for a new gardener, the most valuable lesson there is to gardening, is not to skip certain steps in improving the soil. In anycase, it's just my honest observation and experience in gardening.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2006 at 11:38PM
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