Clearing flowerbeds/ Planting bulbs

sahm198August 4, 2010

Hello Everyone,

I was here a couple of months ago asking for advice on lawn recovery. Now I am on to the next project: clearing my flower beds. To be honest, I don't foresee spending a lot of time gardening. But I would like to have a decent, clean yard. I have a lot of flower beds. I have some bushes, a beautiful peony, some irises, a lilac bush, and a wild rose bush (thanks to a previous owner). But I have a lot of left over beds too that have been overtaken by weeds. So at this point, I am thinking of clearing everything out and putting the black cloth and mulch or some kind of stone to cover the beds, so that there is not much more of a problem with weeds anymore.

So my question is: what the above objective in mind, should I take every single weed out? I know some people have talked about cutting the grass really short and covering with newspaper to kill it. Would this work to kill my weeds if I don't plan to plant anything soon? How does one actually do it?

Also, i would like to plant some daffodils this fall. What's the best time for Calgary? I have a couple of resident rabbits, and deer maybe expected (though I haven't seen any ever in the neighbourhood). Do I need to take any precautions? My irises haven't been touched, but my neighbour says her tulips were eaten (my lone tulip survived...maybe the rabbit didn't see it?). So, what's the deal with daffodils?

Please enlighten. I will be forever grateful :)

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First your flower beds. I would mow or lop down any tall weeds then cover the area completely, overlapping the edges, with a 4 layer thick covering of wet newspaper--the ones with black ink. Wet the paper before you lay it down and then cover with mulch. The newspaper will prevent the weeds growing up through it and the mulch will hold the paper down and keep it moist.

If you have squirrels around too there is nothing they like more than a snack on tulip bulbs. Not so with Daffodils. Daffodil bulbs are poisonous--not deadly but enough that not much will eat them. There are so many varieties out there these days in many colors in doubles and singles, that if growing tulips is a problem you can still have spring color.

The best time to plant spring bulbs is about 3 weeks before freeze-up. Time enough to set down roots before the ground is frozen

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 1:44AM
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I agree with Oilpainter's technique in killing off the weeds. I use this technique when creating new beds and I would top it with soil. However in this case you have an existing but weedfilled bed. Since you dont intend to do heavy weeding in the future, I would suggest adding a thick weed cloth over the newspapers and topping that with your wood or stone mulch. Newspapers will rot away in time and unless you put a thick layer of mulch, weeds like the taprooted dandelion would still be able to take over the bed. The addition of a weed cloth protects the grounds longer. - HOWEVER, new weeds do emerge from new seeds that land on top the mulch. Only they would be stunted because they can't get past the weed cloth. - an easy way to kill off emerging weeds is to disturb the soil while the weeds are young or to put something called corn gluten which halts seeds from germinating.

As for daffodils - the squirrels hate them. I mix them in with my tulips and so far I haven't lost a tulip. The daffodils have a bitter taste to it so one bite is enough to deter future diggings. A trick is to plant the tulips in a bottom layer and top them with daffodils. Squirrels wont touch irises since these too are toxic and bitter.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 4:03PM
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dianasan(z5a Mtl)

--A trick is to plant the tulips in a bottom layer and top them with daffodils.---

Great trick, ianna.

What I did when planting my tulips was, first dig a hole, put in some bonemeal, drop in the tulip bulb, add a handful of earth, then add some shavings from a bar of soap and then top up with the rest of the earth. I used Ivory soap, but any scented bar soap will do -- just shave off a little bit with a knife. The scent of the soap disquises the scent of the tulips and will also repel the squirrels. The soap will not harm the tulips, in fact, it's a source of phosphate. I never had a tulip dug up and I have lots of tulips and lots of squirrels on and around my property.

I also agree that putting a landscape fabric over the newspaper barrier provides better weed control. But I do one better by adding another layer of newspaper over the landscape fabric. I find that the newspaper helps the mulch stay put and not get washed away by a heavy jet of water, etc., especially if your beds are not completely flat.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 5:34PM
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Thank you for the detailed instructions. Will get right to it.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 8:16PM
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Good idea with the soap. I like using bonemeal too.

re the newspaper over the cloth. The only reason i don't like doing that is that in time the newspapers start rotting away and so it's those little pieces that make things look messy. What do you do to prevent that?

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 10:07AM
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dianasan(z5a Mtl)


I use colored mulch (Scott's Deep Forest Brown) so by the time the newspaper starts shredding, it's also pretty faded and kind of blends into the color of the mulch. In some spots though, I will just top it off with a handful of new mulch.

I've got some irises to plant in a new bed. I've already wrapped them in chicken wire, but I think I'll plant some daffodils above them just to be safe.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 3:11PM
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Hi Dianansan,

I'm surpised you would have to go through the trouble of wrapping chicken wire over your irises. Do your squirrels attack them? Iris corms should be exposed and above the ground otherwise they'd rot away. It the roots that need protection. How would you be able to plant daffodils above them?

In anycase, I hear irises taste bitter and are mildly toxic so squirrels avoid them. My irises and pretty much all the neighbor's irises are pretty much unprotected with nary a problem from animals.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 9:33AM
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dianasan(z5a Mtl)

Oops! I meant lilies. Something did dig up and eat them a couple of years ago and last year the shoots were eaten by voles.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 10:20AM
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Oh now that makes sense - although I still can't see how the lilies would fare with the daffodils above them. It works with tulips, I've just not seen it with lilies. I have another suggestion (heheh) use mothballs inserted in old socks or stockings and insert them in the tunnels of these creatures or in areas surrounding your plants. The odors will drive away these things.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 2:39PM
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dianasan(z5a Mtl)

I figure that the daffodils will deter the squirrels from the bed. I'll buy smaller size daffodil bulbs so they don't need to be planted as deep as the lily bulbs.

Also, because they bloom at different times, I'll have two shows of flowers, first the daffodils and then the lilies.

Furthermore, as the lilies grow, they'll hide the dying foliage of the daffodils.

As for the voles, I got rid of them with mouse bait which I placed well inside their tunnels which were under my porch. It took just one packet of bait at my house and one packet at my neighbor's (from where they had come in the first place).

The mothball idea is good, but that would only be passing the problem back to my neighbor or to my other neighbors and the voles would probably move back into my place once the mothballs vaporized.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 2:45PM
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