New Gardener and Controlling Weeds

enpeaApril 14, 2013

Hello I am new to the forum and gardening! I bought my house 2 years ago now and have started managing my very large perennial bed in my backyard. There were a lot of open areas (not very filled with flowers) so I started to work my way down planting a few more plants each season (so far and I plan on continuing it). My problem is it's already overgrowing with WEEDS this spring!! It's very early in our season here too and I have not planted anything yet, I've just started to clean up and prepare. I have identified the 3 weeds doing the majority of overtaking: 1. Canadian Thistle 2. Ground Ivy 3. Bittercress

The canadian thistle has been coming up since I moved in but it just keeps getting worse. I had been pulling it but now reading it says that is BAD. So I need to do something else - I think I'm going to paint them with round up now (they are still all just sprouting and no where near flowering). Any better alternatives than this?

The Ground Ivy seems worse this year and I'm not sure how to kill this one, some are easy to pull when I can get the whole string of them but any thoughts on this one?

The bittercress I have not seen in prior years AT ALL but now it is ALL OVER and already blooming. These seem easier to pull out and not rooted so deep so I started to do that but they are already flowered. Is there a better way to kill this besides pulling?

It's just all very overwhelming and discouraging at this point. I just want to get my garden nice and FULL of perennials and the weeds minimized. The house next door has been vacant since we moved in (it went up for sale right when we moved in) so their backyard is full of weeds with no one there to do more upkeep than mowing so that is likely not helping me out at all. I definitely plan on doing a thicker layer of mulch this year but I'm just so frustrated. Any tips or words of encouragement from more seasoned gardeners out there?? Thank you so much in advance!

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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

OK, my short answer is try using mulch!!

I recently attended a lecture on home gardens and one thing that was mentioned was never use any kind of weed barrier. Landscaping cloth etc. I guess in the long run it causes more problems than solves. It kills the soil underneath it, weeds just grow on top of it, it is not a good thing! The best way I can think of is to remove weeds and add mulch to minimize their return.You need 2 to 3 inches of it. Our flower garden is old and I would really like just to remove everything and start over. It seems certain perennials overrun the garden anyway. I thin them more than weeds. Ground covers also hide and smother the weeds too, But try getting rid of them, just as the weeds, near impossible. I'm more into the edible part of my garden. I have run into another problem, the wife, she considers the flower garden hers but does little to nothing to it. Hopefully I can get her to let me take it over, and I will just remove everything, replant what we want, and mulch heavily. It is something you will need to do yearly (mulching that is, you can get by at times doing it every 2 years, but I tend to add fresh mulch every year). It does help, and builds the soil. Anybody who grows edibles uses mulch, it is required to keep the plants moist, and to keep the soil rich. I do not have problems with weeds around my fruit trees, blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries. So yes, it works quite well.
I use three different kinds, because of the needs of my fruit plants. I use mostly pine bark, and since I can get it free, pine straw. This keeps my strawberries out of the dirt, you have to cover them in the winter completely too. Many use regular straw for this, pine needles looks better, and my in-laws up in northern MI have ton's and ton's of it as they own a few lots which are covered in pine and spruce trees. The supply is unlimited, and free. I also use cypress as it is not as acidic as pine. My lilacs bushes do not like acid, so I use cypress, which is still acidic, but not as much as pine.
I add lime to keep the soil basic where the lilacs are. You can get colored bark too, I guess it probably would look nicer for a bit, until the sun fades it. I really do not care. I use mulch because it is needed to properly care for my edible plants. I could give a rip how it looks, although it looks good! So now I buy extra to use in the flower garden. So far few weeds have come up, and those that do stick out and are easy to spot and pull. I would still like to start over though, it's been years and would look neater etc.
Good luck!

This post was edited by Drew51 on Sun, Apr 14, 13 at 23:56

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 11:38PM
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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

Pull the weeds you are able to and if it's possible, lay down some newspaper (several sheets thick) or cardboard and put your mulch on top of that. The newspaper or cardboard will act as a barrier to smother the weeds and prevent them from re-sprouting but it will also rot away (compost) by the end of the year. Make sure you overlap the paper or cardboard by a few inches. Afterwards just continually apply mulch to keep the soil covered and pull any small weed seedlings that may appear. Canadian thistle is a tough weed to get rid of but if you prevent it from getting light the roots will die and you'll eventually get rid of it and unless it's really bad I'd forgo the Round-Up.


    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 7:04PM
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Thank you for the replies! I could probably cover all the areas not currently habitated by flowers with newspaper before I mulch again this year. I did mulch last year but not very thick and seems to have diminished quite a bit by this year. I will have to try some stuff out. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   April 16, 2013 at 12:37PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

The newspapers sound like a good idea. I never tried that! After a few applications of mulch, it will thicken up, yeah as much as 4 inches or even more is fine. The mulch will feed your plants, so it's worth using as a slow fertilizer. You still need to fertilize though, at least some plants. Yeah a peach tree grower I know has been mulching his trees for 20 years, every year. He now has 4 or more inches of black humus soil under his trees.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2013 at 4:38PM
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