New house! Cleaning up dingy pine straw and weeds.

AgentStephMarch 16, 2012

Hello, I've just purchased a house and I've never gardened a day in my life. I'm in Nashville TN and the previous owner had a lot of landscaping ... hedge rows, rose garden, and many trees on the acre sized lot. She had been using pine straw for mulch. Now it's spring and the pine straw is dingy and there are all kinds of weeds growing up.

Can you tell me where to start? How to I kill the weeds? Do I need to remove the old pine needles before starting over? I'm clueless and would really appreciate your assistance.

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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

Congrats on your new house! Sounds like a nice garden came with it as well, sweet!

Personally, I would pull the weeds, then put a new layer of pine straw, leaving the old in place. The pine straw blocks the light from seedlings and helps retain moisture in the soil under it (as any organic mulch does). If you prefer some other type of mulch, just put it atop the pine, organic mulch never needs to be removed, just renewed yearly or so as it decomposes. Weeds can still show up, but they are much easier to pull when small, especially after they have struggled through mulch to the light, or have struggled to get roots into the soil under the mulch.

You may want to make sure all of those weeds really are plants you don't want. Some may be desirable flowers you just don't recognize yet. There is a name-that-plant forum on here. If you care to take some pics and post them there, you will find out if any are keepers.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 11:20AM
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Thank you! I've spent this weekend pulling weeds so I'm on my way. I was considering spraying some weed killer before laying the new mulch, but it sounds like I may not need to do that?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 6:29PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

If you are a total newbie to gardening, I'd hold off on the 'weed killer'. You can do a heck of a lot of damage by using the wrong product or even the right product in the wrong way.

If I can add to purple's comment about the pine straw...before adding the new stuff, rake away that older layer in a couple of small areas to see what's underneath. If all you see is dry soil, then OK. Sometimes, however, pinestraw can get moldy and slimy at the soil level and that can cause a real problem. Also, look for a layer of thick, white threads at the soil surface. Also a problem. If you notice either of those, you'll need to rake up the straw and get rid of it before adding anything else.

She is SO right about making sure that your weeds are weeds! Sleeping perennials are coming up from their winter naps in your location. Wouldn't you hate finding out that you'd yanked some valuable plants by mistake?

Be sure to become familiar with your local Extension office, and with the website. I've attached a link to their home and garden site, and you should also click on Regional Offices to find a local address and phone number.

Here is a link that might be useful: click here for Extension information

    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 1:23PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

Thanks for adding those important caveats about PS mulch. I've not had any before and was given some bags of it this weekend. Going to "share" it around all the beds instead of use only that for a new spot. Sounds like more work than mulch should be, IMO.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 2:13PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

All mulch can cause the same problems. If we keep the amount we put on to a reasonable 2 to 3 inches and don't build it up more and more each year, then it will be fine. It's still a good idea to rake a little bit away to see if mycelium mats have formed at the surface.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 11:08PM
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