disaster flower bed + bad gardener

amandaMOAugust 10, 2013

I have a large "flower bed" area in my front yard that I just don't know how to prep/maintain. Currently, there are 3 small shrubs and a few small lillys planted there.

The big problem: the past owners used gravel as the mulch. I've raked it back to prepare to plant; there is too much of it to get rid of - I don't know how to create a barrier for weeds, etc.

Admittedly, I am not a talented or patient gardener and do not have time to perform a lot of maintenance.

Additionally, when my yard was last mowed (I'm assuming) debris blew into the "bed" are and weeds/crab grass, etc spread like wildfire.

I know what plants to plant, and have already purchased them - I need advice on how to quickly and effectively get the grass/weed problem under control. I look forward to any advice!

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jim_1 Zone 5B Illinois(5b)

Gravel with landscape fabric under it can really deter weeds. If the previous owner did not used the fabric, then you need to move the gravel and decide how to take on the project.

I like to recycle and use newspaper as a base for whatever mulch. The worms and bugs love it and I don't have to tote the papers to the curb. The newspaper won't last a long time, but whatever weeds make it through later on won't be many and they will be somewhat easy to pull.

You have had lots of rain recently (I read in the newspaper that will go in the garden), so the weed situation will be tough to deal with right now. You cannot eliminate the moisture that they need to grow; however you can eliminate the light that they need.

Move the gravel, put down the newspapers, 6 sheets should be enough, and replace the gravel. That is the beginning. To plant the items you already have, spread the gravel where you want to plant, cut away a bit of the barrier and plant there. Push the gravel back, leaving a bit of space around the base of the plant. Some weeds will come up, but you will be able to handle them as you tend the plants in the coming weeks and months.

I like to freeze fresh produce this time of year. I blanched some green beans this morning. Rather than dumping that super-hot water, I poured it on some weeds in the drive way. In 24 hours the weeds will be dead and that will be the end of anything growing there for a while. You don't need a lot in any one spot, the boiling water will get the roots quickly.


    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 9:42PM
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Sorry to disagree, but stone mulch just doesn't work well outside of arid regions, even with a weed barrier like newspaper or landscape cloth. Organic matter will collect in the gravel, seeds will be carried in by wind, runoff and critters (who deposit them with a dollop of "fertilizer") and there you go. Organic mulches are better for your plants ... unless you're growing some kind of cactus or succulent. The gravel absorbs the sun's heat during the day and releases it into the soil throughout the night. One purpose of mulch is to keep the soil cool and moist, and organic mulches like wood chips, bark chips or even shredded leaves do that best. Over time, they break down to enrich the soil and improve its texture.

Agreed on the newspaper. A layer of newspaper (5-10 sheets thick) or some cardboard is a great way to smother the weeds.

Gravel is easy to get rid of ... try your local Freecycling group. Our old driveway of hated pea gravel was gone in a flash.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2013 at 6:04PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

You are not a bad gardener, just inexperienced. This situation is not good, you're right to be frustrated. What 'Agarden' said matches my experience, I would get rid of as much gravel as reasonably possible. What are the shrubs? Do you like the lilies? It sounds like this area is in mostly sun?

Some of the stuff in this discussion may apply to your situation, and general planning. The remaining gravel you can't remove is fine *in* the soil, as long is it is sparse enough that you can dig when needed, which will improve over time, as it gets stirred up from 'using' the bed. Adding copious amounts of organic matter to the soil should make a huge difference in a "previously-gravel" situation like this. At least the material surrounding each little rock will be much softer.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 10:28AM
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jim_1 Zone 5B Illinois(5b)

Allow me to defend my comment:

Amanda indicated in her first post that there is too much gravel to get rid of. If she cannot get rid of it, then she has to keep it. True, the weed barrier and gravel are not an ideal solution, but if she cannot get rid of the gravel, then work with it somehow.


    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 12:53PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Yeah, that's kind of what I meant by 'reasonable possible.' I might just work over/around it. If it's a layer you can see though, I would try to get rid of at least some/most of it, I think. Easy to sit here & say so, right?

    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 5:26PM
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