What would you do?

powermuffinMarch 23, 2010

Hi gardening experts! I live in Longmont, in an old house that we bought a few years ago. We are finally getting to the yard, which was a mess when we moved in.

The driveway is on the south side of the house and is separated from the neighbors driveway by a strip that is about 6 feet wide and about 30 feet long. The neighbors are renters and neither the renters nor the owner make any attempt to improve their yard. The strip of land between us is the property of both houses, so could be divided right down the middle, leaving each side with a 3 foot strip, 30 feet long. I don't want to do that though.

The strip has become invaded by grass. It has poppies, hyacinths, peonies, lilacs and two black walnut trees. But the grass has made the area a mess. Last year we have put a soaker hose down the strip and the lilacs and peonies bloomed. I'd like to save what I can, but I don't see a way to get rid of all the grass. I cannot count on help with either the clean up or the maintenance of this piece and would like the result to be as maintenance-free as realistic.

What would you do with this space???

Thanks,

Diane

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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Muffin,

I think the easiest thing to dofor future careÂwould be to get rid of the grass and plant everything around the plants you want to keep with succulentsÂsedums, hen & chicks, and iceplant. IÂm assuming the area gets plenty of sun.

Getting rid of the grass wonÂt be easy, but if you donÂt do it, youÂll regret it laterÂyouÂll be fighting it forever, and once there are more plants in there that you want to keep, it will really be impossible to eradicate it. The quickest, easiest way to get rid of the grass that isnÂt right up against the existing good plants would be to carefully spray it with roundupÂon a totally windless day. Grass is actually fairly easy to kill with an herbicide. The stuff thatÂs growing into the existing plants would need to be weeded by hand, and the easiest way to do that would be to water the area well (or wait till it dries out enough after this storm) and then carefully dig/loosen the soil around and up to the plants and filter thru the soil to remove the grass and all the roots. If the soil is wet enough (but not soppy) and loosened up you can often carefully pull on bits of grass and be able to "follow" the rhizomes from place to place, getting out more than just the first little bit. Then wait a couple weeks to see what grows back from the roots you didnÂt get and do it againÂetc!

Once you get rid of the grass, putting in succulents could be fairly inexpensive if youÂre willing to give it a while to fill in. Since they spread, you can start some here and there and then either make cuttings from the original plants to start new ones to plant more area, or wait till they spread enough to dig up small divisions and replant them in the areas that havenÂt filled in. Succulents wonÂt need much water once theyÂre established, but theyÂll spread faster in the beginning if theyÂre watered when the soil is getting mostly dry.

Then once the area is established to how you want it, you could put in a drip line (on or close to the surface if you donÂt want to bury it all the way) with emitters at the plants that need more water. That way you could save a lot of water, but the succulents would still need to be watered sometimes to stay looking really good, especially during a hot, dry summer.

You might want to check out the swap thread! If you decide to come, I always bring succulent starts to give away. You could start a few of the small plants somewhere in May, even if itÂs not where theyÂre going to eventually wind up, then start taking cuttings of the sedums to start more plants as they grow, and by the time youÂre ready to plant "the strip" youÂd have something to start withÂfree! IÂll be bringing more to the fall swap, and I can usually bring a bunch of sedum cuttings to that swap tooÂand theyÂre VERY easy to startÂI include directions with the cuttings. Just a thoughtÂespecially since this yearÂs Spring Swap is gonna be in LONGMONT!
:-)

If you prefer some other type of groundcover besides succulentsÂor a mixture of taller and more varied plants, I can make more recommendations, but the succulents would need the least water.

Skybird

    Bookmark   March 23, 2010 at 8:06PM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

In my view, I want to consider how much time I'm going to spend.

If this were mine, I'd save what I wanted and then rip everything out and start with a blank slate. This saves a lot of time, which has a lot of monetary value (I pay myself $35/hr for labor, which loosely includes stress savings).

Just a thought.

Dan

    Bookmark   March 23, 2010 at 9:41PM
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windwhipped(Z4 WY)

I guess my first concern would be the black walnut trees. This is an awfully small space for trees that can grow quite big - and whose roots can spread far enough to impact both driveways. So my first suggestion would be to remove those and, if you really want no maintenance (or little maintenance 'cause I don't know of any garden that is no maintenance), I would move any of the other plants you want to keep and go for a more xeric selection. If you decide to go that direction, we'll be happy to give you a list of our favorite xeric perennials.

If you do decide you just want to spray away the grass, I'd recommend a product call Grass b Gon by Ortho. You can spray around the perennials and it will only kill the grass. It's been a lifesaver for me in certain spots. Unfortunately, it seemed to have disappeared last year, but I just found it on Amazon, so I think it should be back in stores this year.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2010 at 10:49PM
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powermuffin

Thanks for the input. I appreciate your thoughts. I probably will try the grass b gone, along with the hand weeding and I will try to save the bulbs. I know the peonies and the lilacs can be saved too. The walnut trees have been there for decades and are doing fine. The house is over 100 years old.

I'll check the swap thread, although I don't have anything to swap except weeds!
Diane

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 12:14PM
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david52_gw

What kinds of grasses are you trying to kill? Is it just Kentucky Blue Grass or some course grass? I tried that Grass b Gon on some of the brome grass around here, and it never phased it.

But I have had luck with Roundup - put on gloves, and separate out the grasses you want to kill, and pat them flat down on the ground. Spray the heck out of them with roundup. Move along to the next bit. By the time the squashed over grass gets back up again, the round up is dry and won't harm the other plants.

This is something you'll have to repeat now and again because seed blows in and all that. Pretty quick here is a good time to do it. The grass is green but the plants are not.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 2:25PM
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powermuffin

I don't know what kind of grass it is, but it gets very tall. I'll give both products a try. Thanks,
Diane

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 6:24PM
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autodidact

I think I'd save the peonies and the trees, and kill the rest of the grass as well as the other plants by solarizing or smothering it before putting in xeric perennials including groundcovers.

I love peonies, and I hear they won't stand transplanting. The rest seems more replaceable to me.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 3:54PM
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david52_gw

Let me comment a sec here on peonies. Everyone has the same idea that they're delicate lil' plants that won't stand transplanting.

Not so. They have a huge, tuberous root mass that can go quite deep. The recommendation is to dig and separate in the fall, and I tried that a few years back. Where once were two I now have 30. I lost maybe 2 or 3 plants. One batch I left in gal pots over the winter. The pots were full of roots in the spring.

So doen't hesitate when September rolls around.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 4:55PM
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conace55(z5 CO)

David, I've also had the same experience with peonies. My grandmother had one in her yard when I grew up and gave some of it to my mom. Many years later, my mom was moving and gave pieces to each of her daughters so that we could pass on the tradition. She lived in California and put them in a box and mailed them to me here in Colorado. Years later I moved; so I dug it up and divided a piece to take with me. The plant is now thriving in my east facing front yard. They are much tougher than you'd think.

Connie

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 6:49PM
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Beeone(4 N. Wyo.)

I would never cut down the black walnuts unless they presented a clear and present danger--but I like trees.

That said, the Grass B Gone should be just what you need. It will remove the grass little risk of damaging the "good" plants you have (walnuts, lilacs, and peonies will be immune to it). It might be hard on the hyacinths (just don't know), but if everything else can be saved, replanting new spring bulbs isn't that big a deal. Once you have removed the grass, consider spiffing it up a little by mulching bare areas with wood chips or bark to help keep weeds down. Then run a drip irrigation line to water just the plants you want to keep without having to sprinkle everything.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 2:53AM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

GrassBGone and such products are meant to kill monocots, and dicots should be unharmed. Plants in the lily family are monocots and as such should be protected from overspray from grass killing compounds.

BTW, if some of the grass is really fine like...um...young girls' hair, it is maiden hair grass (Stipa) and likely has a quadrillion seeds in the soil if watered. This will need special attention.

Dan

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 12:03PM
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