established flower bed that's too dry

jwc1980August 29, 2012

I have a flowerbed along the back of my yard that is approximately 3'x100'. It's bordered in the back by a picket fence and behind that is a large treeline. It receives sun through the morning until about 2 PM. Ideally I would like to have colorful wildflowers and anything to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

The problem is the trees absorb all of the available moisture, while the rest of the yard can be green this area dries out quickly. Our summers can be brutal, for instance this June even the Black Eyed Susans in the bed dried up. My question is is there anything I can do to the soil to alleviate or at least help the plants? What plants would you suggest I add? How would you water this bed? I currently use a soaker hose but sometimes feel it's a waste.

As you can see by the picture I let it get out of hand this year and the bermuda grass took over (any advice for getting rid of that will be much appreciated as well).

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Mulch is important to retain moisture and improve the soil as well. Replenish it every year as it degrades. Don't use the colored ones, just basic pine straw or ground up bark.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 8:42PM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

You're right, the trees behind the fence are drawing up the available water.

If you have a bermuda lawn, you'll always have bermuda in the bed.

What you might try next spring is setting out big planting pots on low pedestals of varying heights. Running a solid irrigation line with individual feeder lines (water)to each pot. Big pots might want two.
Then plant a ground cover underneath leaving spots for you to put walk stones.

This kind of elevated planting and direct watering to the pots will deprive the trees competing for water and once the ground cover (it can be as simple as decorative purple sweet potato plants mixed with maybe pachysandra or some other green that blocks out light from the wandering bermuda).
Mulch is good but not too deep and not pine straw. Ground bark is good but collar it at the bed edge to keep it from floating away. A thin collar of well packed pine straw works well and catches blown lawn clippings without looking messy.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 9:14AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

All of my beds are in close proximity to giant trees also, so I feel your frustrations. If you're willing to irrigate, you should be able to grow lots things there. I would go for larger, shrubby plants that don't need as much coddling and are more able to compete with tree roots, shouldn't need supplemental water past the first summer. The more you water the area, the more the tree roots will like it and grow there. I like long-bloomers like roses, butterfly bush, Lantana, interesting foliage like Sedum, supplement with annual seeds, like Zinnias, or whatever strikes your fancy each spring - big plants you can see from your windows, or wherever you most often view this spot. You would have butterflies all summer, too, visiting the BB's, Lantana & Zinnias.

It's easier to smother grass around (and add mulch around) taller plants with one main trunk/stem. A huge area like that can cost a lot to cover with new mulch often, so I would definitely supplement that with lawnmower-shredded leaves in the fall, and cut grass whenever possible.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 11:54AM
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I battle bermuda in my's a big job, but do dig it out, bag and dispose of all pieces. If you do this now, you'll have far less problems in the future. Then keep after it when more bermuda JUST BEGINS to creep in.

As to root competition, that's a hard one. You could root prune behind the fence line. Do this when the soil is moist. And redo it at least a couple of times a year. Your bed has the potential of being fabulous.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 4:23PM
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