Making a flower bed

cwrkrJanuary 28, 2006

I have a new home and I am planning on adding flower beds around my house and deck. I know the general shape and size that I want but I don't know the best way to make the bed itself. Should I rent a sod cutter and remove the grass and then till it or would spraying roundup and then tilling do the trick? Maybe just tilling? Any other ideas? The weather has been so warm this winter that I am starting to plan early. Thanks!!

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I would recommend to kill the grass off and then till it up. You can amend it if needed at the same time. Just tilling or sodcutting will not get rid of the grass - which is a pain to get out later. IMHO

    Bookmark   January 28, 2006 at 7:58PM
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How big is your flower bed. I love my half moon edger. You can take out the sod pretty quickly and add it to you compost pile. I unfortunately cannot bring myself to use chemicals despite knowing that round up is not all that bad.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2006 at 10:38AM
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Check out the compost forum and search lasagna beds. No grass to dig up. Basically you put down wet newspaper or really wet cardboard and then dig along the edge of the bed and throw that on the cardboard in the middle. Then you add layers of grass clippings, and dirt etc like you are doing a compost pile. Normally you do this in fall, and by spring you have a bed that is very fertile. However, you can do it and plant right away. Not sure I explained it very well, but do a search. There is plenty of postings about it.


    Bookmark   January 29, 2006 at 8:38PM
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Like Lee said, the lasagna method is great. I've done 3 of my gardens that way. I did use Roundup first though to kill the grass. I made these gardens this way because when the different utility companies came over to outline where their lines were, they were where I wanted to have some gardens. So this no dig method was great. You aren't supposed to dig below so many inches when you have lines beneath. After having these gardens for several years now, I can dig several inches below the ground, but I don't dig too deep because of the lines. Two out of the 3 I started in early Spring and the plants I put in that Spring did just fine. Over the years mine have settled some, but they are still a little raised. I have added grass clippings and leaves to them each Spring. We have a lot of clay where I live and this kind of gardening is much easier on the back then having to dig and amend the clay.
Whatever way you do it, have fun and enjoy!!


    Bookmark   January 31, 2006 at 5:00AM
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I agree, Lasagna method is great. If you just have regular bluegrass or other lawn grass growing it will be fine. If you do have any quack grass or other perenial weeds in the area however, its best to get rid of them first. I made this mistake with my moon garden when I moved here 3 1/2 years ago. Now I'm ripping the whole thing out and starting over.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2006 at 3:43PM
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I'd suggest lasagna gardening also. I've done 4 beds lasagna-style and you can't beat it IMHO for recycling and creating rich, beautiful soil. Plus the newspapers/cardboard boxes/seed catalogs which are placed directly on the sod encourage earthworms.
The farmer's term for it is "sheet composting".

    Bookmark   February 2, 2006 at 8:50PM
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I love this post. I want to plant some grasses around that ugly utility box. Is it unreal that every back yard seems to have one. This is just a great way to plant around them. It is a shame about quack grass though. I hate that stuff and I've got planty of it.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2006 at 11:12PM
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Hi tootswisc,
Be careful which grasses you plant around the utility box. We had "pompas grass" around it at the old place. It was like quack grass on steroids. Started out as a 4 ft patch and grew to be 30x30 in 7 years, threatened to take over the deck as well as flower beds in it's path. The power co was not too happy with it either. We finally had it removed by back hoe. You want clumping type grasses, not running types.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2006 at 9:49AM
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Thank you for the "lasagna" method. Since it looks like I will be getting a late start I am kind of leading towards using round-up and then tilling.

I was thinking of spraying the grass this winter since there is no snow to be found and hopefully by spring the grass will be dead and ready for tiling.

Thanks again for the great responses!!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2006 at 10:24AM
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If you want to use Roundup, the temps have to be, I think, above 50, at least. The grass has to be growing. I've done a couple of lasagna gardens in early Spring and I planted in late May. No problems. There are instructions on Roundup that tell you how long you have to wait to plant things. It's not long. When I use Roundup, I 'paint' the grass with an old paint brush. I never spray it. It says to spray on calm days, well here we don't have many calm days. I've found that using a paint brush is much easier. I use different size brushes depending on what I want size area I use it on. Just remember, grass grows well where ever you don't want it to grow. I use small brushes for inside my gardens and the large ones for large areas. I still have the worms in my gardens and the other good insects and bugs after using Roundup.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2006 at 5:08AM
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I have a few thoughts on making flower beds. First, if you have a lot of perennial weeds, rototilling will grind up the roots which will give you many tiny new weed plants.
Also, rototilling grinds up the first 8 inches or so. Ok for vegetables, but if you have very heavy soil, you will have loose soil on top and hard soil below where water can pool. This can be deadly for some perennials.

The layering method, it is the easiest method, and you will need a decent amount of mulch to cover the paper. Mow the grass as low as possible, you really don't need Roundup if you use plenty of paper. The problem some people find with the layer method, whether you roundup or use paper, is that you will have somewhat of a raised bed. You will have to keep an eye on any grass that may creep into the area where the paper was removed.

I've done both ways and found that I had a lot less weed problems when I removed the sod. I also have room to add organic matter to the soil and top with plenty of mulch.

It's a matter of personal preference.

What is your soil like? Is it real heavy?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2006 at 12:51PM
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Since I just moved I can only guess on the soil. I would say that it is heavy. Sod removal is a good option. I have a rather large area. I want to create beds around my home for perennials, shrubs etc. There is a ton of great information here. That you for all of your thoughts.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2006 at 11:29AM
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led_zep_rules(5 WI)

Last year I had a new raised lasagna bed, started the previous fall, and one from the year before that. But I also made 2 news ones last spring, and started planting in them after a few weeks, basically as soon as I had plants that needed a home. I grew vegies and flowers in them, they did fine, and were not built until April. The last one was built in late April, and I got the most tomatoes from the plants in that one! The composting of the materials keeps the beds warm, and of course gives the plants compost to grow in.

Various people gave me materials (one new one is framed with wood, like the first two, and the other is surrounded by concrete bricks) for the frame. I put down cardboard first, wood chips, lots of fruit scraps, horse manure, OPBL (other people's bagged leaves), more fruit scraps, and some actual soil on the top from a pile I have in my yard. Everything was free, and no chemicals are used. The cardboard and all the layers of stuff smothers everything below it, no need to poison your yard or till anything. It is important to put the cardboard down in a slightly larger area than your bed, so that it sticks out from the framework. Otherwise the weeds next to it will sneak right in. Putting wood chips around the outside of the beds helps keep the weeds away, too.

Most parts of WI you can get free wood chips and manure someplace. Some people actually are tidy enough to rake their leaves again in the spring, I brought home a lot of bags of leaves when I went into Milwaukee a couple times last spring. So you should be able to find them someplace, too. I like OPBL, easier than raking my own . . .

Marcia, who likes free gardening the best

    Bookmark   April 2, 2006 at 1:15AM
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The herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) is 100 times more toxic to fish than people, toxic to earthworms, soil bacteria and beneficial fungi in the soil.
A 1996 study of roundup (glyphosate) revealed evidence of lung damage, heart palpitations, nausea, reproductive problems, chromosone aberrations and numerous other effects of exposure to Roundup Herbicide.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 3:03PM
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led_zep_rules(5 WI)

Thank you for posting that, I was just arguing with a fellow who was trying to tell me how harmless Roundup is. Once about 20 years ago, knowing that my lawn looked sort of crappy, I contemplated buying a bag of Weed 'n' Feed. I read all the small print on the back, and was horrified to read something like: 'can be toxic to birds and insects, especially toxic to fish and bees.' Sure wasn't going to put THAT on my lawn. Was from a family of mostly organic gardeners, but was even more determined to be so after reading that. Horrifying how many people think that if you can buy something at the store it must be safe.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 1:42AM
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I've used Roundup when making my gardens and I have a lot of worms in them. Never had a problem. When Roundup goes into the soil it breaks down. Personally, I would rather use Roundup to get rid of weeds than the Weed n Feed stuff. It just depends on where you get your info from. I've tried it, and I still have the bugs and worms in my soil.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 4:57AM
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led_zep_rules(5 WI)

Roundup might be called for when killing poison ivy or something that actually hurts you. But to remove some grass, why use something unhealthy like Roundup when there are much safer options like smothering with cardboard?

Years ago my normally organic brother sprayed Roundup extensively on numerous patches of poison ivy in my mom's huge yard while visiting her. Shortly thereafter he had to spend several days in the hospital, he had something terribly wrong with his liver. I just did a Google on 'Roundup liver damage' and got about 179,000 hits. So I think the "Roundup can poison you" info will be found in a large variety of places! Just one piece of data: CaliforniaƂs Department of Pesticide Regulation finds that glyphosate ranks first among herbicides as the highest causes of pesticide-induced illness or injury to people in California.

I have made 8 different raised beds in the past 5 years. Never had a problem with weeds coming up through them. The weed problem was mainly quack grass sneaking under the sides and coming up right on the edges. That can be solved by laying cardboard in an area larger than the raised bed.


Here is a link that might be useful: lots of data on Roundup

    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 4:04AM
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sprout_wi(z4 WI)

I use a kind of modified lasagna gardening. I dig a hole in the sod and plant. Then I lay a thick pad of newspapers around the plant and mulch over it with cedar chip mulch. I do use Roundup for whatever pops up. I, too have lots of worms, bees, birds, etc.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 9:28PM
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