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Help! Overgrown rock 'mulch'

Posted by newbiegardener101 5 (My Page) on
Wed, Feb 22, 12 at 10:22

When we moved in four years ago, our house had an area about 20 ft by 10 ft that was covered in 1-2' stone. There were some bushes and one pine tree planted within that area. Since then, it has been a constant battle to maintain the stone. (I thought stone was supposed to be maintenance free!) Weeds have constantly been coming up between the stones and the pine tree is always dropping its cones and needles onto the stone. This spring, we want to renovate the area and get it looking clean and weed-free again. I'd like advice for the best way to go about this. Over the years, the stones have sunk into the ground several inches. In order to completely remove the stone and lay down new stone or dirt, we would need to dig down several inches... very labor intensive. Another thought was to cover the existing stone with landscaping fabric, then put new stone on top of that. We also considered weeding the area thoroughly, then just trying to use weed killer to keep the weeds out (no new stone). I don't like this idea because we would probably need to douse the entire area with weed killer on a regular basis and I'm not crazy about using so many chemicals. What would you suggest as the easiest or most economical remedy to this situation?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Help! Overgrown rock 'mulch'

It is pretty hard to get rid of the weeds in such a area. All the organic matter falling on it and probably even some soil run-off from surrounding area provide just the right environment for weeds. There is no competition from any other plants. Landscape fabric and new stones is again a temporary solution since it will again fill with organic matter.

Our neighbor has exactly the same thing you are talking about but they do not bother to ever weed it. So in my interest I weed that area since it is adjacent to my garden. This is what I have done:

Carefully remove all the weeds along with the roots. Keep doing this throughout the season. Then keep sticking in some competitor such as sweet woodruff and a variegated ivy. It is the third year now and about half of it is taken over by ivy and woodruff. It looks very pretty especially when the woodruff flowers in early summer. I check the area every few weeks and remove all the weeds by hand. These new weeds do not stand much chance in the already covered area but pop up in the still open area.

I never use any chemicals in my garden. Now there is barely any weed and I watch it like a hawk.


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RE: Help! Overgrown rock 'mulch'

  • Posted by botann z8 SEof Seattle (My Page) on
    Fri, Feb 24, 12 at 12:33

Sweet Woodruff and variegated Ivy are two of the most obnoxious weeds in my garden. Maybe different in other parts of the country though. The Ivy reverted back to normal English Ivy and has gone rampant. I started with half a handful of Sweet Woodruff mixed with an Ajuga plant. (They bloom the same time) The Ajuga is fine, but the Sweet Woodruff pops up all over, especially where I don't want it.
Both are too vigorous for a Rock Garden.
Mike


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RE: Help! Overgrown rock 'mulch'

The one thing to remember about weeding is timing. You want to be sure to pull the weeds before they are able to set new seed. Keep eliminating the plants on a daily basis that look like the flowers are over or for grasses once any kind of growth rises from the grass plant, like foxtails.
Also to help protect the area you may want to eliminate all weeds in the surrounding area, if possible, to minimize invasion.
As you did not mention if the site is exposed to sun all day, I would recommend that you plant low growing but spreading shrubs in among the rocks or just drop plant with pot into an opening in the rocks. I prefer Lupinus, Salvia or other sage species as some have some allelopathic properties and this could retard some herbaceous seeds from germinating.


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RE: Help! Overgrown rock 'mulch'

Sweet Woodruff and variegated Ivy are two of the most obnoxious weeds in my garden. Maybe different in other parts of the country though. The Ivy reverted back to normal English Ivy and has gone rampant. I started with half a handful of Sweet Woodruff mixed with an Ajuga plant. (They bloom the same time) The Ajuga is fine, but the Sweet Woodruff pops up all over, especially where I don't want it.
Both are too vigorous for a Rock Garden.

Botann - I do not mean to put you down but here are my thoughts regarding your statement.

Indeed sweet woodruff can be considered invasive but they are easy to take out since they grow as a shallow rooted mat and they can grow in shady dry areas. I have them and I have never seen it to be a problem compared to say dandelions. In fact, I rarely see it growing around my plants. I do find them finding home in cracks in stone and other such difficult places. It could be that in our zone (6b) it is not as invasive. Some garden books recommend woodruff to prevent other weeds. After all it takes a weed to control other weeds - LOL.

Variegated ivy is a slow grower and I have yet to see them transform themselves to an english ivy. I have had them for 15 years and have not experienced any problems with them. They do send out longer roots that can be hard to take out. Our neighbor has another area with english ivy and I agree it is quite obnoxious.

The OP has two options: One to redo the place and leave it as a 'rock mulch' area but expect to start weeding at some point in the future or to weed well and plant some desirable competitor to keep bulk of the weeds out. In both cases some weeding will be needed.

And as terrestial_man said in order to control weed you have to go beyond your target area and keep things at bay. That is why i weed my neighbors in my self interest. Nowadays I may be pull out a bucket full of weeds in the entire season from my own garden (about 3500 sq. ft)


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Overgrown rock 'mulch'

  • Posted by botann z8 SEof Seattle (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 28, 12 at 10:43

Tropicofcancer, I'm dealing with 10 hilly acres with 12 ponds that I have gardened on for 35 years. A lot of different environments. I'm well aware of fighting weeds with weeds. It's all a matter of scale.
I have a few Dandelions around, but they are not much of a problem. I do say that Sweet Woodruff and Ivy are too vigorous and not appropriate for a Rock Garden.

The OP is trying to have a clean rock mulch under a Pine tree. Not practical in my opinion. I personally like the look of Pine needles as a mulch. I grew up in Ponderosa Pine country.
Mike

Here is a link that might be useful: My garden


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RE: Help! Overgrown rock 'mulch'

Botann, Your garden is absolutely fantastic. Someday I would like to have something like that. Hats off to you.

I guess in my urban setting and tiny garden those do not seem as invasive. I do agree maintaining a rock mulch is not practical.

In one small experimental area I put down landscape fabric with about 3-4 inches of small limestone gravel. There is no weed there. May be a few stray dandelions and sometimes a few rose of sharon from neighbors garden. May be because it is very alkaline there.


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RE: Help! Overgrown rock 'mulch'

Sounds like you would like stamp collecting better


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RE: Help! Overgrown rock 'mulch'

"the easiest or most economical remedy"

Remove the stone and the (likely) weed fabric below it and mulch heavily. Do not put a weed fabric below the new mulch. It will only have weeds growing through it that are even harder to pull later. Weed fabric also eventually clogs and water and nutrients will not pass through it creating a dead zone underneath. Put a 10 sheet layer of newspaper under the mulch and it will kill most weeds. What weeds do show up later will be easily pulled.

You mention a nearby pine, how much sun does the area get and where in zone 5 are you?

tj


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