Monday, June 02, 2008

Revamping a Garden Bed

What do you do when you have too much soil?


After having filled both of the raised beds in back and topping off the first raised bed, Eric still had a huge pile of soil left in front of the house.
Not quite as huge pile of soil.

Perhaps the supplier gave us too much. Or perhaps all that was put into the beds still needs to settle and we'll find ourselves with beds that are only half full next year. Either way, there was a pile of soil without a home that had to get moved ASAP!

Being a crazy Power Gardener, I always have plans in my head for weeding this, starting that, planting here or there. So as it turned out, I already had a plan in mind to revamp the flowerbed beneath my cherry tree for later this summer, if I had time. Well, I guess the time was now since that soil had to moved before we received a ticket. First, though, we had to remove the existing vegetation.

Gentlemen, start your engines!
The end of the daisy bed.

Hundreds of daisies screamed in terror and were quickly silenced. Please don't cry! They've gone to a better place! A place where a better gardener would have weeded around them far more frequently that I.

Next I had to find a weed barrier to put down. After my previous experience with weed barriers, I'm here to tell you that if you actually want your plants to naturalize and spread, you really don't want to use plastic or woven weed barriers. Instead, you want something that will smother the existing weeds and prevent them from popping up before your desired plants have grown up enough, yet will break down and allow your plants to spread. The one thing that I can think of that will break down over the course of a year and yet act as a weed barrier initially is newspaper.

Except that I didn't have any.


Time to improvise again!

I scoured the house for every paper bag I could find.
Soaking the soon-to-be weed barrier.

It wasn't enough.

I called my friend and my in-laws, but couldn't reach them.

Thinking fast, I wracked my brain for what else I might have that could stand in for newspaper...

Phone books!

I don't know about you, but we're constantly bombarded with new phone books. We don't even use them anymore, so we recycle them almost as soon as we receive them and have even signed up to stop having them delivered. (See this link to find out more at Crunchy Domestic Goddess, if you, too, want to get rid of your telephone books.) Turns out I had a few left. They would have to do. I broke out my trusty cutter, sliced the pages out, soaked them and spread them around.
Look under "G" for Garden Supplies for Crazy People.

Was it pretty? No. However, it would soon be covered by soil. Yes, you can see some of the paper bags on the edge closest to the camera in the above shot, but it will break down over time and even better than that? It will be covered in flowers. You won't even know that there are bags and pages under there once the flowers get going.

Sweeping up the very last of the six cubic yards.

Piles and piles of soil! Oh my!

Tomorrow I'll rake it smooth (But not level since we're on a slope.), lay out some stepping stones, toss several dozen plants I just happen to have on hand into it (Russian stonecrop, Goldenrod, Agastache, Chinese asters, Jasmine alata, Portulaca, possibly some scarlet zinnias and Bluebeard caryopteris.), purchase some mulch to throw on top and I'll have an all new garden bed.

Just when you think it's safe to go back outside, I find another gardening project. Or should I say, another gardening project finds me!

Updated to remove Gardening Challenge label. This isn't the GC post. The next post is the GC post!


Margaret said...

from a lurker

who has flower beds

with horrible weeds -

Do I have this right? weed the flower bed. Lay down newspaper that has soaked and then lay down fresh dirt/mulch?

Will that kill the weeds forever or just until the next season and the paper disintegrates?

Just curious...

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Hello Margaret, my lurky lurker!

No, actually, I didn't weed at ALL. Instead, we mowed the whole thing down, weeds and all, then soaked the paper and laid it down in THICK stacks (10 or more sheets thick) and then tossed several inches/feet of soil over top.

This may not kill off the most horrible of weeds, but it will give your new plants a serious fighting chance and will either a) smother the weeds permanently or until you decide to rototill the bed up, pulling weed seeds to the top layer or b) force the weeds to expend so much energy to reach the light that they are easy to pull once they get there.

If you decide to weed FIRST, you guarantee that those weeds won't be coming back. However, I was in a hurry and was seriously cutting corners.


Lazy way: mow everything down, soak your huge pile of newspaper, lay it on thick, then add several inches of topsoil enriched with compost (Seriously: compost ROCKS!), plug in your plants and mulch.

Tougher way: weed first, then do everything else listed above.

I will, of course, keep the blog updated with assorted pictures over time. Feel free to mock me if my method fails miserably! : ) At the very least, it can't hurt to start over. Seeds are cheap and gardening is all about time, anyway.

Good luck and thanks for reading!

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Oh, I assume you didn't want to keep ANY of the flowers in the bed.

If you do, dig those up first, then proceed with wild abandon!

I actually did that previously, here.

Margaret said...

Thank you for your notes back!

Long story short, there are a few azaleas (sp??) that we would like to keep as well as some 4 year old oak trees.

Can we just leave some space around them to allow for them to live? or will they die too?

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