How do I get rid of a large area of weeds?
July 28, 2006 11:02 AM   Subscribe

I have a flower bed in the backyard that has become a weed bed due to gross neglect and needs to be tamed . . .

The weeds have grown to mammoth proportions; some are over four feet high. The space they're growing in was supposed to be a flower bed (about 20' x 4'), but the previous renters let it go to seed and we never did anything about it. Now we're moving and we need to annihilate them. These are Texas weeds, born and bred in the hot Southern sun. What's the best way of removing them? The fastest? The easiest?
posted by vraxoin to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Soak it, then lay down black plastic. Allow it to bake in the sun for a few weeks until everything is very dead. Replant.
posted by Good Brain at 11:12 AM on July 28, 2006

Roundup will kill them off and a scythe will knock them down.
posted by Mitheral at 11:14 AM on July 28, 2006

Best answer: Hard work.

There are a couple of different ways to do this. You're going to need good gloves, water, a mattock and/or shovel, and a rake.

Pull up the large bits, as much as you can. The height can work to your advantage, giving you a better grip on 'em. Then you can either manually pull everything out or take a mattock or other tool and till up everything about three, four inches down, sifting out as much of the plant matter as you can. Depending on how bad the dirt and how packed in everything is, the digging option might be easier.

Wetting the dirt or going in after a heavy rainstorm will loosen the soil and make everything a helluva lot easier.

After all that, you should probably spray the entire area with Round-Up to kill off the remaining weeds.

Now, if your soil is good just put down an inch or two mulch and you're good to go. If it sucks, after tilling lay down 8-10 sheets of black-and-white newspaper, get that good and soaked, then put down about five inches of mulch, compost, or topsoil. The newspaper kills off weeds and as it decomposes the black ink adds nitrogen to the soil. The downside is you have to wait until spring for the newspaper to decompose and the bed to be truly ready--you can dig through the paper, but it's a pain in the ass.
posted by Anonymous at 11:18 AM on July 28, 2006

If you are the environmental type horticultural vinegar will kill then quickly too. Don't use grocery store vinegar, it's too dilute. You need the 15% stuff from a garden store.
posted by COD at 11:29 AM on July 28, 2006

I had a great-uncle who had a huge (.25 acre) vegetable garden in pristine condition. At the time I was struggling to maintain a much smaller garden myself.

One day I asked him how he managed to keep the weeds down. He bent down and plucked up a tiny weed then said, "Do that every day."

It sounds simple but the truth is that we spray, put down plastic, throw all sorts of expensive solutions at a problem that only requires a small amount of daily attention.
posted by trinity8-director at 1:01 PM on July 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

I've said mentioned this before, but there are often youth organizations looking for fund raising activities like this during the summer. Hire a couple young teens to pull out all the weeds and till the soil. Pay 'em 50 bucks a head and help them pay for summer camp or whatever.
posted by muddgirl at 1:31 PM on July 28, 2006

The landscaper who recently worked on our neighbor's yard here in Galveston used an application of weed-killer, waited two weeks, did it again, waited another two weeks, then started working the soil, planting the garden, and laying sod. It worked well for almost all of their "Texas-sized" weeds, although there was one so-called "trash tree" that had to be cut down.
posted by Robert Angelo at 3:27 PM on July 28, 2006

Use the Santa Clause method.
posted by leafwoman at 3:58 PM on July 28, 2006

Santa Claus... I hate not being able to edit.
posted by leafwoman at 3:59 PM on July 28, 2006

The fastest, easiest way to clear them is a controlled burn, if this is permitted in your area, and the patch is not attached to the house. Basically, you water the "bed" heavily a couple of days in advance, let the summer sun dry the vegetation, use a bug sprayer to soak small areas of the foliage with kerosene, and burn it a few square yards at a time. Standing by with a garden hose, and maybe some CO2 extinguishers is a good idea, but if you don't go hog wild with the kerosene, and don't get kerosene on the ground, and keep the burn area to a couple of square yards at a time, you shouldn't have much trouble controlling it. Check with your county, or municipal authorities to see if outside burning is allowed, and if it is, if you have to pull a permit to do it, as regulations vary by locale.

Another way to do it, without any burning, is to rent a DR Field & Brush mower for 1/2 day. Check with lawn mower dealers, or rental equipment places in your area. If you go over it several times, you may get the brush chopped up enough to rake and bag for hauling off by whoever handles lawn debris in your area.
posted by paulsc at 6:17 PM on July 28, 2006

posted by trii at 4:51 PM on July 29, 2006

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