How do I reboot my garden?
August 20, 2007 9:32 AM   Subscribe

My garden has been overtaken by weeds and ribbon grass, how can I start over?

In the past, my garden has been filled with sunflowers, daisies, poppies, and was a pleasure to see every day. However, each year, more and more weeds have been creeping into it and it has gotten to the point where ragweeds and ribbon grass are overwhelming the flowers. How do I start my garden over?

If at all possible, I want to avoid using Roundup-- are there any environmentally friendly methods of starting fresh?
posted by perpetualstroll to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Cover the whole thing with black plastic. It will take about a month or so, but most people just leave it over the winter. The heat and lack of sunlight will kill all the weeds and most of the weed seeds as well.
posted by caddis at 9:36 AM on August 20, 2007

You can buy landscape fabric that is permeable to water but not weeds. You can cut holes or slits for the plants you want to grow.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:48 AM on August 20, 2007

I would do the black plastic thing too, but I've heard of my crunchier friends doing the same with *lots* of cardboard. That is, paving over the garden to kill everything underneath. I'm skeptical that you would get the sterilizing action of a few days with the sun beating on that black plastic if you were using the cardboard, though.

In the spring, pull up the plastic, rent a tiller, and plough under all the weed-remnants. They should be rotten enough to be composted directy. If they aren't, rake them off and pop them into your compost pile for later.
posted by janell at 10:51 AM on August 20, 2007

Thirding the black plastic - this will kill off pretty much everything, unless you have those nasty virginia weeds that like to rhizome around under the earth - they might require digging up even after a winter's baking under plastic. If you need to dig up really persistent weeds, you could try the ridiculously named but very handy Action Hoe. You could find this useful for stubborn grass. It's the best tool in my arsenal.

Alternatively, if you want to try & salvage some of your existing flowers (e.g. established clusters that have filled out; I'm kind of sentimental about watching the same ones spring up magically every year) you could also try a good, heavy mulching. Put down 1-2 inches of good-quality mulch over the winter. This will prevent your weeds from spreading through seed, while feeding your flowers. As weeds come up in the spring, pull them out - you'll find they come up much easier because they can't get purchase in the mulch.
posted by media_itoku at 10:57 AM on August 20, 2007

If you don't want black plastic, you have an alternate: newspaper. ... Put down full spreads, leaving no gaps, and then put down a heavy spread of mulch. This will also kill everything in a season, and be much more attractive. Spend the winter plotting out the space, then till everything in the spring (adding compost or other amendments) and plant happily.
posted by Arch1 at 12:06 PM on August 20, 2007

I just expanded my flower beds using the sheet mulching method. Here's what I did:

-mowed the grass really short
-watered heavily
-spread a thin layer of used coffee grinds
-watered heavily
-put down a layer of cardboard
-watered heavily (getting the idea? it's supposed to help with decomposition)
- put down a mix of leaf compost, black earth and peat moss
-watered heavily

I'll be putting down a layer of mulch on top of this once I've decided what type I want. So far, I'm leaning towards shredded cedar mulch. I'm not putting in anything until next spring when I will spread a layer of aged sheep manure.
posted by KathyK at 12:16 PM on August 20, 2007

Recent related question. Personally, I think the only place roundup has (if any) is eradicating weeds between cracks etc.

Once you've implemented your program for a fresh start don't neglect pulling and cultivation with hand tools. A modest investment of time regularly yields great results and is good exercise as well.
posted by nanojath at 12:41 PM on August 20, 2007

Here's the old fashioned method from before they invented that new fangled plastic stuff:

Till the garden under completely in the fall (you can add compost, manure and fertilizer at that time too), then sow it with buckwheat. In the spring as the young buckwheat comes up it chokes out the weed seeds. Before the buckwheat matures and goes to seed (conveniently at the right time to turn the soil for garden prep anyway) turn the soil again, once again adding compost, manure and fertilizer and turning the buckwheat under (adding more mulch). Then plant away at the right time.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:22 PM on August 20, 2007

I've been pouring white vinegar on the crack-weeds and find it kills them just as well as Roundup did last year.

I'm taking notes on the mulching techniques described here; thanks.
posted by Riverine at 6:13 PM on August 20, 2007

(Aside -- I pour a kettle or two of boiling water on the crack-weeds, and it doesn't make the outside smell like a salad. :)

I've also used the vinegar method, but lately I enjoy boiling weeds.)
posted by Savannah at 8:35 PM on August 20, 2007

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