Author Topic: Landscaping help  (Read 3190 times)


  • Stubble
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Landscaping help
« on: May 19, 2013, 12:50:13 PM »
Any green thumbs out there?    I am a self admitted black thumb, and working on it, but am clueless about landscaping. 

Here's the problem:  Moved into current home this past December.  There was some type of landscaping already done, nothing major, and could tell there were things planted that come up every year.  (I'm forever forgetting it they are perennials, biannuals, etc.)   There was evidence of a barrier planted under the landscaping.  Now, things are growing and greening up, along with grass in said landscaping.  Had someone tell me to mulch the crap out of it, so 12 bags of mulch later, I thought it would choke them out.  Wrong. 

Okay, so short of spending every waking moment on days off pulling grass by hand or digging up the entire thing, is there something else I can try?   Mustachian, that is.   And yes, I have threatened to kill it all and plant fake plants, much to the hilarity of anyone lucky enough to hear my brilliant plan.  Have one side under control and nice, have a raised bed looking nice.  The last one is the biggest and runs the almost the entire length of the front of my house (and it's rectangular in shape, yee).   The grass growing in it looks sad.  Especially considering the house was vacant for a whole year, there is grass burrs I'm having to kill off and where the yard should have nice looking grass, it has a lot of dead weeds, lol.    (was trying to paint an accurate picture :D   )



  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Landscaping help
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2013, 01:13:33 PM »
1.  Any solution you go with, you'll end up weeding a little bit.  The goal is just to minimize weeding as much as possible. 
2. Watch this episode of ask this old house, Roger is the expert on landscaping:

One of the problems is that most mulch breaks down, and makes a perfect growing medium for weeds.

Here is what I do and it works pretty good for me.  It's pretty labor intensive, but my beds look great.
1. Cut in a nice line from the grass using a shovel or edger.
2. Get rid of all the old mulch & loose crap from the bed. 
3. At this point, you could put down landscape fabric.  Honestly, I've tried it both ways and it really doesn't make THAT much of a difference.
4. Put in 2-3 inches of mulch.   
5. At this point, you could also put down preen or some type of weed preventing chemicals.  If you skip this, you'll still get a few weeds, but it will definitely be a manageable amount of weeds at this point.
6.  Edge it every couple of times you mow with a string trimmer to keep the grass from growing into your bed.
7.  Next year, you might be able to get away with throwing down 1-2" of mulch, the year after you'll have to take it all up and do it again.

I'd be happy to answer any questions.


  • Bristles
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Re: Landscaping help
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2013, 03:24:38 PM »
I have found that putting layer of cardboard under the mulch is incredibly effective. Or even two layers. I have also used old towels, sheets, newspaper etc. but cardboard is my favorite. It's thick enough that it doesn't break down very quickly. Weeds can't get through. Plus, cardboard is free. Go to a local grocery store or neighborhood market and they are usually more than happy for you to take it off their hands.


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Landscaping help
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2013, 09:06:36 PM »
I use no chemicals. I eat dandelion leaves for one, and I would not want to eat them if they were covered in chemicals. That is quite frugal. =-)

We have zoysia grass, which is the perfect grass for the frugal. It grows slowly, looks like a carpet, and grows so closely that it leaves no room for weeds. I have a great lawn, which I never water and never weed. Yay!

At the start of every summer, I weed the flower beds. The veggie gardens hardly get weeds (will tell you why in a second). After I'm done weeding--and, boy, are there some invasive plants out there!--I cover with mulch and rocks we gathered from the beach (free decoration, which I can return to the Earth when I die!).

The mulch, as you probably know, smothers the weeds. Some will still come up, so you'll have to pluck them out. When you pull, try not to scatter seeds around. There's this one plant that is designed to scatter seeds EVERYWHERE when you pull it out. Sigh. You can't do much about that one. That weed was terrible last year, but another weed is taking top billing this year.

For the veggie garden, I plant lettuce--for instance--close together. When the plants grow to full size, they lightly touch each other. This helps the soil retain moisture while not allowing light to the weeds that might grow below.

You could try putting newspaper down instead of netting and then put mulch on top of that. I do that in the veggie garden, and it works well.

Annuals generally do not come back. If you see plants coming back, they are perennials. =-)

Except....I have two "magic" annuals. They are not supposed to come back again and they do. It's wonderful. One is an impatiens and the other is a daisy. Remarkable plants.

Plants that are bulbs often need to be thinned. You can sometimes find people giving away these plants on freecycle. I recommend checking that out. Just be sure you're not getting an invasive you don't want. Mint, for instance, puts out runners. I am happy to have mint grow anywhere it wants, but that would drive other people insane. Greek oregano is another great plant. Smells great, is edible, and will grow most anywhere.


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Landscaping help
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2013, 11:05:12 PM »
For any question regarding landscaping or gardening, you need to tell us where you live.  What makes sense in Boston probably won't work in Phoenix.

For the grass in flowerbeds problem, the first think to look at is whether the grass is seeding or spreading by runners.  That is, when you pull up a bit, does it come out with a few roots dangling, or is there a long root running back towards the lawn area? 

Hereabouts (northern Nevada) most lawn grasses don't spread by seed unless you leave them unmowed, though you will get some foxtails & cheat grass (nasty weeds, but easy to pull up).  Worse is lawn grass that spreads its runners into the beds.  The only solution I've found is a barrier.  The lawn edging sold in Home Depot &c isn't worth crap, though.  The runners will go under, and through the holes the manufacturers put in the rolls.  I use old vinyl siding, which is about a foot wide, which so far seems to keep things under control.


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Landscaping help
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2013, 08:33:01 AM »
A timely post, as we just spent the weekend hauling trailer loads of mulch and de-weeding our beds.  It does feel like a losing battle much of the time and I struggle with the general pointlessness of it all, having grown up in a lower-income neighborhood in TX where there just weren't the same expectations regarding yard maintenance, and you really couldn't get much to grow there anyway if you tried.  I was entirely unfamiliar with the whole concept of mulch growing up and still feel it is vaguely silly to attempt to manicure nature.  This is the first year we've tried mulching, since our place was over-landscaped when we bought it and had been neglected for some time.  In years prior to this, we've been focused on clearing out some of the excess, but now that we're mostly done with that we were finally ready to lay down mulch.  Firstly, I recommend buying in bulk if at all possible, and transporting yourself if you have the means.  It is $23 per cubic yard at a place nearby us, so you save a lot vs. $2-$4 per bag of it - a bag is only 2 cubic feet, I believe, and we needed 4-5 cubic yards this year to do a thorough mulching.  One trick that my father in law uses to avoid paying for landscaping fabric is just to use the bags from the mulch, so you could try this if you're not buying in bulk...we had an old tarp lying around that I used.  I do really like the cardboard tip, since we seem to end up with excess cardboard around here.  Genius!