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Beginner Gardening Questions: Wood Chip Mulch building up

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Forum: Beginner Gardening QuestionsReplies: 11, Views: 90
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synergy
Appleton, WI

May 26, 2013
10:07 AM

Post #9534570

I have a lot of invasive weeds in my flower beds: creeping charlie, creeping bellflower, and thistle to name a few. I don't want to use chemicals. I have mulched a few bed and areas with cardboard with wood chips on top. That contains weeds pretty well. The problem is that it's pretty fine mulch (I get it free at the yard waste site) and breaks down fairly quickly. Repeated application of cardboard and mulch, even when the mulch breaks down, are starting to add up and the beds are getting quite a bit higher than the paths. Aside from using bigger mulch or raking the mulch off each year, does anyone have any suggestions? I have thought about putting a taller edging around the bed to contain the buildup. My neighbor does nothing to control her weeds so even if I get mine under control it seems to be a never ending job and I'm not enjoying my gardening since so much time is spent weeding. Also I'm getting older and can't see myself doing this for too many more years.
Diana_K
Contra Costa County, CA
(Zone 9b)

May 26, 2013
7:33 PM

Post #9535210

I would try working with these ideas:

If you can add more nitrogen to the chips they will break down faster, so the older ones will be a lot finer, sooner, so not raise the soil level quite so much. High levels of oxygen also encourage faster break down.

Skip the cardboard. Allow the mulch to be in direct contact with the soil, and the soil microorganisms will move into it that much sooner.

Rake off several inches, anything that is still coarse enough to tell what it is, then till the older, finest material into the soil, adding nitrogen, then mulch with the newer material you just raked off. By mixing the material that is already somewhat composted with the soil it will help the soil, and finish composting faster.

If even this is not enough, then remove the coarse material, setting it aside for re-use, and dig out the really nice soil-compost blend that is in the beds. Use this elsewhere in the garden. Put the saved chips back on the bed.

I have tried a lot of weeding tools, and find that the hula hoe or scuffle hoe works best for me and my bad back. It works pretty well through mulch, too, and makes a fairly decent rake if I have disturbed the mulch too much.

If the neighbor's weeds are within a few feet of your property, perhaps spread the mulch onto her property when the weeds are dormant or dead, and the soil is pretty much bare. A really thick layer.
synergy
Appleton, WI

May 27, 2013
8:08 AM

Post #9535619

Thanks for the input. I will try these ideas. unfortunately the neighbor has a fenced yard and is kinda of crabby. When i mentioned that I could help control her weeds, she turned me down. Thinking a flamer along the fence line might help but wonder about using it near wood mulch.
WeeNel
Ayrshire Scotland
United Kingdom

May 27, 2013
10:11 AM

Post #9535739

Do the Flame thrower after it has rained when the wood will be either wet or damp, as you use the flamer, keep moving it back and forward so it is burning the weeds rather than allowing the wood to take alite.
We have to use a flamer all the time due to the large area of driveway, the best thing to do is to set up the garden hose as a stand by incase you set any wooden fences ablaze. I know when I first used this industrial size burner I thought OMG, instant blazing foliage, but it is not like that at all, you need to stand still holding the flame in the same position for several minutes before you would see smoldering embers, but you have time to stamp it out or as I said, move on a bit and spray with the hosepipe, you can get addicted to this type of weeding ha, ha, ha but the burning only removes the top growth of the weed and you need to keep doing this burn so the roots are deprived of the greenery they need to keep growing.
Just a thought, throw the neighbours weeds back over the fence as they seem so keen to hold on to them ha, ha, ha,
Good luck and best regards.
WeeNel.
Diana_K
Contra Costa County, CA
(Zone 9b)

May 28, 2013
9:21 PM

Post #9537860

Flame thrower as weed killer works by overheating the leaves and tender stems, not by actually burning the plants. Still, doing this when the mulch is really wet and keeping a hose handy are really important.
synergy
Appleton, WI

June 1, 2013
10:14 AM

Post #9541994

I think you've both convinced me to investigate flame throwers more thoroughly. Seems like that might be an answer to creeping charley. Thanks.
WeeNel, I don't think my neighbor would even notice if I threw the weeds back in her she very seldom comes outside and mows even less seldom.
MaypopLaurel
Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA
(Zone 7b)

June 4, 2013
4:55 PM

Post #9546432

Aside from mulching or pulling do you own any weed tools like a finger hoe? This makes quick work of young weeds. A children's how is good for a small space garden and then there is the full blown hoe. I use a limited amount of bark mulch in my garden...only on the paths. It is much more robbing of soil nutrients than other options and may have wood chips that are not compatible with flowers or vegetables. If you learn to identify your weeds when young you will get a grip on the situation and reduce your problem each year until it is under control. After fighting the weed fight for many years I leave certain weeds as trap crops. There are so few weeds in my garden that the bugs go straight to the plants.
Diana_K
Contra Costa County, CA
(Zone 9b)

June 8, 2013
10:50 AM

Post #9551097

By making use of the weeds, they have become desirable plants, doing a job in the garden (trapping pests, feeding predators).
Does this mean they are no longer weeds?
MaypopLaurel
Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA
(Zone 7b)

June 9, 2013
8:06 AM

Post #9551978

They are weeds when they compete with more desirable plants or when they grow to a stage that makes removal difficult. Sometimes when certain weeds are picked too young they break and spread thus becoming a bigger headache. Other weeds are difficult to uproot when they reach a certain size. Experience makes a gardener as much a weed expert in the garden as a cultivated plant expert. I'm not sure what predators also eat weeds. Box turtles eat insects in my garden but they also love cabbages and many other cultivated veggies.
shune
Burien, WA
(Zone 7b)

June 10, 2013
8:29 PM

Post #9554366

Weeds are subjective, or a matter of opinion.
synergy
Appleton, WI

June 24, 2013
4:29 AM

Post #9570774

I've heard the definition of a weed as any plant that grows where you don't want it to, whether it be an orchid or creeping charlie. Maypop, I have a little triangular hoe that my hubby dug out of the landfill. I don't know what it is. I call it a cultivator. I love it! It works great for some weeds. However, I think with creeping charlie the more you dig the more you spread it. And the same with thistle. Some one suggested vinegar but I worry about the little creatures in the soil.
shune
Burien, WA
(Zone 7b)

June 24, 2013
9:27 PM

Post #9572125

I also have a small triangular hoe and it is called a 'winged weeder'

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