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Preferred method(s) for building new flower bed

Worcester, MA

Hi all,

I'd appreciate hearing from gardeners who are willing to share their secrets for developing new flower beds. Cheaper? Faster? Better? Use weed barrier or landscaping plastic? I have a rather large area of lawn (roughly 250 sq ft) that I want to turn into a flower garden. I just can't stand the thought of all that sod! I've thought of solarizing, laying plastic and then have a truckload of loam dropped. Is that a bad idea? Thanks!

Bella Vista, AR(Zone 6b)

A couple of thoughts:

You will not find many, if any, people here who will recommend using plastic or a weed barrier. I would not either. It might work for a little while, and then weeds grow anyway.

As far as dumping "loam" on it, do you know what your soil ph is now? Do you know what ph your desired plants require? That might help you decide what kind of amendments to put in your area.

central, NJ(Zone 6b)

I recommend prepping it as a lasagna garden

Worcester, MA

Hi JulieQ,

The loam is local and of typical New England 'quality', which I amend with compost and when I have it, vermiculite. I've never had my soil tested, but I plan to use divided plants from my existing beds, which are all healthy and growing well.

I've fussed and had sturdy plants go belly up and I have some plants that I've just dug a hole with my toe and dropped that will outlive me. I've used weed barrier a few times (works great for a season) but I 'renovate' so often that I dig it all back up, piece by piece. I really want to install this new bed but I also really want to limit the sweating (and crying!! LOL!!) too!

Worcester, MA

flowAjen - Thank you. I really like the idea of the lasagna garden and using the natural materials. I'm also planning to build a much smaller bed so I'm going to try this method. I'd like to see how long it will take to gather the greens and browns and how much I'll need to accomplish the recommended 'build up'.

central, NJ(Zone 6b)

Now is a good time to start one for fall planting

To do a faster planting, I just layer newspaper right over the grass and/or weeds, wet them down, layer on some garden soil and then cut holes for the plants right thru the newpaper then mulch

Brooklyn Park, MN(Zone 4a)

when i started mmy garden in 08 i used this 4 prong thing you would twist to rip the grass out and that was how i got rid of all the grass in my gardens.

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Brooklyn Park, MN(Zone 4a)

oh and i use the weed barrier fabric in most of my gardens except the flower really helps with the weeds,in my flower garden i am always pulling out clover and some rubber leaved thing.when i ripped out all that grass i actually piled it up and made a garden on this hill.i flipped all the grass down and covered it with a tarp and then in a month i planted on problem was all the roots from the silver maples we cut down but i cut and dug most of them could spray the area with round up to kill the grass.

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Worcester, MA

flowAjen - that method seems a lot more doable. I'll try it on the smaller bed. Thanks. Wish I'd thought to come here first!

Queenbeez - beautiful gardens, thank you for sharing. Reminds me why I never post pics of my 'gardens'! LOL!! I like the idea of the raised bed from the sod - and the bed looks great. Pulling all that grass up must have been the job from you-know-where! For all my beds, I've shoveled the sod (and thrown it under the deck!), pulled every single root and weed, added yards of topsoil and laid weed cloth. I tried the double-dig this spring and nearly keeled over! LOL!! I dragged the deck umbrella in the 100lb stand around the lawn for shade as I went. I added topsoil (but FORGOT the compost - the bags were sitting RIGHT THERE!). I should have added more soil but overall I like the result. The new bed I'm planning is so much bigger than any I've built so far, so I'd really like to avoid having to take up the sod or dealing with roots and weeds this time.

Algonquin, IL(Zone 5a)

The Lasagna idea is a really good one. I also have, and love, a large raised bed. Here are a couple of more suggestions you can also consider.

My husband has rented a sod cutter on a couple of occasions. It's not motorized, but it's much easier than using a shovel as the sod comes up in long strips. It's also cheap to rent.

If you think about any time you've left something sitting on the lawn too long, it usually kills the grass. If you're not in a hurry to do this and don't want to bother with the lasagna technique, you can lay down tarps, old shower curtains, old plastic tablecloths or whatever you have available in the shape you want your bed to be. Then weigh it down with something like rocks or wooden boards and leave it over the Winter.

By Spring the grass should be totally broken down and there will probably be tons of worms aerating the soil underneath. It's sort of an instant, although slow, garden bed. At that point you can add whatever ammendments you want as the soil should be fairly easy to work.

Kiowa, CO(Zone 5b)

I'm getting ready to begin redoing my backyard (from what nature did), currently it is wild grasses and some weeds. I began by rototilling everything around the perimeter, (thought I'd have enough room to get the first layer of shrubs in but>>>>>, lol. I have rototilled 3 or 4 times now and is almost weed free. I started rototilling the first round, then pulled the larger weeds that lay on top and let the grasses dry out, ( a week or so), some weed seed began sprouting and so rototilled again. Everything that started to sprout after a few weeks got rototilled and the origional grasses were dried enough to add humus. Now the ground is nearly weed free, so the process will start again with the rest of it. It would have been finished already but we have had record breaking temps and little or no moisture this summer. Our rains have begun so the ground is soft enough to begin tilling again....I'm hoping to begin planting this fall..and no weed barrier will be used,(it's a weed seed trap!!! I know I worked with it in other peoples yards and detest it, is not a strong enough word.).

My first section of flower garden was done this way (45feet wide X 100feet long).

Pix 1: is the backyard that i had begun to rototill, ( a work in progress)
Pix 2: what the flower garden looked like when I began
Pix3: the flower garden took me a few years to complete, actually still filling in a few gaps with flowers to complete my borders
Pix 4 &5: what the border looked like early this spring before much was in bloom

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Spring City, TN

I'm experimenting with different kinds of semi-lasagna beds. I am filling terraces that are 4-6 feet deep and up to 160 feet long. I'm only planting flowers & shrubs that can take low water requirements once established, I'll water, but they can't count on it for survival.. Each bed starts the same way - weedeat/chainsaw down what I don't want to keep, soak the ground, lay down newspapers or cardboard boxes, SOAK again, then....

1 -- 3" mushroom compost (horse stall leavings, straw, poop, peat moss, and chunky bark), 3" clay-ey topsoil, 3" mushroom compost, plant perennial flowers mixing the soil that's in the planting hole only, add 3" hardwood bark mulch leaving bowls immediately around flowers.

2 - Same as above but MIX with shovel the whole bed, not just the hole where the plant goes. (This quickly became a lot of work the plants didn't need since digging a hole mixed the parts the plant cared about).

3 - Before newspaper, dig out 6" of clay, then add 6" of mushroom compost, replace clay, mix,and plant and mulch

4 - Before newspaper, dig out 6" of clay, then add 6" of pine bark fines & gypsom, a little peat and a little pertlite, replace clay, mix and plant and mulch

5 - Before newspaper, dig out 12" of clay, then add 12" of pine bark fines & gypsom, replace clay, mix and plant and mulch

6 - After newspaper, 3" mushroom compost, 3" of "Landscape Mix" (SCREENED mushroom compost, topsoil, and sand -- screening removed structure ;

Worcester, MA

WOW! Many ambitious and clever folks here! I like the sod cutting idea for the smaller backyard bed. I like the modified lasagna, using newspapers and cardboard (the 'Penne' method! LOL!). For the larger bed in front I think I'll use the tarps and any other plastic what-nots I can find and see how far I can get killing the lawn before it gets too late here to plant. If I have to wait until next spring, well, that just gives me more time to work on the other bed and then maybe I can just sit around for a little bit doing NOTHING! :>)

wwkathy - your garden is HUGE and very beautiful! Rototilling is something I hadn't thought of either. I was wondering how I was going to get rid of the weeds (without chemicals) in a bare (dirt) area that I want to build a path and I think I know now...

And etnredclay: where do you get your energy??!! No horse poop here - just lots of doggy doo, brown, burned grass and giant craters that one of them is digging to China (can't he get just take a cab???)...

Thank you all - good suggestions, good advice. If the front yard comes out good enough maybe I'll post a pic...

Algonquin, IL(Zone 5a)

Glad to hear you now have plenty of ideas. DG members are sooo creative & helpful. By-the-way, great sense of humor . . ."digging to China (can't he just take a cab???)". . .very funny stuff!

Hope your garden beds turn out spectacular!! If you get a chance, take some "before", "during" and "after" pics. Even if you don't post them, I think you'll enjoy looking back at them once your garden is "up-and-running".

Worcester, MA

NAN - thank you! You're very kind... And yes... although I've been (flower) gardening for many years, I only began 'cataloging' my efforts a couple years ago. I have thousands of 'before, before', 'during, during during', 'after during' and 'after', 'after after' and 'what the HELL???' photos! LOL!!! I DO enjoy looking back to remind myself of what havoc I've wreaked - and what else can I ruin??? LOL!! I do appreciate all the help I've received and admire all the (so much smarter) gardeners I run into here...


Kiowa, CO(Zone 5b)

Lol...just remember...we've ALL had our challenges, and yet we was out in my garden tonight and uhgggg, weeds and deadheading all weekend, but alas in a few weeks it will be full of blooms again and then I remember why I did it all to begin with.....FLOWERS.....Good Luck....Kathy

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Algonquin, IL(Zone 5a)

DavidsI88 - Think of all the knowledge you've gotten from all those pics you've been taking all these years! Oh, and by-the-way, other gardeners aren't any smarter than you are. It sometimes may seem that way to any of us when we're stumped on a project which is why DG is so special. You may not even realize how much knowledge you have until you help out another confused gardener.

WWKathy - beautiful flowers!

Worcester, MA

The sun is blazing, the birds are singing, a fluffy puffy cloud drifts by far above and.... the cable goes out?! AARRGGHH!! Does anyone else hate Charter as much as I do??

Yes, WWKathy - beautiful flowers (and thanks for sharing your pics) and you're right, it's all about the bloom...

And thanks Nan, I'm certainly in the right place here. There may very well be a gardener out there looking for advice - as to what NOT to do! And I'll be right here! LOL!! I live that famous quote - Of all the things I've loved and lost, I miss my mind the most - everytime I step into a flower bed to check on the plant I meant to buy but forgot at the checkout, find a plant I never knew I had or look for a missing plant that I'd forgotten I'd moved - or killed . Damage control - to them AND my aching brain - is the reason I started taking pictures! LOL!!

Magna, UT(Zone 7a)

With all this talk about weed barriers, I have to ask how all of you keep wild grass from invading your beds. I have tried carboard as a foundation for a lasagna bed. That only works for a year or two. Weed mesh or cloth does not work longer than6 months or so. I don't mind pulling the weeds out here and there, but this crazy aggressive grass will grow through anything. I don't want to pull out weeds and grass from a 9' x 12' sized bed every other week. Suggestions? I know it sounds bad, but I want to sterilze the ground and put pond liner on top. When I try to pull out the grass, it just tears the weed cloth/barrier. What should I do?

central, NJ(Zone 6b)

Around my island beds I dig a trench and other gardens I use pound in edging

Magna, UT(Zone 7a)

How deep are your trenches? I find these grass roots 4-5 inches down.

central, NJ(Zone 6b)

I dig almost fulll length of square point shovel, so what is that? 8" or so????

Magna, UT(Zone 7a)

About that. Hmmm. That doesn't sound like too bad of an idea....

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