prepping areas for planting?


Old 05-04-07, 10:01 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 84
prepping areas for planting?

I want to do some landscaping in several areas around my house, currently those areas are overgrown with weeds, tall grass, etc.

What is the best way to get rid of the crap and prepare to plant shrubs, and how do I keep the weeds from growing back? Do I need new topsoil?

I will be using edging and rock, woodchips around the new shrubs.

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Old 05-05-07, 05:13 AM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 226
Can you wait a year?

Tear out all the weeds, taking care to remove the roots. Do NOT compost weeds.

Turn over all the soil; working in some nice compost like manure.

Lay down a sheet mulch, like landscaping cloth, heavy plastic, or several sheets of newspaper, held flat and in place with large stones. Landscaping cloth is best, because it lets in water & air, keeps out light while absorbing heat, and looks normal.

Wait twelve months.

Remove mulch, work in more compost, and plant.

The theory is that you will encourage all the weed seeds to growth with water and warmth, and then starve them of light so they die. Twelve months is probably overkill, but that way you can be certain to get all types of weeds.

I know a year sounds like a long time, but it really isn't. Spend the time getting your lawn in shape.

It sound like this is a new house?
Old 05-05-07, 03:41 PM
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: USA
Posts: 15,834
Treat area where you plan to plant shrubs with a nonselective herbicide to kill all the grass and weeds. Repeat applications may be necessary. Once everything is dead, you can dig up dead weeds and rake the area.

Shrubs can be planted at any time, but it's best to avoid late spring right before hot weather sets in or in late fall when they will not have enough time to get established before cold weather sets in.

Recent research shows that shrubs planted in unamended soil tend to do better in the long run than those planted in amended soil. Although those planted in amended soil tend to do better at the beginning, but those planted in unamended soil tend to have roots that spread deeper and wider.

Dig holes for shrubs. Space appropriately for size at maturity. Cover soil surface of shrub bed with landscaping cloth to prevent weeds. Cover with mulch. If planting annuals or perennials in the bed, cuts can be made in the landscaping cloth for planting. Note that mulch will decompose and that weed seeds will get established if mulch is not seasonally refreshed.
Old 05-06-07, 06:56 PM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 226
With all respect.

I hate herbicides in general. I hate non-selective herbicides a lot. I hate repeated applications of any poison even more.
And I REALLY hate herbicides around children.

There is seldom any good reason to use herbicides around young children in a residential setting.

[rant] I have a degree in chemistry and biology, and have worked on superfund sites. Anytime someone tells you a 'chemical'* is safe, your first assumption should be they are ignorant, or lying, or Monsanto paid for the study.[/rant]

Weeds will germinate. That's what they do. Plants are defined as weeds because they germinate at the most favorable time, produce roots and vegetative growth quickly, and don't waste time and energy producing pretty flowers or succulent fruit. Weeds will be always with us. Pull them up and don't compost them. Gardening is weeding.

DEAD WEEDS is an oxymoron; weeds never die, they just slumber. A good approach for weeds is that used in the medical industry for sterilization: encourage the pest in grow in conditions that will kill it. For most types of plant, supplying water, air, and heat, but denying light either kills the plant, or leaves it too weak to establish roots.

Shrubs CAN be planted at any time, BUT the best time depends on the plant, and the purchase time. The best time is right after the flowers die, when the plant naturally switches to vegetative growth. Some shrubs take best in early fall. All plants are forced in greenhouses to look pretty in the stores; they need to be pampered for about a month, and carefully mulched and maybe wrapped for the first winter.

Don't space shrubs for their full expected growth; plant them so they'll look nice in a couple of years. Some will die, or fail to thrive, and you can stagger the vigorous pruning in the others to keep the whole full and healthy. If they really get too crowded, move or compost some of them.

Never plan to leave landscaping cloth down 'permanently' unless it is under a dry set patio. You will end up with little ears of perforated black plastic all through your beds. Landscaping cloth should only be used to kill weeds without causing mold, and then removed. It is herbicide, not mulch.

Dead mulch should decompose; then you work it into the soil as compost. When the soil is rich and loose and retains enough water, use live mulch. The best way to keep an unwanted species from growing is to fill the space with a wanted one. Strawberries, creeping thyme, dianthus, vinca, clover; just make sure you don't introduce an invasive species. Clover fixes nitrogen; the only thing better for your soil is alfalfa.

That would be vegetables.
The only other reasons to plant annuals are that you haven't decided what perennial to put there yet, or as live mulch.

Unamended v. ammended soil. I would really like to see some cites on this; I am very interested. But, to continue my contrarian position:

Plants love rich loose soil [with no large air pockets]; good root structure depends on watering. Water frequently until the plant 'takes', then water thoroughly and infrequently. Root hairs can grow very fast, and 'chase' the water between waterings. I do know that fertilizing young plants is bad; it encourages vegetative growth before the root system can support it.

COMPOST. End of discussion.
[That's a joke; put two gardeners in a room and you will get three theories on proper composting.]
Look, plants evolved eating decayed plant matter; it's what they do. You want your garden to grow healthier and prettier than wild plants, but you aren't trying to feed a starving nation. You don't need concentrated nitrogen fertilizers.

Basic composting:
NEVER compost protein or the feces of carnivores. That is an absolute. [Wash eggshells before adding them to compost; cows and chickens provide great compost materials.]
Do not compost kitchen waste; fruits and vegetables attract wild animals. That is good advice.
Do not compost weed seeds or roots. [Actually, dedicated and experienced composters can.]
ALWAYS compost coffee grounds, grass clippings, and leaves, mixed well.
Ripen compost three to five years.

I think that's everything. Maybe I'll go see what advice the OP is getting for the lawn ...

Last edited by twelvepole; 05-11-07 at 05:44 PM. Reason: No debate allowed in forums
Old 05-10-07, 10:12 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 84
My house is from the 50's so by no means is it new it just has nothing planted around it.

So now I am a little confused since two different approaches have been given. Can someone give me a simple solution to prepare for planting? If not than I will keep researching and find what method best suits me and go with it.
Old 05-11-07, 05:52 PM
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: USA
Posts: 15,834
Contact your local Cooperative Extension Agent. They can provide you with information on all aspects of gardening and landscaping.
Old 05-11-07, 10:17 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 84
Sounds good to me! Thank you all for all the info Im sure it will come in handy.

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