There was this area in my back yard that wasn’t looking too pretty. In fact, it looked like total dog shit. It was over run with weeds, had a few sad-looking perennials, contained a slug infested wood pile, and a huge rhododendron stump that needed to be dug out. Even for this lover of gardening, the job seemed extremely daunting and, as a result, had been sitting unkempt for far too long. Worse yet, now that our not tub hot tub had been removed, the bed was now visible from the deck and its ugliness was driving me crazy. The only way to quiet this girl’s crazy is to get off my hiney, stop procrastinating and reclaim this neglected garden bed.
To keep this project from becoming overwhelming, we will break it into 4 stages; weeding, smothering, mulching, and completing.
1. Weeding – In my opinion, weeding is the worst part of any garden overhaul, but it must be done. Get in there with a shovel, hula-ho, or your favorite weeding tool, and start pulling those big bad weeds. My bed had been overtaken by dandelions, broad dock, and buttercups, which are all a huge pain to get rid of. The dandelions and broad dock have deep tap roots and its important to dig the whole root up to permanently remove it, otherwise, it will grow back by summers end. The buttercups have a shallow root system, but creep underground, so be sure to pull up any runners you encounter while weeding.
Now that the weeds are out of the way, finish clearing away any dead plants or debris left in the bed. In my case, I dug out the rhodie stump and removed the bramble pile. The amount of slugs and snails the pile contained was sick. By getting rid of it, I expect to greatly reduce pest damage in the general vicinity. Yay!
2. Smother – After the weeds and debris have been removed, grab some cardboard or newspaper. Sure, we pulled the weeds, but you can bet there are still a crapload of weed seeds, not to mention all the tiny weeds and roots that may have been left behind. Instead of spraying the area with chemicals, lay cardboard on top of the freshly worked soil. This will smother any left over weeds and seeds and will prevent them from germinating in our freshly weeded bed.
3. Mulch – This is my favorite part of a garden bed reclamation, hauling in the mulch. This bed took a yard of compost (my preferred mulch of choice) and was spread pretty thickly, 5-6 inches, because it had been neglected for so long. On a bed that is kept up, I only use 3-4 inches of mulch. I dumped the piles right on top of the cardboard, around the remaining plants, and then spread it with a rake. Mulch looks gorgeous, helps smother weeds, and when you use compost, provides your plants with a delicious supply of vitamins and nutrients to help them flourish. It’s a triple threat, like JLo!
5. Complete – All that is left in this reclamation is the finishing details. First, I tidy up the perennials by trimming dead leaves, flowers, and branches. Then, I lay pathways around the bed, including a pathway across the back of the bed. The reason I had such a hard time keeping up on this bed in the past was that it was too wide for me to reach across, and too crowded for me to walk through. By adding a pathway all around it, I can now reach the entire bed without stepping into it. The pathways are cedar shavings and match my veggie garden.
This place looks soooo much better and is now a pleasure to gaze upon while we relax on the deck. It is also the future home of my new cutting garden (more on that later). If you have a horrid spot in your garden, like I had, I hope this inspires you to reclaim that space from those ugly weeds and slimy pests. Start small, break it into phases, and smother away. Your garden will thank you. Happy mulching!