Novice Question.

Hello All,
I have a very novice question. I have three flower beds in my house. Right now they are in very bad shape, they don't have any flowers only weeds and grass. I want to resurrect these flower beds if you will. My question is what is the best method to getting rid of the grass/weeds and getting the beds ready for planting. I am aware that I will have to use a tiller to get the soil nice and ready but do I have to kill the grass first w/Roundup lets say? If so how long do I have to wait before I till the ground and plant?
I also would like to know what is the best thing to do to prevent grass & weeds from growing there again. Should I put tons of mulch, fabric?
Your help is greatly appreciated.
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SDSantiago
Milwaukee, WI
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Whether or not you elect to use a tiller and/or apply something like RoundUp should depend on how large an area you are discussing. Even after applying a nonspecific herbicide like RoundUp to kill the current vegetation, tilling will expose zillions of viable weed seeds which will simply take the place of the current ones. Personally, if the beds are not huge, I'd elect to manually remove the weeds and grasses or, if you have the luxury of time, cover them with a thick layer of moistened newspaper topped with a good compost to smother them. In 6 months (or less), you will have a relatively weed-free area that has been significantly enriched with organic matter that you can just dig under, rake level and plant.
Weeds will always reappear - it's the nature of the beast. Landscape fabric is not a good long-term solution and it makes planting difficult. A good layer of mulch will help reduce weed development plus enrich the soil, but it will need to reapplied periodically. My choice is to plant heavily - dense plantings tend to shade out weeds (or make them significantly less visible) and I mulch in late fall after clean up to keep weeds at a minimum during the off season. The only places weeds are a problem in my garden are in newly planted areas where the plants have not yet filled in fully.
pam - gardengal
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Oops! I should have put that in the thread. They are all rectangular beds the largest bed is about 7ft wide and 1ft long. The other two are 5ft wide and 1ft long. Another thing I should have mentioned is that I prefer getting these beds ready and planted this summer (if it's possible of course). Now, if pulling the weeds manually I'm assuming I would have to dig into the weed to get the whole root correct? How about the grass?
Ok, last question for now, I promise :o). If I pull all this out manually is there a need for tilling afterwards?

and
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You can mentally divide your beds into smaller division and work on one at a time. If someone gives you a new plant plant it where you wish with the knowledge that small plants can turn into big ones. However since gardening is forgiving with the exception of introducing some nasty that wants to take over the world you can always transplant latter.
Hoes and Forks and Spades do the same as a tiller.
William (Bill)
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Zone 5 S Jersey USA Shade
There is atleast one word misspelled deliberately in the above post. ;))
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Santos D. Santiago wrote:

beds
wide
to
Only 1'? That's not very much room. What along side these beds?
If they're right next to a building, 1' is a good definition of the zone not to plant in for a variety of reasons. If they're next to a lawn or a fence or a sidewalk, there's not much you can plant that won't overlap those areas.
Some weeds have very shallow roots. Some have very deep roots. Some roots will become unproductive and die if all the top-growth is gone. Others will regrow from small fragments of root left behind. You can make removal much easier by watering the area before weeding, but keep in mind that working wet soil will damage the structure, so don't plan on digging immediately after.
And that watering brings us to the most important reason why you don't want to do anything within 1' of a building's foundation. You're just asking for trouble unless you're talking plants so hardy that they don't even need watering to establish themselves.
When I lived in Milwaukee, I used to do some hole digging for the DPW, and as I remember, soil conditions in much of the area consisted of a lot of clay. This made for extremely difficult digging when dry, and lots of run-off as the soil couldn't absorb watering or rain fast enough. There were some areas that had more sandy soil, but I don't recall many.

manually
Tilling isn't just to loosen the soil. It's your opportunity to incorporate organic material (read: compost). This makes the soil both more workable, and gives better drainage, and incorporates nutrients for the plants.
I agree totally with Pam on putting down newspaper covered with compost. You won't need to remove any of this when tilling.
By the way, if these 1' wide "beds" are up against anything like a building or a fence, you're not going to be able to till it. If it's up against a building foundation, I'd advise against digging, and if it's up against a fence, be careful not to undermine any support. If it's next to a sidewalk, you may find that there is over-pour from the concrete, and the foundation on which the sidewalk was built on will intrude. Standard sidewalks in the City of Milwaukee are 3" where there is only pedestrian traffic, 5" where there is a driveway used by automobiles, and 7" or more where there will be truck traffic crossing. When they are poured, 6-12" is dug-out to make room for the forms. This area is backfilled with anything handy, and usually only the top 2" is decent soil. If you run a tiller in this area, you run the risk of damaging the tines.
As far as planting for this summer, even in the frozen northlands we know as the Milwaukee area, you've long passed the time for planting for the summer. Your next chance will be in September when you can plant some perennials and spring bulbs. My advice would be to let the newspaper and compost there, cover it with some bark mulch to keep it from washing away, and wait until spring to plant.
If you're interested in expanding the size of the beds to something larger than 1' wide, now would be the time to remove some sod. I would suggest at least going 2' wide, depending on what you plan to plant there. Keep in mind the mature size of any shrubs or perennials, and allow enough room so they don't overlap sidewalks or lawns, or grow right against a building.
Once again to go back to the idea that this 1' might be next to a building foundation, this would be the zone that you don't want to plant anything in, including grass. Nothing that needs any watering. Remove the weeds, and take out (off the top, not digging down) only enough to make room for some weed barrier, and an inorganic mulch like pea gravel, lava rocks, etc, and put some edging in to keep it from getting into an abutting lawn.
--
Warren H.

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Is is necessary to get the whole weed root? That depends on the weed. Most annual weeds will die if you pull their tops, but perennial weeds will often come back from the root. Around here most perennial weeds are thistles or prickly, so maybe that could be your rule. Round-up will kill almost all of the weeds totally.
But you seem to have the idea that you can eliminate weeds once forever. Gardening involves removing weeds all the time. They keep coming back. You just keep them under control by pulling them when they get too big or numerous.
Tilling is probably advisable. Plant roots need air. Tilling opens the soil and breaks up the lumps so that air can get to the roots. It has other benefits too. You don't need to till, but your plants will grow much better if you do. If you use Round-up, don't till right away. Wait a few days for the Round-up to get into the roots.

question
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w/Roundup
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applying
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time,
relatively
good
but
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Alot depends on how soon you would like to plant in these beds. Are you looking to plant them now or this fall, or are you willing to wait till next spring? If you can wait till spring, I would just cover each bed with several layers of newspaper, wet it all down good, then cover with 6" or so of compost or manure. In a few months, you will have great soil for a new bed with little manual labor. If you are looking to plant these beds immediately, then either hand pull the weeds or spray it all down with roundup and wait for them to die. Then till in several inches of compost and plant. If the existing soil is relatively loose and not compacted, then tilling wouldn't be necessary, just top-dress with some compost. The use of hot-composted or sterilized compost will help keep new weed growth down. good luck, Matt in MI

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There are some weed and grass killers that one would use in different situations. First off, if you want everything to die before starting a new bed use Round Up, wait a week and respray. Wait until everything is totally dead then rototill and plant. Some say to remove the top layer of soil where the roots are so they don't stand a chance of coming back. But if the roundup has done the job I don't think you need to do that.
It may take several years of consistent weeding to get control of the weeds that will keep coming back from the seeds that have been sown there over the years .
To kill grass when it tries to grow back use Grass B Gone. It is safe to use around other broad leaf perennials. But I am still careful to not spray it directly on growing perennials. For weed control you can use a pre emergent such as Preen graduals, or a liquid Surflan. Those will not kill weeds but will keep old weed seeds from germinating. If you are going to plant seeds in the new bed, don't use Preen or Surflan.
There are some stubborn weeds that you will discover various seasons, such as wild onion or wild garlic. It is a grass like bulb that when pulled will leave little bulblets in the ground that will come back year after year. Also Thistle is a perennial weed with a long tap root. Even if pulled or dug up chances are it will keep coming back. I use 24D for that kind of stubborn broad leaf weed [aka Weed B Gone]. Protect the perennials when spraying 24D weed killer.
Don't let any new weeds go to seed. A little effort to weed before they set seed will go a long way to getting control of the weeds. You can use mulch. It will help keep annual weeds from getting the sun they need to germinate. It will also help to keep the soil moist and make weed pulling easier. But mulch will not deter perennial weeds. You will have to individually spray them or dig them out.
I don't like weed cloth. I never use it now. I have tried it and hate it.
wil
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P.S. In addition to my other suggestions, I love the hoe that looks like a stirrup and rocks back and forth with the hoeing motion, and cuts both ways. I think it is called a Stirrup Hoe, not sure. You can find one at Lowes.
Wil
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