Replacing weedy area with plants

I have two sizeable areas in my yard that are full of weeds. I would like to replace them with colorful and hardy plants. What is the best way to "permanently" get rid of all the weeds? I heard that black plastic or a herbicide would work. Do I then just plant flower bulbs and seeds? I live in Western Washington. Thanks.
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If the area receives good sun, one good way is 'solarization', which simply means laying a clear or black plastic tarp over the area and letting the sun cook everything for 6-8 weeks. I prefer clear plastic as it usually promotes a big flush of dormant weed seeds to germinate and then get cooked as well. With black plastic, the same effect occurs as the dormant seeds are cooked because of the extra heat, but it seems to take longer. Regardless, give it a few weeks and your soil will be ready to go.
--
David J. Bockman, Fairfax, VA (USDA Hardiness Zone 7)
email: snipped-for-privacy@beyondgardening.com
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David Bockman wrote:

Thanks for your suggestion. But will it work in W. Washington? It doesn't get very hot up here. In fact, it has been raining here all week.
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depending on how established the weeds are, you could just cover the area with carboard, and cover the cardboard with wood chips. Then you plant your plants through the chips and cardboard. Be ready with a little roundup with the weeds that escape. this arrangement will also help the new plant get established, because it is a mulch. But they have to be weeds that will get killed in 3 or 4 months, because that is how long the cardboard will last.
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Whether you use an herbicide, black plastic, or mechanically remove the existing weeds, there is no "permanent" way to get rid of ALL weeds. When you disturb the soil, you will expose existing weed seeds. The wind and wildlife will bring more weed seeds to your garden. The choice of method depends on how much time and effort you want to devote to bed preparation. The plastic method is good but slow, and you still have to prep the soil. Herbicides like Round-Up add chemicals to the environment and are expensive, and you still have to prep the soil. Mechanical removal of sod and weeds is quick and relatively inexpensive. It is environmentally friendly. Unfortunately, mechanical removal can be very hard work.
When I make a new bed, I generally just mechanically remove any sod and weeds. Then I rototill the soil and work is as much compost as I can afford. I like to plant the area with annuals the first year and work some more compost into the bed in the fall and then again in the spring. That gives me some time evaluate what will grow well and to design the "bones" of the garden.
After the garden is established, you can deal with weeds by removing them, or preventing them. Pre-emergent herbicide like Preen helps prevent weeds as does a two or three inch layer of mulch. I find that planting very densely also prevents most weeds.
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Vox Humana wrote:

To make the hard work of mechanical weed removal not quite so hard, you can use one of the many long-handled weed pullers available now on the web. A good list of ergonomic weed tools, including several popular weed twisters, is posted at the World of Weeds at www.ergonica.com. I have personally converted a large hillside area of natural weeds (wild oats, barley foxtails, black mustard, dandelions, etc.), to a nice nearly weed-free garden, using mechanical tools (especially the weed twister with the double coils). Since pulling weeds is unavoidable in every garden, it helps to have some efficient hardware around to get out those perennial roots.
Ray ___________________________________________________ Talk about weeds: World of Weeds www.ergonica.com
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