Use Weeds Killer to Keep Weeds Out of My Flower Garden?

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I see that home center sells some chemical weed killers that are supposed to be used in a flower garden. Are they good? Can I safely use those chemicals around plants that I have planted in the garden? I don't hear much about this type of product. Seem like I hear mostly about similar products that we use in lawn, but not in a garden.
I would like to find a way to keep weeds out of my flower garden in order to reduce the never ending task of pulling weeds out from the garden.
Thanks.
Jay Chan
---------------------------------------------------------- The following is the reason why I want to use weeds killer instead of mulch. This is not directly related to this post. But I mention the reason here just in case someone wonders why I don't use mulch. ----------------------------------------------------------
I know I could have put mulch to suppress weeds and to ease the task of pulling out weeds. In the first year after I put mulch in the flower garden, I found that the mulch really helped me to reduce weeds in my flower garden. But a couple years later, the mulch is pretty much rotted and decomposed to be similar to soil. This means it no longer functions as mulch.
If I keep adding mulch, I will do more harm than good. The reason is that the flower garden is a rised bed around the house foundation. There is only 8" clearance between the mulch and the wooden structure of my house. I am afraid that putting more mulch will reduce the clearance to a point that I will invite termites into my house. Actually, I may decide to remove the existing mulch from around the foundation garden just to increase the clearance between the wooden structure from the soil.
And I really don't like to use inorganic mulch (such as stones) in areas where I will be actively doing planting every year.
I guess the other alternative is to replace the existing mulch with new mulch, and do this every two years or so. This sounds like a lot of work though; I probably prefer hand pulling weeds than replacing the mulch.
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Mulch. You are not going to get a huge buildup as it breaks down over time. Every 5-7 years, you can remove the top layer, but you are not going to get a huge buildup by adding mulch annually.
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Why do you suppose archeological finds are usually under 10-15 feet of soil? They don't sink, they get covered up with mulched plant material.
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (Bob S.) wrote in

Because anything from 10 ft up is easily discovered and likely has been either been discovered already or disturbed and conmingled, ruining the archaeological value?
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Jay Chan wrote:

Unless your raised bed around the house is sitting on a slab of concrete, the soil and mulch will settle over time, and by the time the mulch "no longer functions as mulch", you'll probably have enough settling that you'll be able to put new mulch right on top.
You could also use a stone or gravel mulch right next to the house -- like the first 6-12" from the foundation, and start the organic mulch away from the house. You shouldn't be planting that close to the house, and you can probably find a stone that goes well with your organic mulch. For example, red lava rock would work well in the back of a bed mulched with a red or brown bark mulch.
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Warren H.

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You are right to say that the mulch will settle. The mulch in my garden probably has settled by half of the original thickness after three years. I probably can put in one more inch of mulch over the existing mulch without reducing the clearance around the house foundation by too much.
Thanks for pointing this out.

I have thought of that. But I have a feeling that the organic mulch will spill over to the inorganic mulch and I will have a hard time cleaning the mix of organic mulch and inorganic mulch. This is one of the reason why I don't like to use inorganic mulch.
Seem like no one suggests using weed killer. Oh well...
Jay Chan
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (Jay Chan) wrote in

Try landscape fabric. It blocks a lot of weeds and makes pulling the others easier. However, manufacturers recommend you cover the fabric with X inches (cm) of mulch.
As for using herbicides, I never had to do it, so I don't know. (Have had landscape fabric installed 2-3 years now).
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Actually, I had already had landscape fabric installed before I put mulch. As I said, it helps in the first one or two years. Now, four years later, I find that the following things makes it increasing less effective in blocking weeds:
- I like to plant new stuffs (such as annuals). Therefore, I keep digging through the landscape fabrics; this not only making holes on the landscape fabrics, but also causing soil to be spreaded on top of the mulch and got all mixed together.
- As mentioned previously, the mulch has decomposed significantly and become more like soil than mulch.
Moreover, I become less and less like to use landscape fabrics (and mulch) because it prevents me from easily adding fertilizer or other goodies directly to the soil. Seem like the only way to add fertilizer is using liquid fertilizer.
Thanks.
Jay Chan
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Your last paragraph is exactly right. Gimmicks get in the way eventually. So:
Get yourself a good weeding tool that allows you to do the job WITHOUT KNEELING. With the right tool, it's effortless. And, weeding slows you down long enough to notice things happening (good or bad) in the garden. The trick is to make the whole thing easy.
www.smithandhawken.com Go to tools, digging and cultivation. Check out the Precision Weeder hand tool (for on-the-knees weeding - an AMAZING tool), and the Long-Handled Weeder. I've been using these two tools for years. Not only do they take care of weeding, but they also fluff the upper layer of soil slightly, which helps it retain moisture. Keep a sharpening stone in the garage to touch up the blades when necessary.
No experience with this one, but a friend swears by it: Cape cod weeder: www.seedsofchange.com Go to the tools section, and then to the Digging and Cultivating section.
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The other day, I weeded my flower beds, which consisted of bending over to pull a total of 4 weeds with my bare hand (no glove even). The weeds were reasonably sized, 3-5" across but had the root systems of a 2 day old pansy.
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I have used one of these for several yrs. It very effective and pretty effortless.
http://www.hound-dog.com/weed_hound.htm
Tyler
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It looks promising. But it is only 18" that seems like too short for me.

The long handle version looks very good. Then, I can stand outside or just inside the flower bed and remove weeds deep inside the flower bed. My flower bed is almost 6-ft wide; therefore, a long handle should come in handy. I probably will give it a try instead of using chemical weed killer.
I am not so sure whether I will try the short version. I cannot see myself walking around carrying two weeding tools.
I assume I am supposed to use this tool likes this: - Place the blade over the weed and dig under it. - Pull the blade toward myself; this action will cut the root of the weed. - Leave the weed where it falls and let it decompose.
I have two questions:
- Do you think I can use this tool in area where there are a lot of weeds? Will I be able to cover a large area (such as 10-ft x 6-ft) with many weeds very quickly? Here, the area is still have around 1-inch of mulch left.
- Will it work if the area is already covered with landscape fabric under the mulch? Will I be cutting through the landscape fabric? No big loss; I don't like the landscape fabric anyway.
Thanks.
Jay Chan
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (Jay Chan) wrote in

If you don't want the landscape fabric, you should take it out while it is still relatively whole.
If you find a weed* growing through your fabric that can't be easily picked off by hand, there's something wrong with your fabric. (Perhaps you installed the wrong side up?)
*except pointy bladed onion things or similar that come up from below
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Standing outside the bed is good because you won't constantly compress the soil with your weight. The long tool contributes to this good practice. But, if there's a spot you can't reach, buy just one piece of flagstone or some such thing and locate it so you can step into the middle.

Jay....be serious. Put down one tool and pick up the other. Or, go to Home Depot & buy a large paint bucket for three bucks, and on of those canvas things that hangs in the bucket and has slots for tools. I think it's called a Bucketmouth, although there are other brands, too.

Correct. You glide the tool about 1" beneath the surface. But, you have to get to know the root systems of your flowers, or you could slice them, too. Very rare occurrence. Just stay a few inches away from the stems. As far as leaving the weeds to decompose, do that with some, but not those which have already developed flowers or seeds.
BUT: Keep in mind that this is NOT the tool to use for a garden which is an utter disaster, especially if it's full of weeds with very tough or woody stems. This tools is designed for working in a garden which has been properly put in shape - after the big Spring cleanup.
Another tool: Go to the Smith & Hawken site I provided for you earlier. Go to Tools, Digging & Cultivation, and look at the Gardenia hand rake. See the orange handle? It's got a knob so you can remove the short handle and replace it with a long one, so you can work standing up. Gardenia makes an entire system of such tools. Memorize the colors and visit some local garden stores, or call around first. Get the little rake and the long handle. Now, you have the best tool in the world for removing lose stuff from between tightly spaced plants.
My neighbors sometimes joke about how my raised vegetable beds look like freshly dug graves. If anyone tried to make off with my Gardenia tools (and a few others), the graves would not seem like a joke afterward. :-) These are really great tools.

I used this tool to manage a 25x8 vegetable garden. No problem. Keep in mind that as the season progresses and your flowers get bigger, they should shade out many of the weeds, so the job should get easier. And, some weeds really don't matter anyway.

I've only handled landscape fabric in the store, but never used it. So, my instinct would be to get down on hands & knees with a razor knife and remove the fabric first. Otherwise, any tool might snag the fabric, pull it sideways, and break the stems of tender plants.
In one of his newspaper columns, garden writer Henry Mitchell mentioned how funny it is when people go to Europe, visit famous gardens like those at Versailles, and comment about what amazing work the French kings had done for them 300 years ago. They forget the fact that the beautiful garden they're seeing is the result of just one thing: The work done yesterday. It sounds to me like you're trying to create a situation that cannot exist: a garden which needs no maintenance. If you want it to be beautiful, it'll require a little time each week. And if you make it beautiful, it'll be a pleasure to do the work.
The best you can hope for is this: Once or twice each season, you'll have to do major work, probably on your knees, getting the garden as clean as you can. Get to know which weeds appear at what time of year, and manage them accordingly. Those with seeds & flowers, you hack away and remove completely from the garden. The leafy ones can be left on the surface. In the summer heat, they'll be shriveled up within an hour. Some weeds look innocent on Monday and develop roots of steel by Friday. Get to know those, so when you see them on Monday, you don't say "I'll deal with it on Friday". If you do the hard work correctly, the rest of the season should be easy. And, if you do things right, each year should become easier. After 20 years in the same vegetable garden, mine was virtually effortless.
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If you using mulch and without landscape fabrics, adding fertilizer in the mulch are better than add it to soil. I read some articles about this before, but sorry had forgot the details.
I prefer to add fertilizer to my compost than soil or mulch, it will buffer up the nutrient and mix up better in the compost.
Regards, Wong
-- Latitude: 06.10N Longitude: 102.17E Altitude: 5m
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Why will this work? Does this have something to do with the mulch may absorb the liquid fertilizer and slowly release it, or something like that?

I heard that we need to add fertilizer or blood meal into compost pile because the composting process uses a lot of nitrogen or something like that. Is this one of the reason why you add fertilizer into your compost pile? In fact, I have already been doing this.
The problem is that there is no easy way to get the compost into the soil without removing the mulch and the landscape fabric. So far, I can only use my compost into the vegetable garden. But I cannot use it in my flower garden near the house foundation because it is covered with mulch and landscape fabric. So I end up dumping all the remaining finished compost into the vegetable garden, and I have to use liquid fertilizer onto the flower garden. Well, at least, the green peppers are doing well (and they taste great too).
Jay Chan
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Hi Jay Chan,
As a guy work by project basic in software development, I got a habit to scan through all the available information, pinpoint and go into the detail what are applicable to the project, but ignore all the rest that is not relevant.
Since I will not supplement nutrients by top dressing, so I donot try to memorize or keep notes on this. What I recalled may not be reliable.
My English vocabulary are computer line oriented, I know very little about English in other field. So I may use wrong words.
Sorry about this. :-(

For what I know, nutrient availability are mainly affect by two factor: 1. Lost by leaching, erosion(with soil), volatilization(nitrogen)... 2. Fixation/bind with other nitrient.
Mulch and the life form(fungus, insect...) in it will hold the nutrient from fertilizer(reduce the nutrient lost), and slowly release it(reduce nutrient binding).

What I try to say are, if the nutrient from material that make up the compost are not enough to supply what plant needed, we can either add the fertilizer(synthetic/organic) to soil/mulch or compost heap.
Add fertilizer to soil may cause lost and bindup. Add to mulch, it will not distribute evenly, and will cause mulch decompose faster if it contain nitrogen(mulch suppose to be long lasting). Add to compost heap, it will mixed up nicely by man(turning the compost) or other life form(moving/carry around).

You can top dress the compost/fertilizer on the mulch, the nutrient release will bring down to plant root by rain water in liquid form. But somehow this will also encourage weed grow on top of your landscape fabric.
I donot and will not use landscape fabric. I do adding new mulch on top of old mulch to maintain the thickness of mulch.
HTH, Wong
-- Latitude: 06.10N Longitude: 102.17E Altitude: 5m
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Same here, same here.

"Leaching" and "erosion" are not the words that I normally use (I always need to look up my electronic dictionary for these type of words). Seem like you are ahead of me in this area.

This is something that I still cannot figure out how to solve -- I mean I cannot solve it without a lot of effort.
Jay Chan
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Jay, you're making this into too big a problem. As I mentioned before, get the right tools and weeding can be a pleasure. You can do it with a beer in one hand.
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Are you also a software developer? In what type of environment? End user or vendor? Application development or system programming?

Agriculture are the second best of my English vocabulary, but far from computer. :-)

No single solution will fit all the problem. The way you choose will depend on your plan in mind and your current situation.
If your garden are small, hand weeding may be the best route for you as what Doug Kanter suggested.
I'm going to large scale but without heavy machinary after the initial grading and soil buildup, so I choose mulch.
Regards, Wong
-- Latitude: 06.10N Longitude: 102.17E Altitude: 5m
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