Nothing can add more Pizazz to your yard than a beautiful flower and or perennial garden.
As long as it is weed free and you can keep it that way. Here’s a step by step guide to making that happen.
Step one. Site location.
Unless you are creating a garden of shade loving flowers, you’ll need a sunny location that has high visibility in your yard so the garden can be enjoyed by you daily and by those who visit your home. Pick a spot that you can see from the spot where you relax the most.
Step two. Removal of grass, sod, weeds or other vegetation.
There are a number of different ways to remove the vegetation from the area to choose for your flower garden.
You can cover the area with a thick layer of newspaper or cardboard then use something over top of that to hold it in place while you wait for the grass and weeds to die. This is a good place to use Weed Barrier Fabric. Over top of the cardboard just to hold it in place. Do not use it in your flower bed. Read My Rant about Weed Barrier Fabric. If you choose to cover the area with newspaper or cardboard to kill the grass and weeds I suggest you leave these materials in place for at least 8 weeks to make sure your efforts are successful.
The fastest but not necessarily the easiest method is to remove the grass and weeds from the bed before you start. The most effective way to remove grass and weeds from a potential planting bed is with a good, heavy duty nursery spade. Like this one!
A spade like this will set you back at least $89 if not more. This tool is worth every single penny. The $20 spade that you pick up at the hardware store or big box store will not compare. They are too light and flimsy. A good spade is heavy and rigid. Once you use one, you’ll grab it for just about every job you do. Think about a flywheel. Flywheels are heavy for a reason. They build momentum and once moving they are not easily stopped. It’s the same with a good heavy duty spade. Once the weight of this tool is in motion, it will not stop or bounce off of roots or hard soil. At least no where as easily as a light tool.
For your viewing and entertainment purposes, Duston and I, along with the donkeys, made a movie about using a nursery spade to remove grass and weeds. Make sure you watch the movie, most people go about this all wrong!
Where can you buy a good nursery spade? Just do a Google search for Nursery Spade and you’ll find plenty. If it’s priced under $75, you really need to pass and move on to a better spade.
Rototill the soil to get rid of sod and weeds.
You can rototill the soil to rid your planting bed of grass and weeds but this has to be done over and over in order for it to be effective. You’ll need a good tiller, one that is capable of breaking up sod. I love my little Mantis Tiller, but it’s not designed to break up sod. You’ll need something heavier at least for the first tilling. After the first pass the Mantis would be perfect for working the soil to make sure the weeds and grass are completely dead.
You have to do this in steps. Till the area really well, then you have to let it set for a few days to allow the grass and weeds to dry out, then till again. Wait a few more days and till again, just continuing this process until all of the grass and weeds are completely gone.
You will never rid the soil of weed seed, so you might as well forget about that.
You can’t see it in this photo but I just put in a very large perennial garden. The area that I am tilling here is the last 20% of the bed that I haven’t planted yet. All summer I’ve been trying to keep this free of weeds. I till it and 7 days later it’s full of little tiny weeds that would be three feet tall in two weeks if I don’t keep it tilled. If I could find the time to finish planting it and mulch it, keeping the weeds out then would be a breeze. You cannot keep bare ground free of weeds. It’s impossible without a lot of effort.
Once you have the bed prepared you have to follow through and plant right away or weeds will be coming up in a matter of days. If you leave bare soil exposed to the air and sunlight for anytime at all it will completely fill with weeds in a matter of two or three weeks.
Once you have all of weeds and grass either removed from your planting area you should work some good, rich organic compost into the soil. You can buy bagged compost or rotted cow manure. Anything that is organic would be great. Peat moss? Ahhhhhh, maybe. Peat moss has the ability to hold moisture, but that’s about it. I’d prefer to use something that has some nutritional value.
Your ready to start planting flowers!
If you truly want your flower garden to be as weed free as possible you’ll want to plant the garden in small sections, then using a thick layer of newspaper, or a single layer of cardboard, you’ll want to cover the soil in between the flowers or perennials as you plant them. If you use newspaper, use at least 8 or 9 layers. If you need cardboard, somebody told me that auto body shops dispose of a lot of cardboard, you can start stock piling it ahead of time.
Plant a small section of flowers, cover the areas in between with newspaper or cardboard, then apply at least two or three inches of a good mulch over the cardboard or newspaper. Do not use compost, use a wood type of mulch like pine bark, hardwood bark etc. Weeds will easily grow in compost so you want compost under the cardboard, not on top of it.
How to Win the Battle of the Weeds.
Keep in mind, cardboard and newspaper are organic and will decompose completely over time.
There are two things that work incredibly well to control weeds. Cardboard or a heavy layer of newspaper, and a good thick layer of mulch. The reason they work so well is because they block the sunlight. Weeds need sunlight to grow. If you deprive them of sunlight, you win the battle of the weeds.
But, but, but . . . these things are temporary. They only work for so long, then as they decompose the weeds have a chance of growing again. But the upside is that as they decompose they actually improve the quality of the soil in your flower garden. To really stay ahead of the game you should apply a new layer of mulch each season.
What about Preen? Does that stuff work?
Yes, Preen does work at controlling weeds. Preen is a pre-emergent herbicide that will not kill existing weeds or plants. It is a weed prevent-er. It prevents weed seeds from germinating. So in order for Preen to really work you have to give it a fair chance by allowing it to start with a flower garden that is completely free of weeds.
If you follow the steps outlined above, then apply the Preen and re-apply it as soon as you see a few weeds, you can keep the flower garden weed free. But before you make the second application, pull any and all weeds the apply your second application of Preen.
The Secret to making all of this work?
Diligence my friend. Diligence and perseverance. You mow the lawn at least once a week right? Weed the flower garden on the same day, every single time you mow. It should take you about 60 seconds, and while you’re at it you get to admire the beautiful flowers. If you see many weeds at all, make another application of Preen or mulch.
Did you catch the magic in this article?
Sunlight. Flowers love sunlight, but so do weeds. The secret is to give the flowers plenty of sunlight and the weeds none. As the flowers, especially perennials, grow to a larger size they do a great job of blocking sunlight to the soil. Weeds hate that! If you have a flower garden that is completely full of beautiful perennial flowers, the weeds won’t have a chance. Even if they do germinate under the canopy of the flowers they will be small and spindly, easy to pull.
Never let the weeds get ahead of you.
Trust me. This is doable. Use cardboard and newspaper, cover those with mulch. Use Preen for added protection if you like. This does work. Bare soil? Bare soil is a bear to keep weed free! Why? Too much sunlight.
Questions or comments? Post them below.