Last year I moved back to the family home and now I’m thinking about tackling some gardening. I thought I’d start with the flower beds. The soil is sandy and the lawn is pretty much weedy. Not sure what kinds but we definitely have an abundance of sand burrs (not sure if that is the correct name but that is what we’ve always called them) and an assortment of others.The lawn will have to wait till fall. The beds are full of wiry weeds with a few lirope and a couple shrubs as well. I know I’m going to need to do a lot of weeding. I’d like to know if you could suggest any special and thorough methods. I also need to know if there is something I can use in the bed to thwart the weeds from returning since the weedy, sandy lawn butts right up to the decorative edging of the beds. The house and beds are south-facing with no trees in the front yard. I’d like to plant a mixture of sun-loving flowers for an “English cottage” look. I’d be happy to keep the shrubs and lirope in place. I guess I need to know what to feed the soil as well.
The Gardener’s Answer
Hi, Nancy: Thank you for your question. It sounds like you are taking on a couple of exciting projects. You are a smart woman for only doing one at a time! So, let’s start with the flower beds. As far as weeding the existing beds, the old-fashioned hand-digging/pulling method is the most effective. This will ensure you get the root system as well as the new growth. There are other options, such as covering the beds with a couple layers of newspaper, holding them in place with rocks or bricks, and in a few months the weeds should be dead. This method is neither the most aesthetically pleasing nor the fastest, but it does not involve chemicals. Since you would like to keep the liriope and the existing shrubs, it would be tricky to work around them. I would not recommend spraying the beds with a weed killer since even spot spraying could potentially damage the plants you would like to keep. When warm weather arrives and the weeds emerge, start pulling them as soon as possible. It will be easier on you to get them out while they are small; it is always easier to pull weeds after a good rainfall or a good soaking from the hose. It is important to get rid of them before they flower and set seed. As for feeding the soil, you may consider having your soil tested first. This can be done through your County Cooperative Extension Service. The results will tell you the soil pH as well as some nutrient levels. Amending the soil with compost is beneficial, or applying a complete fertilizer with a 10-10-10 ratio will also work. As for the lawn, we can tackle this in the fall but for now you might want to weed the lawn around the beds just to be on the safe side. You can also apply corn gluten, which is a natural pre-emergent weed control. It is not effective against existing weeds but will prevent new ones from growing. If the lawn is truly full of weeds, you should consider doing a total kill and starting over with no weed competition. Keep this in the back of your mind for later in the year. Once you get your beds weeded and your soil tested, it will be time to plant your “English cottage” garden! Let me know if you want planting suggestions.