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We Have A Big Scoop Of Topsoil In Our Yard….

Kathy Asked

We have a big scoop of topsoil in our yard. My husband used it to build five raised beds. My plan is to put up a fence to keep the deer out and plant a vegetable/flower garden next year.

What should I do with the beds in the meantime? Should I cover them with a tarp to keep weeds out? Should I plant a cover crop to keep weeds out and add organic matter?

We also have a lot of used bedding (shredded Aspen). Could I spread a layer of that over the soil to keep weeds down? Hopefully, it would break down in time for me to turn it into the soil in the spring.

The Gardener’s Answer

Hello, Kathy: This is very exciting! Think about all you can produce in five raised beds. You should not have a major problem with weeds unless the topsoil that was used was not weeded beforehand. I would, however, suggest that you add some amendments to the soil such as hen manure or worm castings or, even better, compost to add to the existing soil. You can use this time to construct the fence to keep out the deer since planting in them now will only encourage them. If you would rather wait to build the fence you can always plant the beds and use a repellent product such as Liquid Fence or Deer Off to deter them until the fence is constructed. These are liquid products that you spray the around the perimeter of the beds. They do not smell good but the scent dissipates to us after a few hours; the deer continue to smell it for many weeks. It will need to be reapplied after a hard rain. As far as tarping the beds I would not recommend this because it would just be easier to hand weed the beds. I would also avoid the used Aspen. It is certainly not too late to plant perennials or even some vegetables. For a list of deer-resistant plants visit
and search the plant reference list for deer-resistant perennials. Millcreek Gardens is a reliable source of information. As far as vegetables, this is tricky in terms of being deer-resistant. You will certainly have to use a spray or construct a fence to keep them out. This time of year there are still many options for planting, such as carrots, radishes, beets, cucumber, beans, and squash, just to name a few. Keep in mind that later in the fall you can plant cool-season crops like lettuce, kale, spinach, and broccoli. For more detailed information on vegetable gardening in your area you can contact your County Cooperative Extension Service. The Jefferson County Web site is
or you can contact the agriculture/horticulture agent at (304) 728-7413.

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