I have a perennial bed that I want to kill out and plant a small garden this spring. It is very thick with vegetation right now. I’m concerned about spraying it then sowing vegetables. I understand that putting down plastic will take a long time to kill it out. I sprayed it a couple of times in the fall, which helped a very little.
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Stacy in Kentucky: Every season in the garden is different and winter is the time to sit back and ponder ideas for next year’s growing season. A garden is ever-changing and sometimes we want to pull everything out and start over. The good news is that this is possible with a little bit of manual labor. Switching out a perennial bed for a vegetable garden is certainly doable but the task of getting the perennials out of the way is the first order of business. The lack of success with spraying may have to do with what you sprayed, how much you sprayed, what you are trying to kill, and if the plant was actively growing or able to absorb the active ingredient (likely glyphosate). Since your goal is to replace a perennial bed with a vegetable garden, you are better off digging up the plants, re-working the soil, and re-planting. It would be unfortunate to kill perennials that another gardener friend may love to have. They may even come dig them out for you. If this is an established perennial bed you will have the roots to contend with even if you just kill the plants, so you might as well just dig up the healthy plant and their roots so you have a “clean” bed to plant your veggies in. Black plastic is a great way to kill turf and prepare a bed but it does take time and not so ideal in a perennial bed that already has plantings. Digging out the existing perennials is the most environmentally friendly option and really makes the most sense in terms of re-planting. Glyphosate and other chemical sprays have their place but knowing you are going to eat the plants growing in this soil is just another good reason to hand-dig.