Seriously. You have no idea. This daylily bed? It was a massive MESS when we moved in. Weed filled, nasty plants with thorns and thistles and poisons galore. It was BAD. We are now in year three of renovating the bed (...and by we I mean me :) and it is finally - FINALLY starting to look like a garden.
You don't see it?
Well, you aren't looking closely enough! Lets break it down.
Year 1 -- I have 2 acres that are full of beautiful plants, but completely overgrown. I don't have time to devote hours and hours to one single garden bed. So I do what I always do when I want to kill weeds. CARDBOARD AND MULCH. Lots of it! Sometimes I lay down old tile or old carpeting as well. It is half-recycling with those thicker materials because they will come out of the beds eventually while the cardboard desentegrates, but basically, whatever is on hand that is going to otherwise go to the trash or recycle center -- it is utilized.
DIY Garden TIP:Do this job on a day that is NOT windy, but feel free to do this on a drizzly rainy day. The cardboard getting wet AFTER it goes on the beds is a fine thing and will keep everything flat. Wind just makes the work impossible.
After the initial weedblocking layer was in place, I topped it off with tons and tons of mulch.
DIY Garden TIP:If you are working in a garden of more than a few small beds, DO NOT buy bags of mulch. They are so very overpriced! You have a few options when it comes to cheap or free mulch.
A. Garden centers will sell you a truckload of nice, aged, sometimes dyed mulch for $100-150 dollars. It sounds like a lot, but start comparing it to the bags of mulch and it is a steal. (Not to mention all the plastic you save skipping the bags!)
B. If you catch the city pruners or electric company trucks out pruning, they will often dump a load in your driveway for you. The problem? This wood is not aged, meaning it can burn young plants. I use both aged and non-aged mulch for different applications. Killing a weed bed is the PERFECT place for non-aged wood. It smothers the weeds, makes the bed look nice and the mulch is ready for "REAL" plants next spring.
C. Call your local tree pruning company. They always have mulch (often non-aged) and will charge less than a typical garden center. I get mine from our neighbor for about $50 and we are still working on using up last year's pile. It goes a long way!
Back to that daylily bed....let me give you a little perspective:
Year 2 Needs and Plans:A. I needed REALLY tough plants to be able to break through cardboard that might be leftover as well as fight any residual weeds that would pop up.
B. I needed the plants to bloom for multiple seasons without a lot of fuss.
C. I also needed plants that went up fairly high to offer some privacy.
Now we are getting somewhere! This is the end of the summer year #2.
Those two big bushes that break up the daylily beds were there and serve our privacy needs well. (Remind me later to go on a rant about folks who rip out fully mature trees and bushes without a really REALLY solid gardening plan - UGH).
DIY Garden TIP:When you are "recovering" a bed from a weed filled life, consider planting vines in the summer. They will fill the space quickly with green and will come out of the ground easily after the first fall frost. Pictured Above: Pumpkins!
Remember that photo of the daylily bed I showed you way, way up in the top of the post? Well here is the result!
I began transplanting little daylily plugs from around the yard that were in odd spots, some most likely had simply migrated from the farmer's field. I put them ALL in this bed, watered them once and they took care of themselves.
Once I had the daylilies in, I knew that would cover a good big of summer with foliage and blooms. There was still spring, late summer and height to worry about though.
Solution? Daffodils, Cannas and Clematis!
I planted a boatload of daffodils, a big mix of varieties that are known to self propagate and make lots of babies. Then, I added some cannas to the back of the bed to add height. They go in in spring and get yanked out in spring. Both the cannas and daffodils are tough as nails.
Once the bed was established and (mostly) weed free, I started adding a few more "fun" plants like clematis and now poppy that add a bit of looseness and femininity to the mix.
Long story short?Year 1 - Cardboard and Mulch the bejeebers out of the bed to kill weeds.
Year 2 - Transplant daylily tubers, plant daffodils and plant cannas for a season long show and green privacy fence.
Year 3 - Add finesse with clematis to climb the fence all season long and poppies for a BANG in between the bloom time of the daffodils and daylilies.
Moral of the story? Tough (bulbous!) plants, cardboard and MULCH!
Want more DIY Gardening posts? Here ya go!