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how do I get rid of LOTS of weeds in fairly large area?

(29 Posts)
CurlyhairedAssassin Sat 21-Feb-09 18:22:15

Ok, garden been neglected for past 5 years due to kids refusing to spend more than 10 mins in garden without some parental attention! Going to have much more time from now on to tackle it all properly.

Weeds are kind of everywhere but I have a plan to first totally clear one particular border completely which had old conifers there previously and not much underneath except some vinca major/minor, ivy and monbretia. Weeds, ivy, brambles and grass are intermingled with everything. If I want to clear the bed completely to totally re-plant it from fresh, what is the best way to go about it? Am I right in thinking it's a good time of year to clear it as yes, there will be some perennial weeds but the annual weeds (if that's what they're called - the ones that seed, I mean) haven't really got a grip at the moment in this cold weather?

I am quite liking the idea of putting membrane down for a number of weeks. But I'm just not sure how much I need to do first. Do I need to get as much grass and weeds up from the soil as possible first and THEN put the membrane down? Or is it enough to just smother EVERYTHING in membrane and that will kill everything off? Would weedkiller help first, underneath the membrane?

Sorry, I kind of have a bit of an idea what I need to do, but not really enough detail about how exactly to go about it.

Also, if you put chipped bark down later on around new plants, is it easy enough to remove it to add further plants at a later date? Is it just a matter of digging some of it away? <thicko emoticon!>


homicidalmatriach Sat 21-Feb-09 20:55:32

Cut away anything woody before putting down membrane. You can use old carpet for this purpose - go on freecycle and request some - just as effective!

You can put weedkiller down but without oxygen the weeds will die anyway.

If you put chipped bark down it will biodegrade within six to twelve months and completely disappear.

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Sat 21-Feb-09 21:04:41

Don't use proper gardening membrane, as that lets water through, which will nourish the weeds (not what you want!) Old carpet, black polythene (can be bought from garden centres) or even old compost sacks spilt open and laid flat will do the job.

Carpet/polythene is very effective, but you'll need to leave it several months to be sure that all the perennial weeds have been killed off. It can be an eyesore, although you could put the chipped bark on it to dissguise it (if you don't mind the faff of having to scrape it all off again when you're ready to bin the black plastic and replant the bed).

CurlyhairedAssassin Sat 21-Feb-09 21:40:53

<another thicko emoticon> Homicidal, what EXACTLY do you mean by anything "woody"?

Re; old carpet - I've noticed a few threads about weeds on allotments where it's been agains the rules to use old carpets because of chemicals or something??????

You see, MadBad, that sounds like an EXCELLENT idea!!!! I would never have thought about putting chipped bark or something on top of the polythene/carpet as a temporary measure. To be honest, it's that much of an eyesore at the moment anyway that I won't mind if it's left for a few months with some polythene and bark chippings on. Do you really mean a few month though? Will it take that long? My aim is to plant some laurels along the back fence and then stuff in front of them, so I wanted to get at least the laurels established and growing by the summer really. Do you reckon it's doable?

One final thing. I think there are a fair few frogs hibernating and stuff underneath all the grass/vegetation in that bed. I assume they'd be able to crawl out from under any polythene I put down?

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Sat 21-Feb-09 22:10:55

Curly - When we needed to clear our garden of ground elder, we left the black plastic in place for nearly a year. That's probably excessive but if you have any very persistent perennial weeds like ground elder you need to be sure that it has all rotted away - if you take the plastic off too soon it could regenerate from dormant roots. The RHS website has advice on perennial weeds but I haven't found anything (yet) which says what the optimum time for leaving the black plastic is. I've done some googling and found that some allotment societies don't like old carpets being used as a mulch as they may release chemicals into the soil as they rot. That may be more of an issue if you might be growing crops in the soil, I guess.

I'm not sure when the hibernating frogs are likely to emerge, but I'd be wary of covering them in the polythene, just in case they don't manage to crawl out. Maybe wait a week or two until they're safely in the pond, before putting down the plastic?

If you're after quick results and the weeds aren't too numerous, maybe you could dig out now the part of the bed where you want to plant the laurels. If they're sizeable plants it's better to plant them in spring than in summer. Would it be feasible to clear the bed in two stages - clear space for the laurels by digging out the weeds and then put plastic and bark chips on the rest?

ABetaDad Sat 21-Feb-09 22:23:42

If it is large area and can be done safely you might want to consider spraying with Gramoxone.

It is a contact herbiside - kills everything and makes ground clearance easier.


In very dry hot weather setting fire to the weeds about 2 week after spraying with Gramoxone produces a furious blaze that makes ground clearance even easier. Again only to be done with care.

Probably a bit industrial for a small garden but if it is big the Gramoxone treatment followed by woody shrub/tree removal and a good rotavating will get you a long way quickly without too much back breaking work.

ABetaDad Sat 21-Feb-09 22:34:21

Sorry I forgot to add that once the ground is clear with the Gramoxone - Burn/Clear - Rotavate method then do follow the very good advice of others on here of using carpets or black plastic to cover the soil otherwise weeds will just grow back.

The carpet/black plastic cover will encourage growth of many new seedlings which will then just die off.

jollydiane Sat 21-Feb-09 22:53:28

As a starting point I would suggest watching Alan Titsmarsh how to be a gardener. We had a real mess of a garden, but basically copied one of his gardens and are delighted with the results.

We put the hard work and expense in and are now reaping the benefits. We rotivated the area, we then go about 7 tons of good quality top soil, turfed it and it looks fab. Laying a lawn is one of those jobs that you think is going to be hard but actually is a delight. For kids you cannot beat grass and shrubs.

We also put in some trees and now get a regular crop of fruit. Good luck.

CurlyhairedAssassin Sat 21-Feb-09 23:11:50

MadBag, whilst the bed I'm talking about is our widest border, I think if I didn't clear the whole area, the weeds would just impinge on the establishing laurels. Think I'm going to have to do the whole lot.

ABetaDad, I'm sure my DH would be drooling over the idea of starting a "furious blaze" in our back garden LOL, but as there is a wooden fence going all along the border I'm talking about, I don't think this would be such a good idea! grin The bed is no more than about 6 feet wide, at its widest point, I would estimate. (says something about the 2 narrower borders, I know!!) But that's another future thread.....grin

JollyDiane, I've actually got the book version of How to Be A Gardener, and have dipped in and out of it because I just can't be arsed reading the boring bits at the start about soil types etc and so have been put off reading most of the rest of it! Is there a book that exists that you can read with interest from start to finish that actually only deals with EXACTLY what to do when you take over a neglected, weed-infested garden?!

CurlyhairedAssassin Sat 21-Feb-09 23:14:01

Oh, and a quick question about rotivators. I have never used one, but thought you had to be very careful about cultivating more perennial weeds by mistake by churning up the roots?

I agree with you about turf. We have actually got a decent-sized lawn which won't be touched except to improve the quality (god, what a difference not bothering with Autumn weed/feed has made this winter - looks a mess)

CurlyhairedAssassin Sat 21-Feb-09 23:16:43

Sorry - Madbad

jollydiane Sat 21-Feb-09 23:30:11

I just watched the programmes rather than the book whihich is still collecting dus blush

Our turf was beyond repair so we had to get it level and the rotivator was the only option. The weeds have not really come through but then we had so much top-soil and new turf.

callmeovercautious Sat 21-Feb-09 23:31:03

I am on the same quest and am in year 2. Last year I tackled the worst brambles etc with weed killer (which I hate using normally) but it helped me with the limited time I have. Then I did one side properly. I dug it all out, removing every bit of root and bramble I could find then and fed it and added some compost, planted some nice things - Lavender and Buddlia etc then put down loads of bark. I had NO WEEDS in that bed all last summer. Even the brambles and vines did not return. I know this year I will have to do more weeding as the bark has decomposed a bit but it will still be better, if I can afford it I will top up the bark.

I am going to do the same with the long back border this year and can't wait smile I have started digging rubbish out already.

Weed membrane is good to stop weeds coming through once you have cleared if you are waiting to plant. eg I have dug our veg patch over winter but it is too early to plant so I have covered it until I am ready to plant. Covering to kill perennials needs at least a year; i.e a full season of growth so they are well and truly dead and all seeds have germinated and died too. You can use cardboard for this if thick enough.

CurlyhairedAssassin Sat 21-Feb-09 23:34:12

Interesting, callmeovercautious. Can I ask what type of weedkiller you used? If it worked for your brambles, I'm assuming it'll do the job on ours!

MaryMotherOfCheeses Sat 21-Feb-09 23:54:29

Ditto, I'd like to know what you used on brambles too.

My mum keeps saying if you keep on top of them, and cut any emerging leaves down to below the ground, you'll eventually kill them off.

Not successful enough for my likings.

ABetaDad Sun 22-Feb-09 08:33:23

CurlyhairedAssassin - well you could do with a new wooden fence as well couldn't you?

Seems like a perfect solution. grin

Flightattendant27 Sun 22-Feb-09 08:37:24

I need something I can use specifically on brambles as well, will await news!!

homicidalmatriach Sun 22-Feb-09 08:51:06

Woody means - weeds that have developed a stick like quality - anything hard - you will find if you leave weeds long enough they get ard like an eastend villian and become hard to shift unless you cut away their stalks a la slasher movies with a scythe or similar

BoffinMum Sun 22-Feb-09 09:08:48

I have had success doing the following:

1. Cut stuff back

2. Rotavate

3. Add some new top soil and fertiliser if required

4. Lay soak hoses in the ground if you are near a tap, so you can water the bed relatively ecologically at night time if necessary, with a hose on a timer, minimising evaporation

5. Top the whole lot off with landscape matting

6. Plant through the landscape matting

7. Sprinkle bark or cocoa shells to hide the landscape matting (cocoa shells need watering in so they don't blow away).

8. Any weeds that are audacious enough to try to re-emerge get a blast of translocating weedkiller every few days.

Also when planting work out whether the bed faces north or whatever, and how dry it is, and read plant labels to make sure what you are buying corresponds with the situation a bit. If you look at your neighbours' plants this will give you clues as to what does well in your soil type.

CurlyhairedAssassin Sun 22-Feb-09 11:41:25

homicidalmatriarch: that's some talent you've got there - making getting rid of weeds appear desperately exciting! I will be grinning to myself like a loon as I do all that slashing, thinking of your post about weeds being ard!!!

Betadad, we DO need a new fence actually - do you live behind us?!

Boffinmum: sounds like a good plan. Which is cheaper - bark or cocoa shells?

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Sun 22-Feb-09 12:46:51

shock blush smile [recognition] at being called MadBag!

For killing brambles you need a heavy duty weedkiller - there used to be one called Brushkiller which worked well but I'm not sure whether it's still on the market. A garden centre should be able to advise. Also, weedkiller works better if you first trample on the leaves, as that improves absorption. <<well 'ard emoticon>>

It is, though, possible to do it organically, according to the Garden Organic website.

I've only used cocoa shells once. They smell wonderful when new but seem to decay much quicker than bark ships - because they're so much smaller, I guess.

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Sun 22-Feb-09 12:48:37

That would be bark chips. We're not talking about Viking longboats. blush

ABetaDad Sun 22-Feb-09 13:58:13

CurlyhairedAssassin - I might well live behind you but I wouldn't tell anyone because it might lower the value of your home.

ABetaDad Sun 22-Feb-09 14:04:44

MadbadandDangeroustoKnow - you are right.

Bushkiller is definitley the way to go with brambles.

If we work on this together we can convince the OP to turn her garden into a wasteland of brown toxic vegetation, fire, black plastic sheeting and waste carpets.

I hope she wasn't planning to actually grow anything. shock

CurlyhairedAssassin Sun 22-Feb-09 17:25:06

grin grin grin

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