Weed eradication project

Although I LOVE my house and yard, three things I could live without: creeping charlie, Japanese knotweed, and creeping purple bellflower, especially the knotweed and the bellflower. Both are non native invasives that mercilessly choke out any competition from native plants, and are damned near impossible to get rid of without resorting to a potent herbicide. But I can’t resist trying.

Today’s project: add a second layer of cardboard over the western border bed, and cover with shredded bark mulch. We laid down a layer of cardboard over a heavy layer of chopped leaves in this bed last fall hoping to smother the bellflower and the other flowers in this bed (phlox, daylillies, peonies). What you say? Smother the peonies and phlox? Yep, smother till dead. Because, you see, just the eeensiest, teensiest piece of root from the bellflower, and it will live and spread like a California wildfire. (Oh yes, it will, and the reason I know this is the bellflower growing amidst the beautiful white phlox in my front garden bed.) It worked pretty well except in a few places plants popped up through the cardboard. Dan whacked everything with the weed-whacker yesterday, then we covered those areas with more cardboard.

I’m not one of those gardeners who feel like a great garden is an acre of mulch with a tiny, undersized plant poking up. No, mulch, in my mind, is strictly a garden tool, one pulled out to hide the sod-killing newspaper and prevent annual weeds moving in. I’m much happier when in a couple of years you can’t see any mulch through the jungle of plants.

In this case, the mulch is a tool, holding down the 2 layers of cardboard to make sure the plants that survived layer number one will not survive layer number 2. As you can see, we only mulched about half of that area; it took oodles of cardboard and 2 yards of mulch. Fortunately, we can get the mulch just a mile up the road at the local garden/feed store; it is actually milled right here in town just 3 short miles from the house. We need to gather more cardboard and add a second layer over the area seen in the foreground of the bottom photo, and then more mulch –we’ll probably need less than a yard.

Next spring, I hope we can go ahead with our plan of planting that area with ferns and hosta, with a small understory tree or two. It is pretty shady so I’m not sure what will grow well there, I’m hoping a small (<12ft.) dogwood, but maybe something else will be more shade tolerant. I’ve got 2 clethra bushes and some hostas along the deck, but the clethra don’t seem to be growing very vigorously so it may be too shady for them.While we were mucking about in there, we replaced our bottle tree with a recently pruned lilac, trimmed to hold the bottles. This one has spaces for 9 blue bottles, so we have space for even more bottles to catch any evil spirits heading our way.

Although it was a beautiful June day today, that’s about all the gardening we did. I’ve come down with a killer cold so I ran out of steam early on. Dan mulched more in the front hosta bed, it looks great, and weeded and mulched my Russian sage hedge –he’s a sweetie. We then relaxed for the remainder of the day. We both needed it.


4 Responses to “Weed eradication project”

  1. Nancy Bond Says:

    Good luck with getting rid of the unwanted plants – kudos to you for doing it without herbicides! Or at least trying to – the cardboard is a great idea.

  2. Robin Says:

    I’m glad you wrote about this. I don’t think I’d have remembered to use cardboard under the mulch when I redo the perennial garden next week.

  3. Tracy Says:

    I’m at work, so just a quick note that I think you’ll appreciate: My mom calls creeping bellflower “cancer of the garden.” I hope your form of “chemo” works wonders!

  4. Twinville2 Says:

    Whew! You deserve a break.

    I’m tired just from reading about all your hard work. Zzzzzzzzzz…..

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