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Old 05-20-2015, 09:27 PM
 
756 posts, read 659,360 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by karen_in_nh_2012 View Post
Hi, all!! OK, so I've been saying for the past 3 years that "I will be planting flower beds soon ..." -- but I would always feel just SO overwhelmed so I kept putting it off. Well, I finally went out and bought some perennials (I've just been doing annuals in containers since I bought this house in May 2012) and I am DETERMINED to get them in the ground in the next couple of weeks. (Right now they are still in pots, but they are already growing and looking great.)

Right now the front yard is just grass. (There are shrubs right next to the house but they always get crushed by snow falling in the winter -- especially this past winter, when we got an insane amount of snow -- so they look like crap and I am sick of them and I am just going to pull them all out. Yes. All. Out. I'll be adding a big front porch to the house at some point, but in the meantime, I will do containers there. There's another house in my neighborhood that does that and they look wonderful.)

Anyway ... so I THINK this is what I will do?

Till the soil ... or do I dig to get the grass off first? Can I use the tiller right on the grass?

Add compost etc. (can have that delivered in bulk from a store that's just a couple of miles away).

Plant the flowers etc. ... plan where to put them based on their expected size at maturity.

Edge them all (just bought a bunch of pavers ... some are red, which I assume will fade over time which is fine, and others are gray, which I really like) ... do I need to use paver base and leveling sand when it's just an edge for the flower beds? (I know you need those when making a patio out of pavers ...)

Yeah, total newbie here. I am nervous just thinking about this, but I really really really want to have a nice garden.

So many of you have been gardening for years and years and years (NK I'm thinking about you in particular) ... please, any tips? advice? etc.? I'm in New Hampshire, zone 5a.

(Oh, later today I will try to post some photos of what I have bought so far, especially the perennials! I have a bunch more on my shopping list but will have to buy them in the next couple of weeks to make sure I get them in the ground on time ... I might be being too ambitious for this year!)
Irises. Just get Irises. They live through any thing and they last through the winter.
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Old 05-22-2015, 08:00 AM
 
Location: Land of Free Johnson-Weld-2016
6,473 posts, read 14,388,968 times
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OP here are my answers for two of your questions:

Moving shrubs - I've moved one established shrub. With advice from people on the forum. It went well. NOTE Be safe...use HAND and EYE protection like safety goggles and gloves. Do not over-exert yourself. No point ending up on disability and use machinery or help safely where possible.

I dug little by little around this big old azalea. Gently and slowly to expose some of the root-ball. I put some mulch around it so it wouldn't croak because I did not get to finish until the next year! That year I dug some more, then I:
1. Cut off several branches. This helps any plant survive when you are damaging the root ball. It also kept some of the branches out of the way.
2. Tie burlap or a tarp around the base of the shrub. Then tie Rope around the burlap fairly tightly. This keeps you from destroying the plant when you tie it with rope. Tie near the base.
3. Tie the rope to the hitch on your truck (NOT THE BUMPER) and drive in the direction where you want to pull the shrub. Do this slowly. You can back up...to release tension...and go check the progress. If needed, you can make sure the rope is LOOSE and the truck is not running..and do some more digging.
Cardboard Method

I've used several methods to kill grass as experiments. You can probably find them someplace on CD.

1. Removing turf - You can do this yourself with a helper. I got a college student. So you're not just farming it out. Take frequent breaks. It works best IMO about 2-3 days after a rain. Once you have removed the turf..compost it ...then put down some topsoil. Cover with mulch to help prevent weeds, and plant at your leisure. This is really the best way to reduce weeds immediately, but it is hard to get landscapers who are willing to do this much work. Personally I try to minimize the use of chemicals.

3. The BEST lasagna methods - In my experience.
1. Army blanket method - GREAT for a DIYer. Wool (actually wool blend) army surplus blankets with a 3-4 inch layer of mulch...no topsoil. Cut an X for your plants. Dig out just the turf under the X area, and put in some topsoil. This works GREAT on weeds suppressing weeds, even years later. This method is what I used on my first slope garden. As the plants get bigger, remove the blanket and put down more mulch. Very successful against weeds in my experience. Because the blanket at least partially biodegrades, it is very easy to remove once the plants you desire are well established. This may be best on a slope...where you are not concerned with adding HEIGHT.
2. Multiple layers of cardboard and Pine BARK MINI-nuggets - Mini-nuggets are thick and heavy enough to significantly destroy weeds for years. I've used this in my potager (see my blog on CD for some photos)...but I did NOT cut holes for plants. I put raised beds on the cardboard.

3. The MULTI lasagna method - Multiple thick layers are a MUST to REALLY kill weeds. First lay down burlap and edge around your shape to keep the grass/weeds at bay. Then add an overlapping layer of cardboard. Then put on 3+ inches of topsoil. Then a layer of mulch 3 or more inches. It is best to do this in Fall or late summer. Then you can plan and dream all winter. In the spring, dig down...the cardboard and burlap should be mostly disintegrated... and plant. Years later this has made one of my favorite gardens and it is still pretty weed free.
For any method where you cover the ground...mow the grass REALLY LOW first. Then put on the lasagna. For lasagna, you also need landscape pins. Normally I can only find the heavy duty ones online. You'll need a lot.
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Old 05-27-2015, 04:16 PM
 
Location: Southern New Hampshire
7,661 posts, read 13,490,383 times
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Default progress ... sort of!! Opinions, please!!

So today I did an outline (with pavers) of what I think will be a flower bed ... originally I was going to make it 2 beds, one on either side of the light fixture (which is about halfway down the driveway), but when I was laying pavers I just joined them. NOTE, I am not a huge fan of symmetry -- I am OK with the bed along the street not being symmetrical with the bed at the top of the yard (i.e., no U shape -- more of a curved L, kinda sorta!).

Here's a photo taken from a 2nd-floor bedroom (actually my home office) ... sorry, this is as good as I can get it through the window screen! ...



I was actually thinking, it probably won't MATTER exactly what each curve is or whatever once there are PLANTS growing there (and not too many people will be looking from a second-floor window, for that matter!). But I would like a bit of feedback ... does this look OK to start?

Here's a view of the same thing just slightly modified (view from my driveway, left side of the flower-bed-to-be) ...




Here's the right side of the flower-bed-to-be, again from my driveway ... you can also see the picket fence edging I just put around the tree. (You can also see how out of control the shrubs are, hence my wanting to yank them out! Much to my surprise, one of the rhodies is blooming -- maybe I can save it by cutting off part of the back (the part that got snow dumped on it) ... I am going to think about that some more. The 2 shrubs on either side of the front door will definitely come out (their insides were basically flattened by the snow), but I may be able to salvage the others, at least for now.)




Also, here are some of my plants ...



I LOVE the perennials with the little white flowers (the 2 pots on the left) -- they are called May Breeze (I forget their longer name!) and they have done very well since I bought them a couple of weeks ago. I am going to re-plant them in larger pots in the next day or two -- I wanted to get the flower bed outline done today so I can add cardboard & mulch before tonight's THUNDERSTORMS.

And yes, I mowed again after moving those containers (before I laid out the pavers).

Oh, and regarding the pavers, once I am ready to plant in the ground instead of in pots (hopefully late July or early August?!!), I will place them in the ground -- for now I just wanted to see the layout.

Comments? Helpful hints? You know I am generous with reps!
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Old 05-27-2015, 04:32 PM
 
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
36,502 posts, read 45,658,192 times
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Looks like you are getting ready for something very pretty. I would definitely fix that right angle. Remember you have to think about mowing. Now if you use a hand mower I guess it doesn't matter but a riding mower will get bogged down in that right angle. I would soften it up a bit with gentle curves.
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Old 05-27-2015, 04:41 PM
 
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
36,502 posts, read 45,658,192 times
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Have you allowed yourself enough room from the bed to the driveway to mow? I think you are smart o not put the bed and pavers right up against the driveway. sometimes people misjudge distance, ar in a hurry, etc and it would be terrible to lose something dear with a 2thousand pound car!

Not really sure if your grass will be killed by July. Certainly on the way but not decomposed. You will still have to TILL THE HECK out of that bed. Add amendents, test the soil, work on your plans in the mean time. Fall is the best time to plant EVERYTHING. You don't want to plant perennials or anything in August. well in every place I've lived that is the rule. But it is a good time to purchase your perennials, work with your plan and have everyting ready for planting.

Remember the three key elements to design.

1) shape- big , tall, squatty, how big will the mature size be
2) color- do you want cool colors like blues, purples, pinks or hot like reds, oranges, yellow or combinations? ALWAYS have some white or silver to break from one color to the next
3) Texture. My favorite element. Blend spiky with broadleaf, tiny leaves next to huge ones. Too often texture is forgotten.

have fun.
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Old 05-27-2015, 04:59 PM
 
Location: CO
2,454 posts, read 2,790,640 times
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Looks good! That's the thing about a new flower bed, you can make it any way you wish. NoKudzu makes a good point about mowing the grass, just make sure you have at least a mower's width of grass between the bed and the driveway to make your life easier. As for the right angle you'll probably need to take a trimmer to it but you'll be doing that anyway against the paving stones.

One thing that concerns me is your plan to get the plants in the ground in July or August. The hottest time of the year is a tough time to transplant. Why not leave the plants in their pots on top of the flower bed until mid-September when temps cool off? That will give your plants a better start in the ground and they will get settled in before the winter. Looks like you have some annuals too (petunias, marigolds, geranium) so there's no point in planting them in the fall since they will be history unlike the more permanent perennials.

As to your bushes near the house, I've had that snow-smashing happen also. I usually cut them way back in the spring and let them start over and have had good luck doing that. It's amazing how fast they will regain their growth and they won't be bent. Perhaps you can put up with it this summer and prune hard next spring?

Have fun gardening!
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Old 05-27-2015, 05:51 PM
 
Location: Southern New Hampshire
7,661 posts, read 13,490,383 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by no kudzu View Post
Looks like you are getting ready for something very pretty. I would definitely fix that right angle. Remember you have to think about mowing. Now if you use a hand mower I guess it doesn't matter but a riding mower will get bogged down in that right angle. I would soften it up a bit with gentle curves.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lost Roses View Post
Looks good! That's the thing about a new flower bed, you can make it any way you wish. NoKudzu makes a good point about mowing the grass, just make sure you have at least a mower's width of grass between the bed and the driveway to make your life easier. As for the right angle you'll probably need to take a trimmer to it but you'll be doing that anyway against the paving stones.
I have a riding mower because my back yard is very large (entire lot is 1.29 acres, with the back yard taking up probably 60% of that -- my lot starts off maybe 200' wide at the front and gets wider as you go further back), but I bought a small electric mower as a back-up and it will fit fine in the space between the beds and the driveway. And NK, I will change that right angle to another gentle curve!

RE: the pavers: if I get really ambitious I may do something like this to have a mowing edge:




Quote:
Originally Posted by no kudzu View Post
Not really sure if your grass will be killed by July. Certainly on the way but not decomposed. You will still have to TILL THE HECK out of that bed. Add amendents, test the soil, work on your plans in the mean time. Fall is the best time to plant EVERYTHING. You don't want to plant perennials or anything in August. well in every place I've lived that is the rule. But it is a good time to purchase your perennials, work with your plan and have everyting ready for planting.

Remember the three key elements to design.

1) shape- big , tall, squatty, how big will the mature size be
2) color- do you want cool colors like blues, purples, pinks or hot like reds, oranges, yellow or combinations? ALWAYS have some white or silver to break from one color to the next
3) Texture. My favorite element. Blend spiky with broadleaf, tiny leaves next to huge ones. Too often texture is forgotten.

have fun.
I will definitely till, till, till! That's what my brand new tiller is for. (OK, I bought it last year, but I will finally USE it for the first time this year!)

Great tips on design, too! I am taking all the info from the little cards that come with plants and inputting it into my computer so I can plan where to plant what (sun/shade, spread, height, color, blooming times, etc.!). I can be quite obsessive about stuff like that! I find it really fun though too!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lost Roses View Post
One thing that concerns me is your plan to get the plants in the ground in July or August. The hottest time of the year is a tough time to transplant. Why not leave the plants in their pots on top of the flower bed until mid-September when temps cool off? That will give your plants a better start in the ground and they will get settled in before the winter. Looks like you have some annuals too (petunias, marigolds, geranium) so there's no point in planting them in the fall since they will be history unlike the more permanent perennials.
I like the idea of planting in early September, but I wasn't sure if my perennials would have enough time to take root before our first frost (typically very late in September), which is why I was hoping for maybe planting some time in August. I know it's really hot, but I would of course keep everything watered etc. July is typically our "worst" month in terms of heat and humidity (ugh).

I am actually on sabbatical this fall, so will have TIME to do some gardening!! Normally I finish summer teaching in late June, then relax some the first couple of weeks in July, then I'm back to planning for my fall classes. It is SO nice to have some time off. (It's mostly for research of course but I will use SOME of it for gardening! )

Oh, and the annuals will just go into containers. That's all I've HAD for the past 2 years at this house!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lost Roses View Post
As to your bushes near the house, I've had that snow-smashing happen also. I usually cut them way back in the spring and let them start over and have had good luck doing that. It's amazing how fast they will regain their growth and they won't be bent. Perhaps you can put up with it this summer and prune hard next spring?

Have fun gardening!
Still not sure what I am going to do with those foundation plantings ... I will be thinking about that too over the next few weeks/months!

Thanks and reps to you both, although NK, I think I just rep'd you yesterday so I may have to wait to do it again! I will keep you posted on my progress ... unfortunately I didn't get too much more done before the rain started pouring down, and I've heard a bit of thunder too! Time to get off the computer I think!
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Old 05-27-2015, 09:09 PM
 
Location: Northern Illinois
2,187 posts, read 3,795,046 times
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Hi Karen.....wow..that is gonna be a HUGE bed, and it will take some time to get it full of stuff!!! Looks like you have gotten a LOT of great advice and info here - and I know you keep saying you're a newbie - I speak from experience when I say that it is extremely easy to get in the middle of a project, get totally overwhelmed - and panic, and just start sticking stuff anywhere to get it planted.

My first attempts ended like that - and it was a huge learning curve for me. Relax, take a breath, research, choose plants that you like and will enjoy seeing every day, and remember that you can add stuff to it any time you choose. It looks like you have chosen some pretty stuff - and I found a link to your May Breeze: http://www.perennials.com/plants/phlox-divaricata-may-breeze.html.

It's kinda like furnishing a new house - it just comes together over time. You can't expect to just go to town in one afternoon and buy everything and bring it home and have done with it!!! The worst that can happen is you kill a couple of things, or they die. You replace them, and life goes on. It happens - but it's really exciting to grow something beautiful and enjoy it for years to come. Have a lot of fun, and I will enjoy keeping up with your new gardens. Those mowing edges look beautiful BTW. Wish my DH would do that *sigh*....stay safe and dry!!!!
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Old 05-27-2015, 09:13 PM
 
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
36,502 posts, read 45,658,192 times
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Your plants in the ground in August will not fare well I fear. Planting is a very stressful time and doing it while trying to deal with heat, humidity etc is asking an awful lot. Wait till it cools off. Statistically, planting in fall yields better results than spring. Fall planting allows some root development and acclimation before winter and even in "dormant" months roots are being developed. And by spring plants are more developed and ready to deal with summer extremes.

And remember this. No matter when you plant you should REMOVE ALL BLOOMS. What You say. I BOUGHT THEM FOR THE BLOOMS.

You want new plants to put energy and growth into new roots not blooms and then seed. hard to do but I always remove all blooms (except flowering shrubs) on perennials and if I'm a bit patient I am very well rewarded.
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Old 05-29-2015, 05:58 AM
 
Location: Sunny Florida
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I think you are doing great. The one thing I've learned after making literally dozens of flower beds is to make gentle curves rather than sharp angles. It helps with mowing the adjacent lawn, trimming, trying to maintain the edge, and it usually looks better. Also have the tall plants in the middle, then the medium height ones, and along the edge the shortest. Also don't be stingy with the mulch. I'm anxious to see the final result and sure it'll be lovely.
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