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Tips for Preparing a Planting Bed
If you are preparing beds for landscaping around your house this article should simplify the process for you. I say that because of everything that is written about this subject, some of it is accurate, some of it is just plain wrong, and much of it is much more complicated than it needs to be. I like to think of myself as Simple Simon. I find the easiest, yet most effective way to do things, and they work. Let’s assume that the area where you are planning your bed is now planted in grass. How do you get rid of the grass? Chemicals or no chemicals? Chemicals are easy, so we’ll look at the chemical method first.
My favorite chemical for killing grass and weeds is RoundUp, and used properly it is effective. Rule number one: Read the label on the package, and mix the chemical exactly as recommended by the manufacturer. Rule number two: Assume that every plant that the RoundUp touches is going to die. It is a non-selective herbicide. The first thing you need to do is mark out where your planting bed is going to be.
Spend some time on this step. If you are landscaping around your house, give careful consideration to what is going to be planted in the bed, and then decide how large each plant is going to be when fully mature. You can keep plants trimmed to a certain size, but be realistic when you make these estimates. Trust me when I tell you, this is the number one mistake made by Do-it-Yourself landscapers. People are just afraid to make those beds large enough. Typically, a bed should never be narrower than 42”, and corner beds should be 12’ in diameter. Islands. If you make those little tiny island beds that I see everywhere I am going to come over to your house and snap you with a wet towel! The island bed in your front yard should be 20’ to 40’ long, and a minimum of 12’ in diameter on at least one end. The easiest way to mark out your planting beds is to buy a can of marking paint at the hardware store. Unlike most spray paint, this only works when the can is inverted, and it is designed specifically for painting lines on the ground.
They even have cans that spray chalk instead of paint. I’ve always used the paint, it holds up better if it gets wet. Once you have the outline of the bed established and marked, mix up some RoundUp and spray all the grass and weeds inside the bed area. Do not put RoundUp in a sprayer that you intend to use for other purposes. You need a sprayer that is dedicated for the use of herbicides. When applying the spray, be very careful not to let the spray drift onto the grass and other plants that you do not want to kill. To minimize spray drift, adjust the spray nozzle so the spray pattern is narrow and the droplets are larger. A wide, fine spray pattern is sure to drift outside of the intended area. Also keep the pressure in the sprayer quite low. Pump it just enough to deliver the spray.
High pressure causes the spray to atomize and drift. Apply just enough spray to wet the foliage. If you have liquid dripping off the blades of grass, you are applying too much. More is not better. Once sprayed, be careful not to step in the area that has been sprayed. Many people have had golden footprints across their lawn because they forgot and walked through what had been sprayed. This is the difficult part, and the part that many people do not get, so pay close attention. The only way that the RoundUp can possibly work is if you leave it alone. Did you get that? Once you apply the RoundUp, don’t do another thing with that bed for 72 hours. That’s three very long days.
I know you’re anxious, but this is the price you pay for not planning ahead. RoundUp is a systemic herbicide, which means that it has to be absorbed by the plant, then translocated throughout the plant. It takes three days for that to happen. If you go digging and chopping, you might just as well skip the spraying step. Go build a compost bin while you’re waiting. After three days the weeds and grass are going to look as healthy and happy as ever. Don’t let ’em fool ya. They’re as dead as dead can be. Providing the RoundUp didn’t get washed off by rain within the first 24 hours of the waiting period.
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