or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Natural Living › The Mindful Home › Gardening › How to turn weed pile into garden? *Pics*
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

How to turn weed pile into garden? *Pics*

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
We bought our house last September. I always meant to get out there and kill some of those weeds but with all the work to do inside, I hardly made a dent in it.

These are some pics from last fall:
pic 1

Pic 2

And now this winter (garden area is on the left side and out of shot.)

Pic 3

I'm standing at the back of our house, pointed towards the back of the property. Our land is long and narrow and slopes gently towards the back (I think there's a tiny brook there this winter, just off our property.) Neighbours beaut of a lawn to the left and a tractor trail to the right with a falling down barn.

There are some lovely trees in the backyard, closer to the house, but the garden plot itself gets plenty of sun just about all day long in the summertime. It looks really nice except for all the weeds.

So, weeds. What do I do with them? We're talking waist to shoulder high goldenrod, a couple burdocks, milkweed, grasses, raspberry bushes (there're being taken out! we have some bushes beside our house to pick berries from) and other miscellaneous prickly things. And some lillies and other flowers thrown in for the fun of it. And some decorative plastic "fencing" hidden under it all. A fallen tree. Some big rocks (possibly decoratively placed and not local but hidden with weeds.)

Should we till? Pull by hand? Use a scythe? (we have one!) Cover with tarp? Burn them?

Should we build raised beds? Bring in new soil?

I really want a garden this summer! Oh, and we'll have to fence it because we get deer in our backyard.
post #2 of 10
Well, I am not exactly an expert here. But maybe it would help you to realize that the weeds are out there doing an important job for you. They are covering and protecting your soil. And in the process they are drawing up nutrients from deeper within the earth (the burdock in particular, I believe) so that those nutrients are more available for the next phase of ecological succession (which in the case of nature would be the small shrubs such as the raspberry, but in your case would be your garden).

The easiest way to make your garden happen might be to trample down the weeds in the spring and start mulching like crazy (often called lasagna gardening). A layer of wet newspaper to hold down the weeds, then various layers of green and brown (wet and dry - like vegetable waste and dried leaves or manure and straw -- whatever you can find) compost ingredients. Then let the whole thing set for a while. If you want to plant sooner rather than later, cover the whole thing with some soil and go right ahead and plant in it. Fence in the garden part and keep the weeds down with more mulch and you should be in good shape pretty quickly.

IF you are planning to wait until next year to plant, some folks just cover the whole thing with mulch and wait it out.

and not to be too radical, but.... you could always eat the burdock root or dry it for tea, harvest the raspberry leaves for a nutritious tea/infusion, and the milkweed is the only food that monarch butterflies eat. You are also quite likely to have other delicous edible weeds such as plantain, nettles, chickweed, etc.
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the advice! While I'm sure burdock root and raspberry leaf tea would be yummy () I really want to grow a LOT of veggies that we can eat year round. I know I can get more produce per square foot by planting potatoes, carrots, onions, beans etc than with leaving what's there.

So, if I add mulch to the weed pile, will the weeds just grow right up through it? Will they overtake my garden the second my back is turned?

Another idea that I'm wondering will work is if we fence the garden area (to keep out deer) and let some chickens loose in there for a while this spring. Would they get rid of weed seeds or just spread them around even worse?
post #4 of 10
OooOOo, this is really interesting.

Personally... I am a novice at gardening. Most of what I have DONE is in pots. But I have done a lot of reading. I think a could of things make a difference.
Are you interested in having a lawn out back?
Are you just planting for vegetables or for a pretty garden area?
Do you have kids?
Do you have a rototiller?

EmsMom has some amazing information that I had never considered before. She brings up some good points about when you want it done. If you just bought your place and have a few years to establish things I would go the lasagna gardening route.
If I had small children though, I would do raised beds and have a lawn. More along the lines of Square Foot Gardening. That way your garden doesn't get trampled, and it gives easier access when they want to help.

Also my aunt used to have 100 acres in Ohio and now lives in NM, she used to plant her potatoes in tires. Plant the potato in the dirt in 1-2 stacked tires and as it grows up add another tire and lay straw over the plant.
I think you stack about 4-5 high just with straw and when the season is over you just take down the tires and there they are. Very little digging involved.

One thing my husband has been talking about is Permaculture.... but so far I have learned A LOT and know nearly nothing.

Are you planning on fruit/nut trees? Herbs?

I do know you can plant Deer resistant plants around your other plants to help deter them.

We are renting right now and I am fascinated with other people's gardening plans. Experience for the future you know.

Let us know which direction you go.
post #5 of 10
Oh, oh, oh , ,

i have the same issue! and need to get rid of weeds! i want a lawn and a garden!

more !
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by ObliviousAnnette View Post
Are you interested in having a lawn out back?
There's an area that is lawn like between the house and the garden space.

Are you just planting for vegetables or for a pretty garden area?
Mostly veggies but I'd toss some flowers into the mix just for the fun of it.

Do you have kids?
No, not yet but we're looking at fostering kids 0-4 and I have some young family members who pop in (under 6 years old). Also, play space: we live beside a hayfield so I'd tell them to run around over there. Not the field exactly, just a grassy are beside our house before you get to the field.

Do you have a rototiller?
Nope, but my Dad does, he'd bring his over. So I'd be willing to till once or twice to get the land "ready" but not something I'd want to keep up. I've always read it's better not to till anyways.

Are you planning on fruit/nut trees? Herbs?
I'm going to plant an herb/salad garden in the front yard. Our house is small and front door opens straight into the kitchen/DR. All I need to do is take a couple steps out the front door to reach lunch. The BIG garden would be at the back of our property. I'm also thinking of planting blueberry bushes near our pine trees in the front. (Need to look into this but I vaguely remember reading something about acidity and it being good.)

Let us know which direction you go.
I am leaning towards lasagna gardening. I'm starting to think it would be a quick, kind of easy way to get into gardening this year.

I do know my mom had great success with laying tarps etc down over very weedy area but I feel like I don't really have time for that...
post #7 of 10
I'm doing a combination of things but I certainly didn't have quite the plants to contend with! I think I'd cut back anything woody and then start layering, beginning with as many layers of cardboard as you can round up. I'm talking like five or more. The cardboard will break down pretty fast and will hold down all the other non-woody plants. In my yard, I've then built raised beds on top of the cardboard and, for the winter, I've filled them with leaves. All winter and until we begin to plant, we've been putting our kitchen scraps in with the leaves. I know, from prior experience with the worms in my yard, that they'll go nuts once they thaw and break it all down really fast. The freezing and thawing of all the food scraps seems to help a lot, too. Despite all the leaves (which some would say is a bad idea), I know it'll all be broken down by at least late spring. I throw in as many coffee grounds as I can get from Starbucks/the like, too. My fingers are crossed and I figure there's nothing in there that can hurt anything, I may just need to work with it for a bit longer until it's ready to really grow stuff. Good luck!
post #8 of 10
Your photos remind me of an area in my backyard that I had to clear for a fence. I have some photos of it here:http://picasaweb.google.com/mattemma06/Summer2008#

At first I was cutting,but ended up pulling things out by stalk to get roots.Once you get it cleared you might want to cover/layer it to slow down the weeds that will come.Maybe do a cover crop and turn that over.

When I just have grass I either cover it with leaves in the fall and add some soil in the spring.Or I flip the grass and grow something on the flipped dirt. Or I removed the grass,shake back the soil/worms,and compost the grass.

I did a lettuce circle in the front yard where I had left a kiddie pool in place to long.

In the back I dug out a garden this past summer only to find myself wrestling with buried concrete blocks and railroad ties..who the heck buries those???

Layering works pretty well.I will be layering my front yard gardens instead of trying to work the clay soil.If I am just planting one thing like a shrub/tree I will dig a huge hole and add good soil/compost to it.

Best wishes and come back with some photos!!!!!
post #9 of 10
I would definitely lay cardboard down with lots of leaves and mulch on top. First I would mow it all down though....or rather weed whack it since it's so tall. Don't burn it, that might set lots of the grassy weed seeds off. Like a PP mentioned you could bring in dirt and grow on top of that so if you are in a hurry it will cost you more money. In the meanwhile maybe you could find a few spots where you can put in some raised beds elsewhere and grow some food. I know it may not be all you want but with such a large piece of property I'm sure you have more than just one place to work.

The only other option I would consider would be to rototill it. I'm normally not a fan of rototilling ground but in this situation I would consider it if I had a deadline to follow. Don't worry about the earthworms. If your soil is already inhabited by them they will return. Just be sure to put some good stuff back into the soil. After you rototill weeds are going to shoot right back up so I would be sure to have some mulch on hand. In our city we can get leaf drop offs in the fall....maybe check to see if you can get something like that in your area.
post #10 of 10
I have helped install a couple of gardens with a local group that help people start their first gardens. Usually the land is grassy and weedy and sometimes clay soil.

Winter is a good time to start the process, although I guess you need to clear the snow or wait for it to melt. Like others mentioned, cover the garden to be area with cardboard and leaves. Once the snow is gone and the spring rains start, this will help keep the grass/weeds from growing more and stunt their growth.

In the late spring start to prepare the soil. Rototil or skim the grass off the top (sparing as much dirt as possible) and dig up weeds. These can be added to your compost pile.

Outline (using a shovel or just your mind) where the beds and walkways will be. Make sure walkways are wide enough to use easily. Dig the walkways and pile the dirt onto the beds. This raises the beds a bit too. Add compost/old manure during this time and any other amendments your area needs. Beds are good at 4 feet wide and any lenght, you should be able to reach across them easily. Paths can be 12- 18 inches.

Much like Square Foot gardening, planting plants closer together helps keep grass and weeds from growing too much. But weeds also help the garden in the same way. We let dandelions grow freely but do whatever we can to keep the bindweed and blackberry bramble at bay.

Adding mulch (leaves, bark, straw) after you plant can help keep grass/weeds away and perserve moisture but it can also give slugs and bugs a place to live. So might depend on the plants or your area. Putting straw in the walkways can help keep grass/weeds away.

Here is a link to Gardening group I help with. It includes the steps we take to create a new garden:


New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Gardening
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Natural Living › The Mindful Home › Gardening › How to turn weed pile into garden? *Pics*