The Q&A Archives: New Gardens

Question: I recently moved into a new house. The previous tenants did not do anything with the yard and as a result I have a very overgrown garden. My lawn is 50% weed, 30%moss and 20% grass, my flowerbeds and bulging with weeds with very few surviving flowers (roses, morning glory, Iris, poppies)What is the easiest and best way to get rid of the weeds while saving (is possible) the flowers? Is it too late to plant a vegtable garden?

Answer: Your lawn may need to be renovated in late summer/early fall, but you can try to care for it until then and see if it improves. First, run some basic soil tests to check fertility and soil pH. Fertilize and lime as indicated by the test results. (These will be helpful for hte flower beds and vegetable garden as well.) Mow the lawn high, at three inches. Mow often enough that you do not remove more than one third the grass height at a time. This will encourage the grass to grow denser and crowd out weeds. Next, keep in mind that moss can grow in areas that are not well suited to lawn. Grass will not grow in shady areas, where soil is infertile or overly acidic, where the drainage is poor, or where the soil is badly compacted for example. These types of conditions must be corrected before a lawn could thrive.

Flower beds that have been neglected can certainly be brought back. The flowers you named are "survivors" and should respond very well to a little care. Weeds can be pulled or dug out, removing the root. Or, you can spot treat with an herbicide containing glyphosate. Read and carefully follow all of the label directions including any waiting period. Then mulch around the flowers using an organic mulch such as pine bark or shredded hardwood bark, half finished compost, or old rotted autumn leaves. The organic mulch will help keep down weeds and also help feed the soil over time as it breaks down. A top dressing of good quality compost in spring and fall can also be helpful. It is always a good idea to watch a garden for the first year so you can see what is there, then begin planting once you have an understanding of what you already have.

It is late for a main season vegetable garden, however you can begin preparing the soil and plant a fall garden of cool season vegetables in August. If you really want to plant right now, you might be able to grow bush beans from seed and if you can find them, transplant some tomatoes. Good luck with your new yard and gardens!

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