Ask a Question forum: Master Garden Overgrowth

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Name: Shuler Harmon
Battle Creek MI 49017 (Zone 5b)
Pharmacist
shulerharmon
Aug 6, 2016 9:12 AM CST
I bought a home/garden that was developed by a master gardener. Its been two years and things I thought were prized have turned out to be wild grasses vines, wild violets, etc. Though I don't mind a touch of wilderness, its starting to overwhelm me. But I take a deep breath, work on a section at a time.
I am wondering though, as i clear up vines and overgrowths of wild violets, should I mulch now as I expose ground? Or wait till next year. I was thinking of planting perennials. (My job limits my time in the garden).
Shuler Harmon
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Aug 6, 2016 9:26 AM CST
Yes, mulching for now is a great idea, to keep the soil free of weeds until you can plant your perennials in the fall. Be sure to use a good quality wood chip or other organic mulch. Things like rubber and stones don't do the job as mulch long term and become a huge headache down the road. Hay or pine straw are good alternatives, and can be turned in to add compost to the soil when you're ready to plant.

Do be aware though, that the "wild" vines, grasses and things like violets are often host plants for beneficial insects and butterflies so be careful to leave some. That's the probable explanation why the master gardener planted them originally. Violets make a wonderful ground cover and smell heavenly in the spring.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." โ€“Winston Churchill
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Aug 6, 2016 9:28 AM CST
you will find that often time Master Gardeners are supportive of native plants (what many of us consider weeds) and maintain their gardens without use of chems or insecticides (using natives usually eliminates need for much of that).
So depending on what type of garden you really are after, those type of plants may not be desirable, and they can also re-seed like crazy.

You should add lots of compost if your soil is not that great (can never have too much compost) and put down lots of mulch in those bare spots so the weeds don't take over as easily. Weeds will still grow but they are easier to pull in a looser medium. You can also use a product called Preen if you like. (keeps seeds from germinating for 3-4 months, does help alot)

Over the winter plan what you want. What is your purpose for the garden, visual appeal? curb appeal? food? attracting birds or butterflies? Something to keep you busy or not? something to photograph? What color scheme do you want? How much time/money do you have? do you want mostly shade or sun garden? does it matter to you what it looks like in the winter? Do children also use the yard? dog? What views will the neighbors have? (do you care Whistling ) and what can be viewed by the 'public' (you dont want a prize fountain in view of the street where any ol Joe can drive up at 3am and take it away) do you want shrubs for privacy? What kind of trees or hardscape do you want. do you want a water feature? Do you need an area to entertain guests (no messy plants or bees there). ect ect. Do you have areas where there are water/drainage issues?

Then start putting it together next spring. Break it down into sections.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Aug 6, 2016 9:38 AM CST
All great points, Frilly. Plus new plants might be discovered in the spring, such as spring-blooming bulbs that would not show up unless you inadvertently dig them up. You really don't want to do that, as an established clump of daffodils or tulips is a treasure.

You can get some awfully good deals on perennials plants in the fall, though. When I lived in Utah, and now plant gardens there for my kids, we plant a lot of perennials, and especially shrubs and trees in the fall to give them the winter to establish roots. This does work great, the plants do well, and you're paying 30% to 40% off when you're buying them. It's just quite important to mulch them really well to regulate the soil temperature and moisture through the winter.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." โ€“Winston Churchill
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Aug 6, 2016 10:42 AM CST
I did buy a bunch of plants one year but had no idea where to put them Hilarious!
So I just sat all the post really close and then piled mulch up around them and between them. I checked on them a few times over the winter and watered if they needed it. They all did fine and I planted them out the next summer.
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
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purpleinopp
Aug 6, 2016 11:40 AM CST
Violets are native, and usually grow thickly enough to prevent anything else where they are. That's always impressive & can be very helpful under taller entities, or any spot you want to fill and not worry about having many unintentional sprouts of anything else showing up. Violets are also tough enough to be a moderately-used path, in lieu of something much more expensive like mulch or some kind of pavement, and has great value to wildlife, as mentioned.

Not every individual of a native species is welcome where it might be, like hundreds of acorns sprouting in a bed under an oak tree, but a native can't invade its' own territory, and therefore can't be a weed. No gardener keeps an unwanted plant though, good luck getting it like-you-like-it.

If there are entire sections with no plants you want to keep, you can smother everything under cardboard (thick, corrugated stuff, overlapping seams well,) covered with mulch, then add desired plants next year. The cardboard should have decomposed and the mulch will have begun to improve the soil dramatically in those spots. Mowing before laying the cardboard will help it be able to lay flat against the ground. I'd do it w/o the bag, all of that chopped-up plant material under the cardboard would be such an excellent start/addition to the action of the smothering, as well as being green under the brown cardboard, a perfect match. Smothering has always been much more effective for me for starting with a blank slate than trying to dig stuff up. Too many seeds sprout that way.

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