Recovering a flower bed

VermontCathy Posts: 1,312 ✭✭✭✭✭

When we bought our property, the neighbors had a very nice flower bed in the back yard, a mix of bulbing flowers, rhododendrons, and reseeding annuals.

Unfortunately my own focus has always been on stuff to eat,so I have neglected the flower bed and it's now overgrown with grass. In several places, small trees have started growing. I have been sawing off the trees at a low level, but the roots still need to be dug out.

In digging up the overgrown sections, it appears that the previous owners put down hardware cloth, then a thin layer of good soil, then the flowering plants. There was probably more soil when they first created it, but I've added only a little compost since then. Under the hardware cloth is heavy clay.

I'm now digging through the whole bed, ripping out the hardware cloth, breaking up the clay into small pieces, and adding peat moss, vermiculite, and compost to produce a deeper soil that is decent. Where plants are established, such as hostas, I'm digging around them and leaving them as-is.

The flower garden has potential to help bring pollinators to the veggie garden next door, as well as look pretty.

Is anyone else here working to get a neglected flower bed back to prime condition?



  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,312 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @torey I read a book a couple of years ago that looked at what the Earth would be like if humans vanished. It was an interesting exploration of the ability of ecosystems to regenerate on their own.

    One of the examples in the book was the Chernobyl nuclear station. After the accident, there was enough radioactive contamination that humans had to move away. The area was declared a wildlife refuge, and radiation levels were low enough to have little impact on the animals.

    Today the area is a thriving zone for wildlife.

    Cultivated flowers and vegetables, on the other hand, don't last long against weeds and foraging animals without human assistance.

    If my own property were to be abandoned, I think the strawberries would take over all the vegetable beds in a few years. They not only spread from bed to bed, but the runners will climb out of the bed and root in the grass between beds. Walking onions would probably also survive alongside them, as they are extremely hardly and spread themselves by "walking" bulbils.

  • nicksamanda11
    nicksamanda11 Posts: 454 ✭✭✭

    LOL!!! I agree-oh my goodness these strawberries and walking onions!!

  • water2world
    water2world Sherry Jochen Sevierville, TNPosts: 790 ✭✭✭✭

    @VermontCathy Loved the vivid image you presented of strawberry runners climbing out of the bed and the walking onions!! Made me chuckle!

  • jowitt.europe
    jowitt.europe Moderator Posts: 1,094 admin

    @VermontCathy I have seen the film on recovering Chernobyl by David Attenborough. A life on our planet. A wonderful film. Nature has an enormous power and is able to recover.

    I am sure, that my garden would be taken over in not time. It is still difficult to say by which plants, but wild strawberries are everywhere. I make quite some jam just from the wild growing ones. The walking onions and garlic would take over my high beds. I have to thin them out permanently. Birds bring lots of seeds, so cherries and walnuts will grow next to my old apple trees and my flower bed is already taken over by oregano, soap wort and echinacea. but the bulbs survive and early spring is their time.

  • SuperC
    SuperC Cook at Wahlburgers The Frozen Tundra in the Northern MidwestPosts: 662 ✭✭✭✭

    Maple trees, walking winter onions, chives, Catnip, Oak trees, and BeeBalm would take over the gardens here.

  • marjstratton
    marjstratton Posts: 861 ✭✭✭✭

    Wild lettuce, cleavers, shot weed and vetch first. Then it probably would become a black berry bramble. Eventually it would probably go to alder and willows.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 6,009 admin

    I really need to. The best time I found to do the work is after a good rain. Everything comes out much easier.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 6,009 admin

    I think the grass killed off my walking onions! I have yet to see for sure, but I'm pretty sure they are no more.

    Here, grass, chokecherry, poplars, & spruce would take over. Maybe some tall yellow or white foraging clovers. Probably some thistles as well. If there was any left from the cows eating it, stinging nettle would join in.

    When we first moved, the previous owner "cut" the tall grass before we moved in. He actually used small haying equipment. The yard was not cared for at all. It was grass, lilacs, & peonies.

    What was growing here was grass, stinging nettle & wild mint in the low spots, peonies in front of the house, lilacs & the one row of spruce. The nettle actually grew where the invasive & poisonous leafy spurge is now. I'd rather have the former back! I'm hoping that by planting comfrey at some point & maybe reseeding stinging nettle this year, we can choke out the leafy spurge. We will have to keep the cows out if this plan is to have any chance!

    Over time, a few maples have shown up in the pasture through bird activity, I'd think. Birds will add diversity, for sure.

  • Merin Porter
    Merin Porter Editorial Director Southwest Colorado (Zone 6a)Posts: 978 admin

    I am trying to figure out why someone would put hardware cloth down in a flower bed, other than trying to keep burrowing animals from eating roots and killing plants? Does anyone else have a thought on that?

    Plus, that stuff is expensive and seems like the sort of thing you'd only use if you absolutely did not have other alternatives.... I used it on my chicken coop because I want my chickens to live in this wilderness area, and would consider using it in a vegetable garden bed due to our pocket gophers, but don't think I'd ever put it in a flower bed unless I just had some lying around....

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,312 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @SuperC You are right that long term, the area would grow up with trees and revert to forest like the land all around it. I am constantly pulling tiny little trees out of the garden that have been seeded from surrounding trees.

    @Merin Porter At a guess, they may have been trying to kill off the aggressive grass growing underneath and all around. It's a constant battle to keep the grass out of my raised beds. Hardware cloth is not the approach I would take, but it's true that the grass has not reclaimed the flower garden. Other weeds have done it instead.

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 1,409 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I think our place would be over run with devil's club, pineapple weed, lambs quarter, plantain, grasses, fireweed and wild rugosa roses.

    I have yet to find wild lettuce, nettles, which I am told grows wild here or most of the "wild" plants I want to have here.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,312 ✭✭✭✭✭

    You are probably correct about the name. It's not metal, more of a thick felt. I thought that was called hardware cloth.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 6,009 admin
    edited July 6

    @VermontCathy Here it is called landscape fabric. Hardware cloth is welded wire mesh.

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