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Monday, July 10, 2017

Landscaping with Black Cloth and Mulch

The side of my house has been getting worse for years. The previous owners had put down the black cloth and mulch to keep weeks at bay.  Over the years, I added less and less mulch.  The cloth began to tear, shrubs died, and a sea of weeds started to take over. The truth is that I didn't really know exactly what to do with it.  I don't even really see that side of my house that much.  There used to be a huge bed of black-eyed susans in one area. I also used to plant hollyhocks and sunflowers in the bed. Then, last year I was out talking to my new neighbor and was horrified at how bad it had gotten!  My brother's friend had some kind of machine that cut it all back last year, but it grew back twice as bad.  These pictures are after it got cut back once. 
The day my air conditioner died. The area was covered with weeds, some as big as trees. Actually, some of the "weeds" were trees. My brother came over and cleared the area so the guy could get to the unit. He was able to patch up the unit until he could replace it. I also ended up getting a new furnace.  
I noticed that my rose bush was really overgrown and covered with weeds and all types of other plants.  I started to clear it.  Soon I was outside for hours in the blistering hot sun.  
Finally, after several wheelbarrows of weeds hauled away, I got to see that the actual rose bush was now quite small. A lot of the wood was dead.  I was getting eaten alive by bugs and almost collapsing from the heat. However, I had to keep going. 
I put heavy gloves on and was pulling a lot of spiky weeds by hand. I noticed that I had little strawberry vines, chamomile, and mint also growing weed.  I pulled it all out.  I had some not-so-sharp clippers to trim smaller bushes.  Some stuff I just could not get out.  

There were so many little weeds that I really couldn't pull them all out. I realized that it was black plastic time.  After pulling out all I could, I found some pins and black plastic and cloth in my garage.    I spent a lot of time on this front part.  I even sat in the grass pulling out weeding in the rocks, but there were so many. I think I need to use boiling water or more rocks.  That shrub is some type of bayberry and a landscaper told me not to touch it.

A few days later I started with the black cloth.  I really had no clue was I was doing.  There were still some smaller shrubs and little bushes that I could not pull out.  I decided to cover them. 
Somehow I spent hours pinning down the cloth.  For some parts, I used the heavy plastic.  It was hard because of the rocks in the soil and the heat.  I started dumping out the bags of mulch and getting filthy! One bag of mulch did not cover al that much. I had to get going through.

Then came the moment where I completely ran out of metal pins. I went a little further and tried to weigh down the cloth with rocks.  However, I did not know what to do with the area below my deck. I have some bushes that are pretty close together.  I would like to have some privacy shrubs or trees here. Maybe even bamboo in pots to create a plant wall? 
I had to stop at this point because I was wiped out. Yesterday, I put down two more bags of mulch. I probably need another five bags to finish.
I also need to pin and lay down more cloth. Then cover this with a lot of mulch.  I still have the issue with the white rocks.  I believe there are french drains under them. I even used the mulch bags to cover some spots where the cloth didn't overlap.  I weighed those down with rocks. It might take a lot to kill the weeds under the cloth.  After getting the mulch, I plan to make a few holes to plant rose bushes.  However, that can wait.  I just want to side to stop looking like an eye sore!

So far, I think it looks a lot better, but I still have to cover some of the black cloth with mulch. The black cloth should last for five years.  I probably do need a truck load of mulch.  However, after the cost of the AC/furnace, I will have to do that next year.

The battle against weeds is not over. The weeds seem to be sending out shoots to find the light and live beyond the black cloth.  The rocks seems to spout more weeds than ever.  I went out today and started pulling.  As I would pull, more weeds seemed to appear before my eyes.  Was I going insane? Where were these weeds coming from?  I noticed weeds sprouting up in places were the cloth or plastic gaped. Some weeds already poked through the black cloth!  I found some Pinterest pins on natural weed killers.  I dumped a gallon of white vinegar, two cups of epsom salt, and about a fourth of cup of Dawn dish detergent into a bucker.  I didn't add any water. I filled up the empty Dawn bottle so I could target some hard to get to spots.  I dumped the bucket into a watering can and tried to drench the weeks going through the rocks.  It didn't go too far.  I knew I was going to have to hand pull what I could again.  I put the weeds in the bucket.

 Better than the wheel barrels full from last week.  I was on the ground moving rocks and pulling. I only had plastic gloves on so I will still occasionally getting spiked from certain weeds.  I did the whole length.  As I'd return from dumping each bucket, it really seems like new weeds were popping up!  I got everything I could see.  If this doesn't work, break out the poison!  (Well, I also am going to try boiling water. However, I don't want to wash off the salt, vinegar, Dawn mix.)

Since I ran out of landscaping pins, I am trying to weigh down everything with rocks.  This is not the best strategy, but it will have to do for now.  I also am going to hold off on more mulch until I can do a better job of covering the gaps.  I am considering another layer of plastic on some areas. I could not cut down some of the bushes/trees enough and I think some of them are now poking through the plastic.  My goal is not perfection, but just to prevent this area from being an eyesore.  I do want to get more rosebushes next year or maybe even in the fall.