Fighting Weeds: Upcoming Landscaping and Hardscaping Projects

So, it’s a bit embarrassing to share a lot of these photos.  There’s a lot of good about having eight acres, but there is also a lot of work!  This year we’ve experienced an absolute explosion of weeds and grasses.  In part this is because it was so darn hot for the month of August that I wasn’t in the garden weeding as frequently, but mainly it is because serious weed prevention hasn’t been done in a couple years, and the landscape fabric and mulch laid down years ago has finally ceded to nature … Therefore, we have a number of landscaping projects we’re looking to do late in the Fall and in the Spring.

Between the beds of our kitchen garden has become completely overrun with grasses.  Landscape fabric will provide the most consistent weed barrier possible. It’s perfect for walkways like this, where we’re going to mulch over. The hardest thing about this project will be being sure that we properly cut openings in the fabric so that our perennials can come up. For this reason, I’m considering putting fabric down in the Fall, such that we can see precisely where the flowers and accent plants along the garden’s perimeter come out. The problem with this is that we have a winter of wear and tear on our new mulch and fabric, which is irritating. Much nicer to have fresh mulch down in Spring!

The other issue is what material we’ll use for the walkways in the kitchen garden.  The previous owners used mini pine bark nuggets.  We love this look but can’t find them in stock ANYWHERE.  It’s larger pieces than your classic shredded wood mulch, but smaller more consistent pieces than chipped wood.  Given we can’t source it, we need to find an alternative here.  Right now I’m leaning toward a crushed gravel, but am not sure.  Currently we have an informal style in the kitchen garden, with  flowers, strawberries and fruit trees around the perimeter and accenting the edges of the raised beds.  I worry that crushed gravel will make these accents look less natural.

We also have a fenced garden. We have a number of plants deer love in here, so while the plants are safe and cozy behind the fence … this garden is also overwhelmed with weeds. This is not surprising given that I brought this garden back from being 100% weeds (with the small exception of some highly overgrown concord grapes and a lone asparagus plant) when we moved in. When I say it was all weeds, I mean this very literally – just over a year ago it was a patch of four foot high weeds behind a fence! We added the walkway, which is just some old cedar fencing we took down elsewhere on the property.  The first three feet of the walkway I weeded by hand, which is the only reason you can even see it in the photo above.  That was a week ago, and already it’s overrun again.

We’ve got a nice asparagus patch in this fenced garden, but will need to avoid landscape fabric there because new sprouts keep coming up and we want to foster that. We used hay for mulch there this year (you can see it on the right side of the photo) and it worked well, so we’ll try that again. Otherwise, I think in the Spring we’re going to lay down landscape fabric under the path, and through the entire garden. Aside from the asparagus, these are all annual vegetables in here, so this should work well! I’ll lose some purslane and mint, but I have confidence that these edible weeds will come back if we leave small areas for their growth in the landscape fabric.

We also have a frankly preposterous amount of hardscaping to do. First up is the front of the house. Now that we’ve restored the siding, we need to get a new front door step. The stone step that you see in the background of this photo was slanted back toward the door, such that water was running right toward the threshold, completely rotting it. This is why we just had to replace the threshold. We’re on the hunt for a super-long antique piece of stone. So far, no luck, but we’re still looking. Sadly, the likely result is we’ll end up with a custom-cut modern piece.  The big chunks of stone in the foreground were sitting next to the old step.  Not sure what we’ll do with those, but I know I can’t lift them by myself …

Also in the front of the house we need to (surprise!) lay down more landscaping fabric under our new water table, then put down pea gravel. You can see the pea gravel full of weeds above.  Should help drainage and match our path up to the house. We don’t have many plants near the front of the house because we want to avoid putting anything right next to the siding in order to protect it.

The perimiter of our little guest house has been taken over by crabgrass and dandelions. Now that we’ve repaired the rotted boards around the house (soon, fingers crossed, we’ll get these primed boards painted), we are going to need to put down landscape fabric and pea gravel to help with drainage and weed control around the building.

Finally, we have the outdoor shower. Here is a photo of our chickens enjoying it:

Right now, the chickens are the only ones spending any time here. We just hooked it up a couple of weeks ago – the pipes had frozen sometime before we moved in so we had to get it repaired. Why, oh why, is that control so darn low? It is about a foot and a half above the platform, which is just … bizarre. It would cost a crazy amount to move because it involves re-siding and re-painting. When we do that way down the line we may move it. ANYWAY, we need yet more landscape fabric, and a new layer of pea gravel to surround this shower area to help it drain and look nice at the same time.

I’m also considering enclosing this shower. While this area is pretty hidden, I’m not too keen on showering au naturel. My husband and kids don’t care at all, and will be more than happy to strut out there in the buff, so not sure if this would be a reasonable expense.  Also, I’m not to keen on the constant spiders that an enclosed outdoor shower always attracts!   That said, it would keep the chickens out (chicken poop + shower=not clean).  Decisions, decisions.