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by rainie on October 14, 2006 02:30 AM
We just bought a new house and I have an area out back that is about 1/4 - 1/2 acre long and about maybe 50 feet wide at it's widest point, I will post a pic this spring, because my plan is to transform it into a beautiful shade garden as it has about 30 trees growing in it. Here are the issues:

1. There are 3 foot weeds everywhere
2. The weeds are growing out of pure, rock-hard clay - if I threw it at the window - the window would shatter. So digging is almost impossible.
3. There are tree roots everywhere (see number 2 above about digging)
4. There are too many trees (pines and maples).

What do I need to do? My biggest issue is how to get the sapling trees out, they need thinned, and how to eradicate the weeds and keep new ones from sprouting up. I'm thinking of using weed killer of some sort, please advise, then laying newspaper under about 6 inches of topsoil [dunno] But, honestly I have no idea what I'm doing and don't know where to start... I really need cost-effective ways to do this because it is a really BIG area. Anyone ever tackled something of this magnitude?
by comfrey on October 14, 2006 06:31 AM
There is some sort of spray that will kill those sapling trees, not sure what it is called though. And if it was me after you killed all the weeds, I would just make raised beds on top of the rock hard clay. I am sure there will be others with more useful information or suggestions along shortly.

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by markr on October 14, 2006 06:52 AM
I cleared up an area the same as yours (except clay)
first out with the chainsaw to get rid of all the trees,
then a mattock for the roots.
next a strimmer for the weeds.
piled and dried then burned!!!
once that is done it looks so much better, some was dug over for planting, the rest was strimmed regular and turned back to grass.
a lot of work but well worth it.

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by joclyn on October 14, 2006 07:05 AM
welcome to the forum!!

what area are you in? hopefully somewhere that gets cold - that will solve the 3-foot weed problem, lol!!

seriously, if you are in an area that gets cold, just wait until the weeds die and then take a weed-wacker and chop everything down to ground level - that will work for the sapling issue as well.

you'll still need to deal with things so that you don't have the same problem next year.

the raised beds are a good'd still have areas that will get weedy...could put down some stone paths so that you could just meander through the raised beds. either just flagstones or make pathways and put plastic down to keep weeds from growing and then put down a good thick layer of pebbles.

if you don't want to do raised beds, after you get the weeds and saplings cut down to ground-level, pick an area to start off with - and mark it off...simple paint-stirrers or small lengths of wood hammered into the soil(?) will do and then tie string to them to enclose the area.

you are on the mark with the thick layer of newspaper and then adding topsoil. if the weed issue is that bad, at least 10 sheets of paper and then 6-8 inches of good topsoil (properly amended). after you plant stuff, put down a good layer of mulch, too (i like licorice root mulch).

once you get one area covered with the paper and topsoil, move on to another section and continue on until you get the whole thing done.

if you have areas that don't get covered before spring, you can treat with pre-emergent stuff to keep the weeds at bay...later in the season, spray with post-emergent to get anything that still managed to grow (weeds are funny like that [Big Grin] ).

you must, must, must! post 'before' pics - we'll need something to compare the 'after' pics too!!! plus, if we can see what you're working with, we may be able to come up with some ideas to make the project go a bit easier...

there are a ton of talented people here - and all of them have GREAT ideas!!
by sibyl on October 14, 2006 09:23 AM
i cant get over having all those trees and rock hard clay!
i have weeds, weeds, and more weeds! i also have clay soil in my back yard, its not rock hard, when i make a new bed ill throw a heavy tarp down let it set for a year, then add some leaves and grass clippings to the soil to condition it, then ill plant some flowers, of corse this takes a good bit of time, but it dont cost me anything but my time, [flower] [Wink]

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by tkhooper on October 14, 2006 11:00 PM
Maple trees put down a bunch of seeds so as long as you have maples you will have seedlings from them. So plan to be pulling them up as soon as you see them as long as the mature maples are a part of your garden.

Raised beds are definitely the easiest way to go. Just remember that you can not raise the soil level around your tree trunks it will kill them.

Green sand or Gypsum is the easiest way to soften clay soil but it is not cheap. At least not to me.

If you have pine and are going to leave the needles on the grown then you want to choose shade & acid loving plants for those areas. Pine needles are very acid. Rhoddys and azleas(sp) like that kind of soil and can stand to next to a pine as long as they are on the south side of it so they get good sun.

If the weeds are three feet tall lop off the seed heads and get rid of them or they will just regrow. Plan on dealing with weeds for several seasons unless you can layer raised beds. That's the only way to stop all the seeds that are in the soil from growing that I've yet heard of. At least the only organic method.

It sounds like you want to keep some of your trees so be careful using weed killers.

If you wait until after a rain you'll find that the weeds are much easier to pull up. BTW I have clay for soil too.

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by rainie on October 16, 2006 11:33 PM
thanks for all the replies, I will get my camera working, I've put so much money into my yard this year, it's a new house and all we had when I moved in was a forsythia bush, one hosta, and a lilac tree. I probably have over 150 different plants and trees I've planted, you will get a before and after pic of that this spring.

That back area is just going to be a pain in the neck, I think we are going to rent a bobcat for it, Me and my poor hubby are going to have broken backs [shocked] but I know it'll be worth it, I honestly can't even believe weeds grow there [dunno] My grand plan is a beautiful shade garden with hosta, lungwort, elephant ears, Rhodies and Azalias, I already put in two peegee hydrangeas at the opening where the slate/rock path is going to go and a red honeysuckle bush. I really want ferns back there, but it may take a few years to the soil even remotely hospitable to them.... [lala] I also planted a contorted willow at the opening and plan on a couple of dogwoods and flowering cherries to put in with all the maples. I'm going to try the newspaper and soil this spring after we go through with the bobcat... We shall see...

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