Create a New Shrub Garden

Gardening season is here, and that old familiar question of how to get rid of weeds crops up about this time.

With everyone trying to do the right thing and be good to the environment, it seems to always be a battle between hard labour and chemicals.  But there are a few things you can do to help get rid of weeds and grass in your flower beds or between shrubs and that is with newspaper.

Newspapers are a great way to get rid of and control weeds between shrubs.  If you have a corner of your yard that has a few shrubs, and you are getting sick of running the lawnmower in between them or damaging them, then why not make it one larger garden?  I had some flowering shrubs that used to seem far apart when they were first planted, but as they have widened and grown taller, I was now trying to cut the grass in between them and it was a pain to do.  So, I created one larger garden and now just cut the grass around them.  It also makes my garden look fresh and finished.

You may have thought about this, but were hesitant to try and dig up the grass and weeds around the shrubs, especially the older and more established ones that may have some larger roots near the surface.  You don’t want to damage them, so try this.  This worked well in my yard and gave the yard a great look and highlighted these shrubs.

Map out where you would like the shrub garden to be with the hose or a rope, and then with a shovel or spade follow the line and slice into the ground all the way around on a slight angle inwards towards the garden (following the outline).  Next, slice into the ground a couple inches in from your first slice but facing the other way so that you are in effect digging up a “v” shape of grass and soil. This creates a separation from the lawn.

Now that is the only digging for now.  Make sure the grass and weeds between the shrubs is as short as possible using clippers so as not to damage the shrubs.

Get yourself a good stack of black and white print newspapers and a pile of mulch, enough to create about 3 or 4 inches deep.

Pick a day when it is not so windy, and start laying out the newspapers over the grass between the shrubs, right up to the shrub as close as you can get.  Make this pile of newspapers at least 3 or 4 layers thick, so you need lots to get rid of weeds and grass.

As you are laying out the newspapers (trying not to read them as you go!) have a pile of mulch ready to throw on them to stop them from blowing away.  Take your newspapers right up to the “v” trough you have around the new garden bed.  Letting the newspaper go into this trough outline in effect covering the entire garden bed area with the newspaper layers.  This is the edge of your garden and you can mow the lawn right up to this trough.

Now take your mulch and start shovelling it onto the newspaper being careful not to dislodge it.  It makes an instant nice shrubbery bed, looks great and will start to kill the grass within 2 weeks.

The mulch will break down along with the newspaper and the grass and weeds will die off.  You may have to pull out the odd weed that gets through within those 2 weeks.  If you want to try and plant more shrubs or flowers in this bed, then wait at least 2 weeks, then dig a hole without disturbing the rest of the bed too much.  This newspaper trick for getting rid of weeds and grass works well in the fall too.  You can lay out the newspaper the same as above with some mulch on top and then let the snow and winter get rid of weeds and grass, by spring you can simply add more mulch.

This kills off the grass and saves you the work of trying to remove it.  You will still need to weed it like a regular flower bed, but at least you didn’t have the back breaking work of trying to get it out of the shrubbery bed and risk damaging the established plants.  If you find it only partially worked, then you can do more layers on top of the present layers of paper and mulch, until it is thick enough to choke out the grass and weeds.

When trying to figure out just how to get rid of weeds and grass between delicate plants and shrubs without digging, don’t forget newspapers, they do well in the garden and don’t hurt the environment as they break down into the soil.

You can also use this newspaper trick around the base of trees or other plants that you are trying to protect from aggressive weeds.  You can repeat the process each year to keep the weed spores down.  If you can plan ahead in the fall, then you will have a head start on this in the spring.

You may want to actually stockpile some newspapers as it takes quite a few sections of the newspaper to do a larger garden bed.  If you don’t get a newspaper, ask your neighbours or look around at recycling time in your neighbourhood and see if there is a stack out by the road.  Or head to your local newspaper office and see if they have any leftovers from the day before.  It is best to use the black and white sections and limit using the coloured pages as this is not quite as effective.

I had planted lots of low level junipers at the side of the driveway, and over a few years they grew closer together but not close enough to stop weeds or grass between them, so I had to do that by hand.  But last year I laid down newspaper between them with mulch on top, it not only cleaned up the area but the junipers actually grew quicker and healthier now they were not competing with the weeds and grass and with the natural mulch for extra moisture.