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Plan A Garden - How To Create New Flower Beds Without Digging

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 2 3

Yesterday we decided to get garden home plans done, you know give our backyard a bit of excitement!

Right now it is a blank and ugly canvas. We built our house eight years ago, and we are on just over an acre in the countryside. Our lot was originally cut out of an old farm field, so it did not have much in it in the way of gardens or trees. We didn't even have a bird stopping by here before!

We spent the last eight years planting trees and shrubs on the front for that curb appeal that everyone goes on about. But we didn't do much of anything in the backyard except plant grass and make a dog area.

Now, hubby and I are not very good with garden plans, we simply would see a tree or shrub on sale somewhere and stick it in the ground. Our front yard actually looks like a checkerboard since we planted all over the yard. I actually curse some of them as I try to mow the lawn, going around this shrub and that tree.

Last year, we finally got a garden center to give us some garden design plans. She basically joined all our sporadic plants together into huge flower beds with lots of mulch to keep the weeds down.

So, now that this is coming together, we decided we wanted something with a bit more of a "wow" factor in the backyard.

We had a wonderful landscape designer come to the house, and look at the blank canvas in the backyard, and give us some good ideas. But what was even better about having her come to the house, was the FREE advice she gave us for existing gardens, as she is also an expert on native plants.

I love to garden, but am no expert, and would rely heavily on garden center employees, which can be good and bad. I was trying to get rid of the large expanse of grass as I cut with a gas push mower, which took forever. So, I was told to plant these low rising junipers and evergreens etc.. and just plant them right in the grass and that the shrubs would take over. NOT happening. All that happened was the grass grew tall in between the evergreens, and looked messy. So now I was faced with pulling weeds and grass by hand and these shrubs were nice a green but not really spreading like I hoped.

She gave me some advice, and I am sure this would be good for anyone out there wanting to make a large garden area, by joining shrubs, trees and flowers, but don't have the back to be digging up lawn in between the plants. Plus the fear of hurting their roots.

So here are some great tips:


She told me to get a load of mulch (you can buy bags but it can be much cheaper to get a truckload dumped in your yard or driveway) and not the fancy dyed colored stuff, just the cheap plain mulch.

Next gather as many newspapers as I could. We get the newspaper here, so that was easy. She said try and pick a day when it is not really windy, or have a helper or just do this in stages. Water down the entire area, then place your newspapers opened out in at least two layers between all your trees, shrubs and flowers where you want the garden to be. Basically put the newspaper over all existing grass you want turned into garden and right up to the base of the existing plants. Make sure and do two layers of opened out papers, and then dump at least 2 - 3 inches of mulch on top of the exposed newspaper and around your plants.

Also, you may want to edge your new garden area first, so you know where to lay the papers and the mulch to.

Once you have done this, your garden will look instantly done. Water it down, and then don't disturb the mulch area for at least 2 weeks to a month, keep things watered. By then the grass will be gone and turned into the soil, and the paper will have worked its way into the soil and loosened it up.

After about a month, if you want to add more plants to the open areas, just dig a hole where you want to put the plant, don't dig the whole area up. Plant your shrub or tree and keep it mulched and watered. Not only should all that grass be gone, but you will have conditioned the soil as well.

This is a great way to create a garden without all the back breaking work of removing the sod and fear of getting to close to the plant roots.


I also learned, that ground covers, do not necessarily mean less work. Many ground covers will still grow weeds in between, and depending on your yard can be invasive and not look nice at all.


Also, that using that black garden carpet that is advertised to keep weeds down, is great to use under new sidewalks and pathways and patios, where you are not growing anything else. To use them in gardens to save yourself from weeding, may not be a good idea, as this black weed carpet not only stops weeds, but it can stop worms from doing their job as they get trapped. The newspaper idea, is the better way to go (in her opinion) as the paper breaks down quickly and combined with the mulch the worms are much happier.

Just make sure NOT to use the colored sections of the newspaper. It is best just to use the black and white sections. She said the colored dye can stop the paper from breaking down as quickly.

So, give the newspaper idea a try. I am going to put this in between all my low evergreens and get rid of the one job I had of pulling long grass and weeds out by hand.

So, that takes care of one corner. I can't wait to see the plan she comes up with for the yard, anything to stop me from mowing the lawn for hours. I guess I had better save up all of my newspapers for the next month. Looks like I will have a few gardens to expand!



Jul 11, 2010 2:15pm
I am absolutely gobsmacked by this Sookie. Thanks a million, Excellent article, original and incredibly useful stuff I have not seen anywhere before. I was using mulch, just never thought of the newspaper.
Aug 4, 2010 7:13pm
Thanks so much for the great tips, we need help in our backyard too.
Feb 6, 2012 8:36am
The use of newspaper in gardens is a great idea.
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