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GYG-070 Reclaiming a Runaway Garden


My apologies for the original Show Notes for this episode. It seems like the more you hurry and try to complete something, the more things go wrong.

First a couple of announcements, and an interesting Home and Garden Show to attend if you live on the West Coast.

While it may be more Landscape and Flower centric than many of us would prefer, the San Francisco Home and Garden Show has some very interesting speakers this year.  My favorites are Joe Lampl and Martin Yan of “Yan Can Cook” fame on PBS.

San Francisco Home and Garden Show


March 21st – 25th  @ the San Mateo Event Center

  • Martin Yan
  • Joe Lampl
  • Ahmed Hassan from Yard Crashers

Runaway Gardens

Today, we’re going to talk about  how to reclaim a garden that has got out of control.

Listener email from Stephanie in Orlando Florida where she really had a problem.  Over the winter, the weeds had taken over her garden and she wondered where to start, and how to prevent it from happening again.

I thought it might be usefull to discuss what I recommended and how it went.

Garden Condition Before Starting Work

As I discuss on the show, and as you can see in the photos above and below, Stephanie really had her work cut out for her.

But what a great job she and her husband did not only in recovering the garden, but improving it so they won’t need to repeat the process.

  • Removed Weeds
  • Landscape Fabric
  • Rocks instead of wood Mulch ( allows Flame Weed treatments)
  • Sides on Raised beds
  • Cedar Posts for Wires to act as a Trellis


Garden After Recovery - Big Difference!

Congratulations Stephanie!

Monsanto News

Super Weeds created by Monsanto now a recognized problem for Agriculture


{ 5 comments… add one }

  • Tim Buckner March 19, 2012, 10:03 pm

    I have been researching weeds for a few months and it seems to me that “weeds” come in to repair the soil by bringing up nutrients and moisture from the sub-topsoil layers. If kept in check, weeds can be beneficial mother plants to crops. Deep diving weeds with long root systems don’t interfere with nutrient uptake and actually help to loosen soil so that other plants can push their roots down deeper than they could achieve by themselves. If they do become a problem, just chop and drop them in place and cover with compost to take advantage of the elements they brought up from deep down leaving the roots and mycelium network intact to keep the soil loose and airy. There are a few times that “weeds” can exude things that surrounding plants don’t like, but from a permaculture standpoint that plant wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place. In a small urban garden, I can understand the need to get rid of them and start over, but just don’t think of them as enemies. They are just mother natures way of fixing some deficiency present in the soil. That’s just my point of view though and I’m not trying to tell you what to do with your garden. The final product you came up with took some work and it looks great. I’m just trying to be the devil’s advocate for the weeds. Thanks Steve for all the information you give out and I’m so happy for you to have your new property and wish you well.

    Thank you for your time and energy,

    Tim Buckner

    • Steve March 20, 2012, 9:30 am

      Hi Tim-
      Thanks for such a thorough comment and explanation.

      While i can see and maybe concede your point from a permaculture basis, there are many times the weeds virtually take over a location, regardeless of the friability.

      Here where I am, the biggest problem is Bermuda Grass, locally called “Devel Grass” because it’s so difficult to control. It spreads in three different ways, and in my case, even crawled up and through Rock walls into the beds.

      Part of the other problem may be that we have crerated much of our own problems over the decades by importing planys not native to our area so they were unchecked by natural means. Then our “freindly” chemical companies convined everyone they needed to spray to control them, and then created as we see now the so-called “super-weeds”.

      I agree with you that there is no single answer to this problem. And as you stated, most urban gardens dont have the time or space for the typical balance of nature.

      I think one thing that i see that supports you premise is that all the “pretty” gardens seem to have more problems with weeds than those who may not look as neat, but are heavily mulched, and shade out most weeds from thewir existance.

      Thanks to you for listening, and for providing such a thought provoking comment.


  • Mil March 19, 2012, 8:37 pm

    Hi Steve,
    Really enjoyed the show. I listened to it last night. I’m looking forward to seeing your selection of gardening books!! :)

    As for Martin Yan, I have a story from when I was in cooking school. He came in to lecture and demo to us, and when he asked us students for questions, one of my nimrod classmates asked him what kind of car he drove!!! I wanted to sink into the ground! Fortunately, after watching him do his trick-fast-chopping thing, something clicked in my brain, made sense, and I was able to do his trick too!

    • Steve March 20, 2012, 9:40 am

      Thanks Mil! Sure wish I was out on the West Coast already. I would love to see Martin Yan again. I saw him in person a few years ago at the Tracy Bean Fest and he was so funny responding to the silly questions from the audience. Nothing demeaning, but very funny none the less

  • Stephanie March 19, 2012, 9:21 am

    Thanks so much for all of your compliments and your great advice, Steve! To fill in a few gaps…I did not have weed barrier down before when I just had wood chips in the paths. I’m sure that would’ve helped, but we still like the rocks better than the wood chips – they’re just more fun to walk on :) The trellis system was built by my husband for tomatoes, squash, pole beans, etc. (just gotta tie on some verticle string for pole beans) I had a muscadine grape on it, but it didn’t make it. I think I’d rather keep these beds for just annual planting anyway. The trellis is built of cedar 4×4’s and wire with turnbuckles to adjust the tension. I’m sure lucky to have a handy husband :) Oh, and the growing beds are sided with untreated pine 2×6’s (3’x24′ beds, so we used two 12′ pieces on each side). I know the wood probably won’t last more than a year or two, but we plan to replace them with some sort of stone or brick when the wood rots. We just didn’t want to spend a lot of money on the sides after paying for all that gravel. I’ll keep posting updated pics throughout the season at http://photobucket.com/fluterootgarden.

    Oh, also…my husband really wants a torch thing now for killing weeds..something exciting about playing with fire, haha. And the rabbit thing…I was wanting rabbits anyway for meat and for manure, and I was thinking if I had a space in my garden that I just wanted to clear down to nothing I could put them on it in a rabbit tractor. I guess from a garden standpoint it should work, but I need to find out if any plants can hurt them..Solanaceae family? I will keep researching.

    Thanks again, Steve!!

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