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Compacted raised bed

One of my clients wants to smarten up this bed. It has a retaining wall which is about a foot high and is natural stone. So the facing retaining wall could look quite nice once the moss and weeds have been cleaned up - I'm thinking a stiff brush would work well for the moss and small weeds? The main part of the bed is very compacted and contains a lot of couch grass and ground elder, so is incredibly time conusming to clear. The small bit that has been cleared at the bottom of the photo took about an hour and a half to remove all the roots! They are not sure what shrubs they would like to plant yet and are not keen on me spending lots of hours clearing the weeds. So I have suggested putting down weed suppresent fabric and topping with a decorative bark mulch as an interim, planting the shrubs in later when a decision has been made. Should I spray the grass etc first and then put the membrane down? The bed does slope towards the driveway, it is fairly gentle but a slope nonetheless. Will bark just eventually fall off into the driveway or is it likely to stay put?   Is there something I could do to help make the mulch stay in place? Any advice greatly appreciated.


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  • Couch grass and Grounbnd elder are very difficult to eradicate, I would spray it all off and leave it a while and then see if anything comes back in the spring, it may need repeated treatments.  The bark will fall onto the drive in time, I find blackbirds rake it off beds onto lawn/driveway/paths/patios etc.

  • PRO

    Looks like 'one of those jobs'. Its obviously been neglected and ignored for years and client doesn't really want to spend any money on it now. Ideally would have been sprayed off about two months ago (way too late on the year now), leave over winter and hit it again, and again and again with weedkiller in Spring. Three times about  8 weeks apart should do it although the ground elder will probably still come back.

    If its full of couch grass and ground elder, hand weeding is pretty pointless as you will never remove all the bits entangled in the roots of the laurel hedge and those type of weeds will just laugh at a covering of membrane and bark and grow straight through it.

    If it slopes towards the driveway, wheter you put bark, gravel of any form of chippings on it, it will all end up on the driveway eventually sadly. Only way would be to increase the edge height to make it slope the other way, which given the customer seems reluctant to spend any money of it, probably isn't going to happen either!


    • Thanks Adam I'm glad you saw it as 'one of those jobs' I thought I was being a bit rubbish not being able to come up with an easy solution.

  • I would strim it all off at ground zero to tidy it up, the shrubs could go in now, being mindful of future access to get behind them to trim the hedges, so maybe only 1 row of small-ish shrubs, without too much low level spreading growth initially so they can be carefully sprayed in between (next season) to gradually eliminate the weeds. The bark or sheeting idea probably a non starter but some low growing ground cover plants would work, planted next autumn maybe, once the weeds are under control

    • PRO

      I would skim the bulk off now using a mattock , loosen up the ground and leave it until next year , you could then spray off any new growth . 

      If you dont want to use sprays then you need to get as much soil out of the area as possible to allow for at least a two inch depth of mulch on top of a membrane . 

      Cheapest is probably a bark mulch delivered by a tree surgeon but it attracts birds and cats like to dig in it other mammals seem to be attracted to loose bark and can interfere with the membrane ground elder will motor towards the light and soon get a grip so i would suggest a mulch such as slate but not gravel but it means you need a budget to wotk with otherwise its a waste of time and energy a token effort to please the customer in the short term . 

      Ground elder will engulf any planting designed to suppress it but in some situations i have seen tall dense planting crowd out the ground elder making it look insignificant , if you go for plants such as buxton blue geraniums which spread they almost blend in together . 

      In one situation a customer introduced ground elder to a garden which opens to the public for charity in some dodgy soil conditior they bought from a lad who knocked on the door , its mangaged rather than eradicated it would be impossible to eradicate it amongst such mature established planting ..

  • Thanks everyone. I will put these suggestions to the customer and see what they say.

  • I think you have to accept the ground elder is here to stay. Even spraying is unlikely to get it all and it will probably return from under the hedge. I would favour knocking it back a bit, use a mattock as suggested to loosen the ground and lift out what roots you can. Then plant to work with what you have. I quite like periwinkles which are evergreen with different coloured flower varieties. They can spread too and will need chopping back every year but should give the ground elder a run for its money but still work well together. A cheaper option might be a suitable meadow or hedgerow seed mix. With a seasonal selection of colour and heights it could look good with any ground elder still thriving. Strim down every autumn after the seeds set and let it develop naturally. The garden doesn't look too formal in the picture so a relaxed planting should work well.

    Good luck

  • Can't honestly see how using a mattock will achieve anything useful.  Tryclopyr (Garlon   Blaster) is very successful on groundelder when you've a fair bit of leaf showing............... Roundup on the couch grass.  I've permanently cleared large areas of really established groundelder.................  12"+ in height................. with one application in May/June time. 

    • PRO

      That's one solution Graham , Just suggesting alternatives if customer objects to chemicals .

      In that area ground elder will be rooted under shrubs possibly . 


  • PRO


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