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When I bought my house (in southern Minnesota), one of the things I loved about it was a flower bed along the side of the garage that requires very very little maintenance. At the end of the summer, I pull the dried stems of the flowers that it put up in August; and early in the spring I transplant the few expansions to the area that sprout up in the neighboring lawn area to the end where I'm encouraging it to spread. Other than occasional watering in the heat of summer, that's pretty much it. The greenery of the tons of bulbs seems to do a great job of keeping the weeds at bay, an then in the fall it becomes it's own straw/mulch cover. Year after year those bulbs have been just the perfect low maintenance garden.

I've been trying to encourage the same kind of bulb garden in a couple other parts of the yard, but no matter what I do, the bulbs keep getting overrun with various weeds. How do I get these new beds to the point that they're self maintaining like the established one?

The two areas have pretty much the same soil and water. The newer area might have slightly better soil in so far as it has been turned over more recently and had some potting soil that came with the bulbs worked into it as part of planting the new bulbs. The new area also gets a little more direct sunlight in the morning, and more shade in the afternoon.

I don't know the particular variety of bulbs in the existing bed, but I'm pretty sure I have photos of them, I'll dig some up tomorrow. In the new bed I planted a variety of tulips and crocus. The bags the bulbs came in claim they need 4-6 hours of direct sunlight which is about what they were getting all summer.

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What type of bulbs are we talking about here? Can you please post a photo of the established flowerbed, also a photo showing one of the newer areas that keeps getting overrun with weeds would be helpful... Also do you know what weeds you are battling with? –  Mike Perry Oct 2 '11 at 1:11
    
Area A has bulbs growing well. Area B does not. Please describe the differences between area A and area B. Lighting, soil, water sources etc. Surely there must be a difference? If there is a difference, perhaps another type of plant may be better suited to area B. –  JoeHobbit Oct 2 '11 at 3:06
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Some updates to answer the questions added, will add more on the morrow when I can get the data. –  cabbey Oct 2 '11 at 5:10
    
@cabbey "Southern Minnesota" do you know if that translates to USDA Hardiness zone 4a? When do crocus & tulips begin to flower in your area of the country & how long do they flower for? Here in St Louis MO (USDA Hardness zone 6a); crocus begin flowering mid March & have finished flowering by mid April; tulips start flowering end of March & have finished flowering by late April. Foliage on both of those Springtime bulbs should be allowed to die back naturally if you wish them to flower again the following year... –  Mike Perry Oct 3 '11 at 3:06
    
Yes, we are zone 4a. I'm not so much worried about the flowering, it's the all summer greenery that keeps the weeds down I care about. –  cabbey Oct 8 '11 at 22:53
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2 Answers 2

Bulbs gerenally need a lot of sunlight. Perhaps the afternoon shade is preventing them from out-competing the weeds. It might be worth looking into some less sun-loving plants that thrive in your area of Minnesota.

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The two areas have pretty much the same soil and water. The newer area might have slightly better soil in so far as it has been turned over more recently and had some potting soil that came with the bulbs worked into it as part of planting the new bulbs. The new area also gets a little more direct sunlight in the morning, and more shade in the afternoon.

Recently working the soil is the most likely major contributing reason for lots of weeds in those new flowerbed areas. Why?

Turning (working) the soil will bring (weed) seeds to the surface or near the surface of the soil, thus giving them perfect conditions to germinate and start their lives...

Keep in the mind the following suggestion will take at least a year to see real results, after that minimal maintenance should be enough to keep things under control.

  • Hand pull all the weeds (unwanted plants) you see in the new flowerbeds.

    • Hand pulling is a lot easier when the soil is saturated (IMHO).
  • With a sharp bladed hoe very carefully remove all the remaining weeds, doing your best to go no deeper that an inch (25mm) into the soil.

  • Once a week go out and repeat the above couple of points. After 8 weeks of doing so, you should notice dramatic results ie Very! few weeds (unwanted plants) to remove. Don't stop thinking you've got it under control, keeping going out there once a week and removing everything you don't want there...

  • Late Winter (2012) spread a 2inch (50mm) thick layer of mulch over the (new) flowerbeds. For what it's worth, I only use compost or finely shredded Autumn/Fall leaves as mulch.

The above should get your (new) flowerbeds under control.

After that (except for the below point), minimal hand pulling and hoeing should be all you need to do to keep your (new) flowerbeds in good order.

  • Once a year, late Winter or early Spring you will need to put down some fresh mulch material (assuming you've used a mulch material that breaks down overtime) to build-up the layer to its 2inch (50mm) thickness.

If you would like some additional ideas, suggestions, let us know -- it will require a little bit more work on your part, but the results are worth it (IMHO).

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