The Bottomless [Rock] Pit

August 1, 2012

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We have a long-standing relationship with DIY, and love rolling our sleeves up and making it happen. 

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Do you see that biggish tree in our front yard? It is surrounded by a bed of 3 tiger lilies and it is my job to keep that area weed-free.
Normally, I don’t mind weeding at all.  Greta runs around the yard and anytime I find a little potato bug, she wants to hold it.  But this bed, is impossible to keep clear. The previous owners had put down a layer of the black weed-blocking fabric and then covered the whole thing with rocks–which seems like it would prevent the weeds, but I’m telling you–it has not.  Obviously.

Also, we really hate the rocks. Not just for looks (we really prefer a dark mulch), but when the rocks escape this bed–like they do–and end up in the grass and then in the lawn mower, that. is. scary! So that evening, while I was waiting on Chris to finish trimming so I could mow (we love that system), I decided I would remove the rocks and get to the bottom of this weed problem.

I honestly (seriously) thought it would take me an hour tops to remove all the rocks.  Chris laughed and said, “That’s a two-hour job, babe.”  And we were both wrong.  The next morning, I still had barely made a dent in the project.

For reference sake, you can see how much of the bed I still had left, below.  Greta and I continued to hit the rocks with all of our spare time and this morning, we (she helped as much as a two-year old could) finally were at a point where we could peel back the black lining and get rid of that, too.

And therein lied the problem.  Multiple layers of black weed-blocking liner with nests of tangled roots.  No wonder weeding this bed felt like a never-ending task, the roots had found there way through multiple layers and the rocks and got all intertwined in the meantime.

As I much as I wish I had an after picture to show you of our weedless, mulched tree bed–I still have at least 2 more layers of black fabric and roots to sort through.  Le sigh.

My heart skipped a few beats when I first peeled back the liner, and now I only feel frustrated.  Is it weird to feel frustrated at roots?  Although I suppose the only appropriate thing to be under, what felt like, a bottomless rock pit, would be a bottomless root pit.  Needless to say, I won’t be laying any fresh weed-blocking fabric.

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What do you think?

  1. I hate hate hate weed blocking fabric for just the problem you described. We gave up on using weed blocking fabric a while ago and now opt for using newspaper in small gardens like yours. We’ve been using this method for a few years now and it works great. Surprisingly it takes a few years to decompose and really helps to block out the weeds. After a few years when you’re ready to apply new mulch anyway just lay down new newspaper. Bonus is it’s free!

    You can see how we did it here if you’re interested.

  2. Ann says:

    When we bought our house, it had weed blocking fabric in some of the beds already. While it’s not my favorite, we definitely don’t have problems with it like yours! It actually looks like they might’ve placed the fabric OVER existing weeds, thinking the fabric + rocks would kill the underlying weeds. Yuck! I am sure you will have an easier time with it now. Love the daylilies!

  3. If I were wearing those J.Crew jeans, garden hat and cute gloves you posted about today–things might have been more manageable.

  4. I am so jealous of all of your oak trees! Maybe if we had more trees, I wouldn’t need a bed under our only tree. That’s an idea!

  5. Love that tip, Maria! And your little garden looks great. I am digging the super dark mulch and will definitely give the newspaper a try!

  6. meaganbriggs3 says:

    ugh. That would bug.

    Just think what it is going to look like!!! So gorgeous!!! Rocks only work in places like Arizona. Where even weeds die because it is so bloody hot.

  7. I’d cry out in agony after pulling back the fabric. I’m dramatic like that. I just hate weeds! I spent seven hours outside last Monday pulling weeds and HAND TRIMMING our bushes. I love yardwork, but it’s a huge pain sometimes…

  8. Robin says:

    Wow, what a pain! I am super impressed that you got this far though, congrats. Anything with roots is very hard to work on, but once you get it all back in order it will be b-e-a-utiful! Keep up the good work, I love your blog.

  9. Rebecca says:

    Why not get rid of the bed around the tree altogether and plant grass? I have 5 huge oaks in the front of my house and each had small beds around them when I moved in. With 3 kids I couldn’t spare the time to weed them and my regular beds so I laid down seed and problem solved. They look great too.

  10. Weeding and mulching are some of the most difficult jobs to do around the house and I find them to be far less rewarding than all the work that goes in to them! But alas, they must be done!

  11. Amy says:

    I also have heard about newspaper working better than the weed blocker fabric on another blog. Good luck with the project. We have uncovered alot of issues at our house from the former owners and I know how frustrating it can be when someone does something halfway.

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