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CARSON ARTHUR: It’s time for some backyard cleanup

The results of Carson’s hard work in the backyard. (CARSON ARTHUR)
The results of Carson’s hard work in the backyard. (CARSON ARTHUR) - SaltWire Network

Tackling an overgrown space and transforming it without any backbreaking labour


I have a lot of people asking me what they should be doing at this time of year in the garden. Besides weeding and chasing bugs, there really isn’t a lot that needs to get accomplished, which is why summer is the perfect time to start a new garden bed.

I recently took on a new overgrown space and transformed it without any backbreaking labour.

First, this is not an instant garden ready for planting in. This process takes six to nine months, but Mother Nature does all of the work for you. It’s a good trade-off in my books. Here are my simple tips to doing the same:

1. Start with your string trimmers, hand pruners and even chainsaws, depending on how much growth you have to remove.

You need to get everything flat to the ground. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to be flat. Ragged cuts and shredded bark works just fine. If there are any plants you want to save, dig them up first and move them to either a different home or a temporary one where they will last the winter.

2. Next, cover the entire space in a dark tarp. This process is sadly the worst as far as I’m concerned because you have to have a tarp in the yard for a few months. The tarp helps to ‘cook’ the invasive weeds and roots that are still in the soil.

As the sun beats down on the tarp, the soil below is effectively sterilized. Some experts argue that this is harmful to the healthy microbes, however, this is the best way I have found to get rid of the seeds and roots of species like bindweed or even goutweed, which are both very invasive.

3. Next, remove the tarp and take a look at what you have below. Everything should look yellowed and no healthy green should be seen. If you still have green . . . the tarp goes back on. I tried this once with a white tarp and all of the plants below grew amazingly, almost as if they were in a green house. (Dark tarps are key).

If everything below is dead, it is time for the next step.

4. You want to cover the entire space with cardboard or newspaper. Personally, I use cardboard for this process because it does a better job of dealing with tree roots sucker but if old newspapers are what you have, go with them. (Just add lots of layers). 

With your cardboard, you want to cover everything so that no sunlight can get to the soil below. Beware of the handles in the boxes. Weeds are excellent at finding those gaps and growing right through them.

5. Next bury the boxes in three to four inches of mulch. That’s it. Next spring you are ready to start planting. The cardboard will be mostly gone by the time you are ready to dig, giving your soil a burst of healthy nutrients as it breaks down. Just remember to remove the staples and the tape first.

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