Fall Prep for Spring Planting

Asked September 7, 2014, 7:34 PM EDT

I a garden approximately 38' x 8' in the front of the craftsman home we purchased two years ago. We have been busy renovating the interior and exterior of the house and look forward to planting shrubs and perennials in the garden which spans the front of the house. Meanwhile, I've been planting annuals in an attempt to beautify the front. Last year, after adding amendments, the annuals were beautiful. This year the annuals did not grow but the weeds most certainly did. What can I do this fall to make spring planting simple? I do have the perennials selected according to color and size and need to check on when each sun, blooming & care.

Hennepin County Minnesota

1 Response

Dear Gardener,

Weeds usually show up two ways. First, it is very common for "top soil" to contain many weed seeds. This is because top soil is just the top layer of soil from fields being prepared for development. Once it is spread out and exposed to the sun, the seeds will sprout. One way around this problem might be to buy the more expensive soil mixes that are sold in contractors bags (usually a cubic yard). These are often sold by sod companies or landscape suppliers. However, it is very difficult to determine if the soil is actually weed-seed free.

Another way around this will address new weed seeds as well as those in the soil. That is, use 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch on all bare soil. This can be shredded bark chips, coffee grounds, cocoa hulls, etc. Once you get your perennials established, they can also serve as a mulch, usually referred to as a green or living mulch. Mulches shade the soil, slowing germination of weeds. They also protect the soil from moisture loss. And any weeds that develop are usually much easier to remove.