Redoing old bed- nothing but trouble


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I definitely need some advice. I recently moved and I am in the process of redoing the 2 front beds which are in need of some major TLC even though I was told they were newly planted. As I pulled out the dying shrubs to dispose of them or try to transplant them to a more suitable location I uncovered chunks of concrete. Like large pieces. My thought is that there used to be a porch along the front of the house, they broke it up, removed the huge pieces and what they needed to plant and left the rest. If that's not bad enough I started amending with compost today and I hit sand. It's about a 6-8 inch layer in parts of the bed. I have pretty thick clay soil so that doesn't mesh. I'm a little overwhelmed. Every time put my shovel in the ground somethings else pops up. Did I mention the insane amount of white grubs I've encountered? Anyway, thank you for reading this far but do you have any advice? I do still have some shrubs left in the beds that I was planning on keeping. Any advice is very very appreciated!!
 
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alp

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Welcome to the forum @Julie86 !

I think the builders must have buried whatever was left after the building process. It's not a bad thing to have sand in the beds. Just work it in thoroughly to improve the drainage. Some people actively BUY sand to work into clay as it improves the texture and drainage of clay. So don't feel overwhelmed. The sand saves you a packet. Just dig it all over clay and turn it over and over and also incorporate some well rotted horse manure /bone meal/ growmore/ chicken manure to enrich your bed. I wish I had your sand. My garden is so clay that every time it rains heavily, accidents lurk at all corners!
 
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I definitely need some advice. I recently moved and I am in the process of redoing the 2 front beds which are in need of some major TLC even though I was told they were newly planted. As I pulled out the dying shrubs to dispose of them or try to transplant them to a more suitable location I uncovered chunks of concrete. Like large pieces. My thought is that there used to be a porch along the front of the house, they broke it up, removed the huge pieces and what they needed to plant and left the rest. If that's not bad enough I started amending with compost today and I hit sand. It's about a 6-8 inch layer in parts of the bed. I have pretty thick clay soil so that doesn't mesh. I'm a little overwhelmed. Every time put my shovel in the ground somethings else pops up. Did I mention the insane amount of white grubs I've encountered? Anyway, thank you for reading this far but do you have any advice? I do still have some shrubs left in the beds that I was planning on keeping. Any advice is very very appreciated!!
What you are seeing are the leftovers from construction. The construction workers were supposed to remove all of that before adding in the fill dirt. The sand is in the area known as the envelope of the house. It probably extents 3-7 feet from the foundation of the house. Remember that sand + clay = brick so try not to mix a lot of the sand in with the clay. Some is OK but not a lot. The best thing is to set aside the clay and work in compost or mulch into the sand and then mix a lot of compost into the clay, then put the mixed clay back in place. The grubs will soon be gone, having metamorphed into what ever they are. Probably June bugs.
 
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Julie, welcome!
You are right--the concrete and sand sound like the foundation and surface of a porch. You can stack the concrete pieces to make a "rip-rap" edging for the bed. Rip-rap is simply pieces of concrete stacked one on top of another to make an edging. You will have to string trim along the rip-rap, but you would have to string trim along almost any other edging.
The sand will help drainage, but it will have to be incorporated into the existing soil. Digging it in, or rototilling it in (after the cement has been removed) will be necessary.
White grubs? Congratulations, it sounds as if you have Japanese Beetle larvae. They can be handled with an application or two of grub killer. Milky Spore, which you can buy at any organic nursery and some non-organic ones, will take care of the problem. There are other chemical applications available at most big box stores.
Can you tell us what shrubs you plan to keep, and are in the bed? They may be inappropriate in size or growth habit for a front bed.
If you can post photos of what you have and tell us the size of the beds, we may be able to help you choose plants that will enhance your new home.
 
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Thank you so much marlingardener! I think my plan is to work in sections and remove as much sand as I can, replace it with compost and really really work it in.
I already applied milky spore to my lawn, I don't have evidence of grubs in my lawn but I live in New Jersey so chances are they are there. I'm not 100% sure all the grubs in the beds are Japanese beetles. I've never had an issue with them in my beds before. I've come across them but never enough to take action. I think I am going to try beneficial nematodes now and then apply milky spore at the end of summer and reassess next spring. Thoughts on that?
I would love advice on on plants for my beds. I will include a picture of the beds too. These beds get FULL sun. I extended both beds from 4 to 5 feet wide and I think I might add one more foot next year to make it 6 to give me a little more room. The one side is 20 feet long and the one with the tree is 30ft long. The shrubs are inkberry hollies. I do not want to keep them there permanently. I am not a fan of the bushes but they fit the bill until I can find something to replace them with. Ideally I would like an evergreen shrub that stays about 2ft by 2ft. My goal for the shrubs is to frame what is going on around it. I'm having a hard time finding something that works here so having another set of eyes is great!
All the way to the left is white butterfly bush with some purple bee balm. On either side of the porch is a strawberry sundae hydrangea. It gets to be about 5ft tall and 4ft wide so it should fill out that spot nicely. On the end I have some foxglove and a climbing rose. She will stay small, about 5x5 and will fit on the brick wall. The trellis was supposed to be here but got lost in shipping and will be here in the next few days. I also have a clematis that will share the trellis with the Rose. I have what I think is a weeping Alaskan cedar that is not doing well. It gets way too much sun and I can't get it enough water to keep up. He gets hit with early morning sun from the side and afternoon sun from the front with joe breaks. So I am going to have to move him and put something else there. Preferably something that stays smaller.
Opinions and suggestions are very welcome!!
 

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If it was my house - I would remove the shrubs and put them in some decorative planters. In between the planters I would put a few bright colored annuals. The ones you have now seem to be doing great. With some potting soil in the pots you will probably be able to plant a few of the healthier shrubs and have a great looking front without a lot of work.
 

alp

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If it were my house, I would have bearded irises, cistus which is evergreen, peonies will love it there - Mr G F Hemerik or Bowl of Beauty



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Bowl of beauty (in a pot) is easier to source.

Variegated ivy as a drumstick or standard (I would keep it in a pot) or even a topiary to add interest (Buxus sempervirens, Bay in a pot, or olive in a pot) as a standard to increase planting area! Some echinaceas, some heleniums and some salvias. Aurbetias for hugging the ground and phlox for the foreground. Penstemons are also good choice - Sour grapes, Mother of pearls .. A stipa gigantea to add elegant sway! I wish that plot were mine! LOL! What am I NOT going to plant in it!? I would love to plant everything! LOL! You could even add some dahlias and just add a foot of mulch in cold months ..Add some agapanthus as well

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,
 
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Thank you!! What wonderful suggestions!! I am going to look into all of them! I'm not wasting that peony in the front! I have a perfect spot for her where I can enjoy both her and my morning coffee in one of my new back beds! You are all so kind! I'm so glad I found this forum!
 
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