Weed control in a large bed

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I have a large irregularly sized bed--I call it "bed" because I don't know how else to describe it. It's an area without a lawn, irregularly filled with a few trees and various shrubs. At a guess it's at least 800 square feet, depending on how much of it I want to bother with (up to 1500 sqft if I'm up to it).

Keeping ahead of the weeding is a near impossibility. I've weeded it by pulling by hand in the past (takes a few days), but most recently I had a ton of very small weeds, making pulling them out one by one something you'd need a large team of people working all day to do, so I used a scuffle hoe to cut things down. Days later it's coming back.

I'm looking for a way to (a) make weeding easier, and (b) keep the weeds down. I'm dealing with two herniated discs and a osteoarthritic knee so doing it by hand is getting tiresome. I'm not looking to make the bed ready for planting, just have it generally clear.

For (a), the only way I can think of is a corded electric tiller--electric because I'm not keen on gas engine maintenance, and corded because I want the added power over batteries. But I'm concerned that because I have trees and shrubs I'll end up damaging roots of plants I want. (There's also a sprinkler system running in/through the area, though I presume the lines are too deep to be an issue, but I'd have to verify.)

Since I'm not looking to turn the soil, just weed, is there anything comparable (powered) that only works the top 4 or so inches?

As for (b), the only thing I can think of is mulch. I don't know that plastic sheeting is workable, due both the size of the bed and and its irregularly (both in the shape and how it's planted). I'd need a heckuva lot of plastic and get pretty creative in cutting/laying it down to fit. That leaves wood mulch, which is imperfect because I really need the sort that doesn't float due to periodic flooding issues (yet another issue that I'm not able to deal with now).

Is it a given that I have to weed before mulching?
 
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I have a large irregularly sized bed--I call it "bed" because I don't know how else to describe it. It's an area without a lawn, irregularly filled with a few trees and various shrubs. At a guess it's at least 800 square feet, depending on how much of it I want to bother with (up to 1500 sqft if I'm up to it).

Keeping ahead of the weeding is a near impossibility. I've weeded it by pulling by hand in the past (takes a few days), but most recently I had a ton of very small weeds, making pulling them out one by one something you'd need a large team of people working all day to do, so I used a scuffle hoe to cut things down. Days later it's coming back.

I'm looking for a way to (a) make weeding easier, and (b) keep the weeds down. I'm dealing with two herniated discs and a osteoarthritic knee so doing it by hand is getting tiresome. I'm not looking to make the bed ready for planting, just have it generally clear.

For (a), the only way I can think of is a corded electric tiller--electric because I'm not keen on gas engine maintenance, and corded because I want the added power over batteries. But I'm concerned that because I have trees and shrubs I'll end up damaging roots of plants I want. (There's also a sprinkler system running in/through the area, though I presume the lines are too deep to be an issue, but I'd have to verify.)

Since I'm not looking to turn the soil, just weed, is there anything comparable (powered) that only works the top 4 or so inches?

As for (b), the only thing I can think of is mulch. I don't know that plastic sheeting is workable, due both the size of the bed and and its irregularly (both in the shape and how it's planted). I'd need a heckuva lot of plastic and get pretty creative in cutting/laying it down to fit. That leaves wood mulch, which is imperfect because I really need the sort that doesn't float due to periodic flooding issues (yet another issue that I'm not able to deal with now).

Is it a given that I have to weed before mulching?
I couldn't live without my scuffle (stirrup/hula) hoe. If you till you will bring up years old seeds time and time again unless you till really deep +/- 10 inches, or at least that is my experience. I tilled my garden for the first time in about 20 years this year. I tilled 12" deep and then shoveled out the walkways and made basically double dug beds/wide rows. Before this I just dug up everything with a shovel and weeds were rampant but with my hula hoe they were manageable
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. My garden is slightly less than 1/4 acre but I am in perfect health except for being one of those senior citizens.
 
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Chuck, your bed looks lovely! This scuffle hoe is mechanical or electrical? You've done a brilliant job!
 
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All my flower beds are at least 12 foot by 12 foot or more. Weed control is, plantings that block them, lots of mulch, continued checking, and pulling, and more mulching. After many years it is easier, much easier to get out a way ward weed. Are they all perfect, No. but thank goodness I don't suffer from OCD.
 
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Yeah. So I do not see you playing fair with those discs and all.
Here's what I would do. I would solarize it. Mow everything down as low as possible, water until the area is wet and then place plastic over it. I normally use black but clear will work too. Leave it for a few months and the weeds are all gone. Plus the shallower underground seeds will germinate. No back pain at all.
 
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Here’s the sort of stuff I’m dealing with.

View attachment 39430
Wow. well, get a hoe, and start at it, get all those roots out. there is not easy way to deal with that stuff, its like I had many years ago in new areas to open. after you get it all out then a good 3- 5 inches of mulch first off.
 
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OK, spend the last couple of days weeding with my scuffle hoe (the same one I mentioned in my original post, resharpened with a mill file). From my back and knees: ow, ow, ow, ow.
I think I'm going to need to go over it a few more times. I really do wish there were a better way; the areas with grasses were especially tricky to go through.

Roughly speaking, I think I'm going to go with a combination of mulch and landscape fabric--fabric over plastic because, reading here, I thought the fabric would be better because I have the roots from the trees and shrubs all over and plastic would block air and water to the things I don't want to kill.

I would put the landscape fabric on the larger open areas and the mulch on most of the rest, mainly because of just how darned big the area is and how tricky it would be getting the fabric in and around the bushes/trees/etc..

Some of the areas are too difficult to put fabric (or plastic down): in the photo, you can see an area with cattails. A hurricane apparently carried those in a few years ago (coastal flooding is a reality here, from nor'easters as well as hurricanes). The area they're in is low-lying and can get wet after a good rain (a long-ago landscaper's screwup that would take a lot of effort to rectify now) and I think the cattails help in soaking up the wet so I'm loathe to remove them.
 
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OK, spend the last couple of days weeding with my scuffle hoe (the same one I mentioned in my original post, resharpened with a mill file). From my back and knees: ow, ow, ow, ow.
I think I'm going to need to go over it a few more times. I really do wish there were a better way; the areas with grasses were especially tricky to go through.

Roughly speaking, I think I'm going to go with a combination of mulch and landscape fabric--fabric over plastic because, reading here, I thought the fabric would be better because I have the roots from the trees and shrubs all over and plastic would block air and water to the things I don't want to kill.

I would put the landscape fabric on the larger open areas and the mulch on most of the rest, mainly because of just how darned big the area is and how tricky it would be getting the fabric in and around the bushes/trees/etc..

Some of the areas are too difficult to put fabric (or plastic down): in the photo, you can see an area with cattails. A hurricane apparently carried those in a few years ago (coastal flooding is a reality here, from nor'easters as well as hurricanes). The area they're in is low-lying and can get wet after a good rain (a long-ago landscaper's screwup that would take a lot of effort to rectify now) and I think the cattails help in soaking up the wet so I'm loathe to remove them.
If you are afraid of killing shrubs and trees then solarization is NOT the way to go. The plastic stops all water and air and the tremendous heat does the rest. I guess you will have to go the Roundup method although I hate chemicals.
 
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I have a large irregularly sized bed--I call it "bed" because I don't know how else to describe it. It's an area without a lawn, irregularly filled with a few trees and various shrubs. At a guess it's at least 800 square feet, depending on how much of it I want to bother with (up to 1500 sqft if I'm up to it).

Keeping ahead of the weeding is a near impossibility. I've weeded it by pulling by hand in the past (takes a few days), but most recently I had a ton of very small weeds, making pulling them out one by one something you'd need a large team of people working all day to do, so I used a scuffle hoe to cut things down. Days later it's coming back.

I'm looking for a way to (a) make weeding easier, and (b) keep the weeds down. I'm dealing with two herniated discs and a osteoarthritic knee so doing it by hand is getting tiresome. I'm not looking to make the bed ready for planting, just have it generally clear.

For (a), the only way I can think of is a corded electric tiller--electric because I'm not keen on gas engine maintenance, and corded because I want the added power over batteries. But I'm concerned that because I have trees and shrubs I'll end up damaging roots of plants I want. (There's also a sprinkler system running in/through the area, though I presume the lines are too deep to be an issue, but I'd have to verify.)

Since I'm not looking to turn the soil, just weed, is there anything comparable (powered) that only works the top 4 or so inches?

As for (b), the only thing I can think of is mulch. I don't know that plastic sheeting is workable, due both the size of the bed and and its irregularly (both in the shape and how it's planted). I'd need a heckuva lot of plastic and get pretty creative in cutting/laying it down to fit. That leaves wood mulch, which is imperfect because I really need the sort that doesn't float due to periodic flooding issues (yet another issue that I'm not able to deal with now).

Is it a given that I have to weed before mulching?
We use woodbark chips to keep weeds down in ornamental planting beds, you get the odd few come up here and there but nothing like as many as you would in bare soil. For veg gardens we always mulch well with partially rotted and we'll rotted organic matter. It is quite important to get rid clean off as much weed as possible before doing any of this though
 
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Rob . Possibly the best weed control is the hoe. If you keep on top of it. The use of the Dutch hoe is magic. Using short shrp movements, weeds can be cut down, and follow-up chiselling movements,the surrounding soil can be tilthed to a fine proportion, the now chopped up weeds are easily and simply buried. Nil waste,perfect recycle. What was once a pest is now a fertilizer.. Simples.
 
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Yes you are right except probably better off not hoeing pernicious weeds such as thistle Dock or dandelion, they will return in droves
 
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Should b able to find on Internet without to much trouble
 
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That's why I mentioned the landscape fabric. I'm definitely not using RoundUp.
Heavy mulch and vinegar sprayed to kill any vegetation that pops up. May have to spray frequently at first, but eventually it will get there and no harmful chemicals or bending over.
 
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I will use a weedeater, and chew the earth, and progressively go to pulling and then move to shears and scissors as I get close to roots. Squash roots are horrible about being disturbed. I have a 18 inch 3 finger spring tined detail itcher passed to me by my FIL that I like. Also, I got a weed torch for bigger areas this month, but it probably works best on heavy weeds.
 
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