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installing new beds?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by michaeldan, May 30, 2005.

  1. michaeldan

    michaeldan LawnSite Member
    from N. TX.
    Messages: 4

    I am just wondering what is the most common way to install a new bed in existing lawn area that is primarily heavy clay. First, is it adviseable to use Roundup to clear the turf or a sod cutter? I've heard so many different things. Also, in a heavy clay situation when planting a shrub bed, would you dig out several inches of the clay and raise the bed or just leave the clay and raise the bed? Basically, I'm just wondering to what extent is it necessary to amend the soil in areas like this. Thanks.
  2. Turfdude

    Turfdude LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,899

    Use a sod stripper - its the only way to go. If you're creating a raised bed, the composted topsoil can v=be used as a soil amendment. Sometimes if you use too much farm grade topsoil, you can have a problem w/ nitogen fixation in the soil. The only other advice is to make sure you're selecting shrubberyt that will tolerate wet feet. Obviously, clay is not a good draining soil.
  3. sheshovel

    sheshovel LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,112

    Incorperate your compost and topsoil mix into the clay well(till) then plant high... you don't want the soil you put on top of the clay to slide off in heavy rain.Put enough on to raise the bed 12 to 18" or more.Dont add sand
  4. kris

    kris LawnSite Bronze Member
    from nowhere
    Messages: 1,578

    First of all .. we always strip the sod and never use the roundup method.

    The challenge with heavy clay is that if you excavate allot and then fill with triple mix you basically have a "bathtub" that holds water ...find a happy medium and mound the bed.
  5. sheshovel

    sheshovel LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,112

    That is possible yes,but if you don't incorperate the soil into the clay,then you have an unstable mound of fill on top of the clay and the plant roots will stay within that fill.I think what you are saying is mix it in but just not to much like tilling?Instead hand dig it in.
  6. kris

    kris LawnSite Bronze Member
    from nowhere
    Messages: 1,578

    I wasn't disagreeing with you sheshovel
  7. blafleur

    blafleur LawnSite Member
    Messages: 229

    You will notice everyone who strips existing sod for new beds live up north, where they dont have bermuda grass. It is the weed from hell. If you have st. augustine, you can strip the sod, if there is bermuda, you need to kill it. I usually spray it more than once. Even if you remove enough soil to get the roots (about 6"), all the little sprigs that the sides of the cutter cut fall into the soil and sprout later.

    I like to raise the beds if there is room. I usually start with a few inches of compost and till it into the clay, then use premixed planting mix to raise the bed. Soil Building Systems in NW Dallas sells very good products. If the bed is adjacent to a house, and there is not enough slab showing to raise the bed, I separate the bed from the house with a 5-6" trench filled with gravel, and a drain pipe if necessary, and some type of edging. SBS sells a product called gumbo buster that is compost mixed with expanded shale that is supposed to keep clay broken up, but I havent heard the long term effectiveness of this yet.

    Another option that they apparently use up north and doesnt work with bermuda is not using edging. No edging other than a concrete beam will keep out bermuda roots, but most decent edging will at least slow it down.

    Bryan Lafleur

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