I reeeeeally wanted to title this post “So Mulch Fun” but the cardboard technique we used here was too important to leave out of the title. I’ll save “So Mulch Fun” for a future inevitable mulching post and hopefully by then you guys will forget you’ve already heard it mwahaha!
Today we are on the third and final day of working on our front garden beds! (Check out part 1 and part 2 too!) After removing our mega-palms, adding solar lights, removing the old weed barrier, and digging up unwanted grass and bushes, we had a blank slate that was ready to be mulched! Well, almost ready. Before we laid down mulch, we wanted to add a couple things that would make our garden maintenance easier: a weed barrier of some sorts, and a soaker hose.
We had a soaker hose the previous owner left in the garage so we tested the length by winding it around our beds. It was a perfect fit! We thought this step was especially important because one of our little foxtail ferns was not doing so hot.
We then realized we needed to remove the soaker hose while we put down the weed barrier (we wanted it to be above the barrier but below the mulch), so off it went.
For the weed barrier, we looked into a few different options: traditional fabric weed barriers, newspaper, and cardboard. With the semi-degradable fabric ones you apparently have to remove them eventually (like we did ours) and replace it, but newspaper and cardboard biodegrade after a certain period of time and just become part of the soil, and when it’s time to add more you just add another layer on top. After digging up our old weed barrier, we didn’t want to have to deal with doing that again down the line. And we just so happened to still have a TON of cardboard boxes leftover from our attic clean-out and our Ikea shopping spree. So our decision was made! Plus little earthworms are supposed to love cardboard and that is good for our soil.
When using cardboard for this purpose, you can’t use any that is shiny or waxy. It has to have that flat “cardboard-y” feel. And you need to remove any stickers, tape, staples, etc since they aren’t biodegradable. After spending some time sorting/prepping the boxes, we had a pile waiting and ready to go.
But before we laid them, we wanted to go ahead and buy our mulch. Partially because we didn’t want the cardboard to get blown away if there was a time gap between cardboard-ing and mulching. And partially because having your garden bed lined with cardboard looks oh-so-classy (not) and we didn’t want it to be in that state for any longer than necessary. So I measured the square footage of our garden beds and we needed to buy WAY more mulch than I would have thought- 17 bags! That would give us 2 inches of coverage, which we were ok with since Google told us 1″-4″ was recommended.
While we were at Home Depot picking up our mulch, I spotted some little potted foxtails for $6 a piece. Since we dug up our rosemary it felt like we needed something else to fill the space it left. Foxtails to the rescue! Plus I think they’re cute. Like little Mochi tails.
We’ve never planted anything before so we just followed the instructions they came with and crossed our fingers. So far we’ve kept em alive!
Once our foxtails were in we turned our attention to the cardboard. We made sure to implement tips we had read online as we went. Before we started, we flattened the soil the best we could (this meant filling in the big holes we still had from digging up our giant palms. And we pulled any large weeds/grass that we spotted (we didn’t worry about the little ones though).
Then we just started cutting and laying our cardboard on top of the dirt, leaving 4-6 inches of breathing room around the base of each plant. Everywhere the cardboard met we overlapped it by 6 inches (so the less overlaps you have the better- try to cut the cardboard as little as possible).
This also required squeezing into some tight spaces, but hey if we were afraid to get a little dirty we would not have considered spending a day laying mulch to be a good time!
As we went, we sprayed the cardboard down with our hose so that it would flatten out (and not get blown away by a sudden burst of wind or anything). Also, see how nicely the two new foxtails fill in the space that used to be occupied by the rosemary?
After we had fully laid and sprayed (ha! rhyme!) our first layer, we laid and sprayed a second. Most sites recommended 2-4 layers, and we had enough cardboard for about two and a half so that’s what we did.
This is why we wanted to start and finish this part of the project in one evening: it looked more like a hobo bed than a garden bed (I’ll be here all week)! But by the end of our second layer we had a nice base to start mulching over. Evan used his manly muscles to lift and pour the bags while my hoe and I (‘sup!) smoothed the mulch out over the cardboard.
Of course, as soon as we finished laying all the mulch we realized we had completely forgotten about putting down the soaker hose first. Doh! So we had to lay it down on top of our mulch and then try to bury it.
In the end we used 15 of our 17 bags, and since the last two were maybe worth $6 (and they were heavy and messy) we just decided to hold onto them for touch ups rather than return them. Also in total we spent about $50 on mulch and the two additional foxtails (since we already had the soaker hose and cardboard, those were free). It was kind of a dirty job, but it was cheap and so worth the results!
Finally we rinsed off our dirty sidewalk and driveway and took some pretty pictures for ya!
Here is the area in front of the guest bedroom when we first moved in…
The same area after the grass invaded…
And after we fixed her up!
Here is that same area from a different angle, again when we moved in…
Then there was so… much… grass…
And now here’s the after! Nicely mulched and grass-free!
Here’s the straight on view of the front door before we touched the garden beds at all. Look how closed in and itchy it looks!
And here’s the nice clean after!
Lastly here’s a little peek at the area to the left of the front door. Here it is before (notice how that palm looks like it’s eating our doormat).
And here it is after! Without all that extra palm and grass, it looks so much cleaner!
I’m thinking about buying some large planters for either side of the door where the palms used to be, but first I need to find a flowering plant that won’t die on me. I just recently learned the term “perennial” so… yeah I have a ways to go before I finish my plant research. Any suggestions about low maintenance flowering plans would be much appreciated!
We are so happy with how our garden bed makeover turned out, we could just dance!