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Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
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Grass/weed roots in my beds

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Marc Iverson
southern gardener
sanderson
NowWeAreFour
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Grass/weed roots in my beds Empty Grass/weed roots in my beds

Post  NowWeAreFour 4/1/2014, 1:18 pm

When my husband and I built our beds two years ago, we opted not to put bottoms on them (stupid, I know). We thought that just covering the grass with layers of cardboard and newspaper would be enough to kill the grass and weeds. And it did kill the grass and weeds directly under the beds, but it looks like root systems from the surrounding grass/weeds/plants/shrubs are still working their way into the beds. Last year's spring soil turnover/dig-out was awful, and we pulled out piles of root systems. This year has been MUCH better so far, but I'm still pulling out more than I'd like, even in areas where we killed the grass in walkways around the beds. I pulled one root that had to be coming from one of the trees--it was bigger around than my thumb!

Anyway, here's what I'm wondering: If you didn't put bottoms on your beds, do you get this too? Do you spend the time to actually dig these roots out every spring? They tend to run very low in the beds, but I would imagine that if left unchecked, they'll start to take over everywhere.

And if I'm digging these roots out, should I spend the extra time to sift through and actually remove them from the beds, or do you think they'll eventually just decompose into the soil? This part takes more time than you'd imagine, and I'd hate to be doing extra work if I don't have to, but I'd hate it more if they somehow managed to keep growing and thriving under my soil!

Thanks What a Face
NowWeAreFour
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Post  sanderson 4/1/2014, 2:05 pm

One thing about roots, they don't decomposed that well!  They were designed to survive in wet, dark areas.  Even if the big plant (tree, rose bush or shrub) is removed, little saplings / shoots can still come up from the larger roots left in the ground, sometimes many feet away.  Ask how I know.   Embarassed  And roots eventually win all pushing contests.

When you say bottoms, do you mean plywood or hardware (metal) cloth? I used weed cloth which is fine for the veggies, but I know it won't prevent invasive roots. One got in one of the boxes and I cut that sucker off and replace the torn weed fabric. I remove all significant veggie roots from my boxes but don't worry if a few of the angel hair roots are left behind.  Sometime, raising the beds to short TTs or setting the whole thing on cinder blocks is the only thing one can do to create a gap between the boxes and the invasive plants' roots. Bermuda grass, Ugh!  We have Fescue now which is a lot easier to control.  I am concerned that your story may become my story in the future.
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Post  southern gardener 4/1/2014, 2:28 pm

FWIW, We did put bottoms on our beds, and last year, took them off. Our thinking was the roots would like to go down into the "regular" soil for some additional nutrients, (yes, MM has nutrients, but the natural soil wouldn't hurt??) Also, the bottoms kept the worms OUT of our beds.
since removing the bottoms, (and doing other things too) our garden is doing much better. I guess my point is, I think you're alright. I think those bigger roots will come through the weed cloth anyway, they did with our beds. We kept the weed cloth ON the areas around our beds, however and just opened up the bottoms.
There are some pics of our garden in the thread "moved our beds", if you'd like to see some pics.
God bless!!
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Post  Marc Iverson 4/1/2014, 3:34 pm

Our neighbor gets tree roots coming up into his unprotected beds from quite far away, more than 20 feet from the trees' drip lines. And profusely! It is an absolute bear tearing them up out of his beds in the spring.
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Post  AtlantaMarie 4/1/2014, 3:53 pm

NowWeAreFour, I'm glad you brought this up.  We just put in our SFG and opted to put 2 layers of weed barrier w/ a thick layer of newspaper & corrugated boxes sandwiched between.  All I did with the grass under the boxes is spray it with vinegar.

I am using a vinegar/salt spray on the outside of the fence-line to try to keep the neighbors stuff from sneaking in.  I'm also spraying heavily with vinegar on the inside portion of the garden against the boxes.  Not sure I want to use salt on that side...

I'll let you know what happens with ours...
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Post  bonnie0128 4/1/2014, 5:30 pm

AtlantaMarie wrote:NowWeAreFour, I'm glad you brought this up.  We just put in our SFG and opted to put 2 layers of weed barrier w/ a thick layer of newspaper & corrugated boxes sandwiched between.  All I did with the grass under the boxes is spray it with vinegar.

I am using a vinegar/salt spray on the outside of the fence-line to try to keep the neighbors stuff from sneaking in.  I'm also spraying heavily with vinegar on the inside portion of the garden against the boxes.  Not sure I want to use salt on that side...

I'll let you know what happens with ours...
What are you using as a sprayer?  We have purchased two or three of those sprayers where you pour into the resevoir and then pump it up and spray and all of them have broken within a days use using vinegar.  We have some mold areas in the basement (and in our shop (old mechanic wells that now get water on occasion)) that we really want to hit with vinegar but need a reliable sprayer (and for the yard too, of course).
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Post  Marc Iverson 4/1/2014, 7:28 pm

Is there a gasket you can take out and rinse? Vinegar is acetic acid, and, well, acid, you know ...
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Post  NowWeAreFour 4/1/2014, 8:10 pm

sanderson wrote:One thing about roots, they don't decomposed that well!  They were designed to survive in wet, dark areas.  Even if the big plant (tree, rose bush or shrub) is removed, little saplings / shoots can still come up from the larger roots left in the ground, sometimes many feet away.  Ask how I know.   Embarassed  And roots eventually win all pushing contests.

When you say bottoms, do you mean plywood or hardware (metal) cloth?  I used weed cloth which is fine for the veggies, but I know it won't prevent invasive roots.  One got in one of the boxes and I cut that sucker off and replace the torn weed fabric.  I remove all significant veggie roots from my boxes but don't worry if a few of the angel hair roots are left behind.  Sometime, raising the beds to short TTs or setting the whole thing on cinder blocks is the only thing one can do to create a gap between the boxes and the invasive plants' roots. Bermuda grass, Ugh!  We have Fescue now which is a lot easier to control.  I am concerned that your story may become my story in the future.

Oh, that's a really good point. OK, I guess I'll just keep doing the work. It's good exercise, at least! And it really is better than it was last year, so maybe it will continue to improve. 

We discussed both hardware cloth and plywood but opted not to do either so that, like southern gardener said, the plants could have extra room to grow down if they needed it. I don't think weed cloth would have done the job, given how quickly it disintegrated from the paths around the beds. 

Thanks, and sorry to be the bearer of bad news!
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Post  NowWeAreFour 4/1/2014, 8:16 pm

southern gardener wrote:FWIW, We did put bottoms on our beds, and last year, took them off. Our thinking was the roots would like to go down into the "regular" soil for some additional nutrients, (yes, MM has nutrients, but the natural soil wouldn't hurt??) Also, the bottoms kept the worms OUT of our beds.
since removing the bottoms, (and doing other things too) our garden is doing much better. I guess my point is, I think you're alright. I think those bigger roots will come through the weed cloth anyway, they did with our beds. We kept the weed cloth ON the areas around our beds, however and just opened up the bottoms.
There are some pics of our garden in the thread "moved our beds", if you'd like to see some pics.
God bless!!

That's really very interesting, thanks for sharing! I wonder why that is? Is your soil underneath at all decent? Ours is hard red clay, so I can't imagine it provides anything useful to our beds, but I guess you never know! 

The "walkways" around the beds are covered with weed cloth, outdated rubber welcome mats from my husband's job (they have the old name on them), and leftover slate stepping stones, and that's doing a decent (if ugly) job of killing the vegetation around the beds. I suspect that's what made this year's job easier. We have a few places that are still grassy, though, so we'll have to tackle those this year. 

I'll look for the pics, thanks. I do love seeing how others set up their beds and spaces. We're finally reaching the point where we can work more on the visual appeal and less on the logistics!
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Post  NowWeAreFour 4/1/2014, 8:17 pm

Marc Iverson wrote:Our neighbor gets tree roots coming up into his unprotected beds from quite far away, more than 20 feet from the trees' drip lines.  And profusely!  It is an absolute bear tearing them up out of his beds in the spring.

Thankfully we don't have that problem. At least the roots we have to pull are manageable by hand, for the most part!
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Post  NowWeAreFour 4/1/2014, 8:19 pm

AtlantaMarie wrote:NowWeAreFour, I'm glad you brought this up.  We just put in our SFG and opted to put 2 layers of weed barrier w/ a thick layer of newspaper & corrugated boxes sandwiched between.  All I did with the grass under the boxes is spray it with vinegar.

I am using a vinegar/salt spray on the outside of the fence-line to try to keep the neighbors stuff from sneaking in.  I'm also spraying heavily with vinegar on the inside portion of the garden against the boxes.  Not sure I want to use salt on that side...

I'll let you know what happens with ours...

Good luck! Our yard is quite weedy, which my account for some of the root trouble. On the other hand, there are enough weeds that the bunnies living across the yard have had enough to eat without looking to the garden...so far, anyway (she says while knocking on wood, making the sign against the evil eye, spitting twice, etc.). I hope you don't have too much trouble with it!
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Post  AtlantaMarie 4/2/2014, 9:12 am

Bonnie/Marc - yeah, I noticed yesterday afternoon that the sprayer wasn't working quite right...   Embarassed   That would explain it.

I'll probably just go to a hand bottle if that's the case...

NowWeAreFour - Sounds like we have the same type of yard.  Ours is an old cow pasture with very clumpy grass, lots of weeds & clover, even more red clay, and... you guessed it - bunnies!  (I found 5 trails at the bottom of the fence line.)

So far the bunnies have been happy with the compost pile.  I'll continue to put stuff down there for them.  And we're bunny-proofing the garden.  (Knock-knock, etc.)  My neighbor has a very small garden and he says he'll see them gathered around his fence trying to figure out how to get in.
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Post  jimmy cee 4/2/2014, 9:48 am

Yesterday while getting my cold frame ready to finally plant some cold crops, I ran my hand through the mix.
WOW, underneath there is a bed of very fine roots the length of the 10 foot bed.Grass/weed roots in my beds Cold_f13
I dug up what I could, however I'm thinking I need to do more, these are very fine roots and last season I had no problems with any growth.
I do have both a weed barrier along with hardware under 8-10 inches of MM.
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Post  GWN 4/2/2014, 10:21 am

THIS is  great topic and one very close to my heart...(or at least my fingernails).
I have quack grass really bad and it apparently is the worst
This is my third year with raised beds and my second year as SFG.  I have tried everything. The first year it was cardboard under severaly inches of earth, then more cardboard when I changed over the SFG.  The weeds got through. Then at the end of my first year with SFG, I moved the beds and put down the thick black stuff (NOT the fabric, but the next step up) and I really regretted this because it really hampered the growth of many of my crops....  SO now I have taken a pitch fork and made very large holes in that thick fabric (by the way, when quack grass grows THROUGH the thick fabric, and it can, you have a real mess on your hands... )
I do find that I have to keep chipping away at it, I find that I work hard at it in the spring and then get busy with other gardening and it creeps up on me.

This year I am going to try the vinegar, Dawn soap, salt mixture  (when I find the recipe, I saw it on Facebook and then lost it)  But I think that the only way to control quack grass is to keep at it.
I think covering much of my place with newspaper and wood chips is starting to control it.  Of note, I have read that 3 layers of newspaper is better than cardboard and I have found this to be true. The roots just crawl along the cardboard whereas the newspaper sort of smothers the shoots.
Anyways my goal this year will be to kill every darn quack grass on my property, and IF I do not succeed this year, there is always NEXT year.
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Post  AtlantaMarie 4/2/2014, 1:11 pm

GWN - The recipe is:

1 gallon vinegar
1 cup salt
1 tblsp soap

Mix together and allow time for salt to dissolve before using.  (Putting in the sun helps warm it up and melt the salt.)

Be aware that the salt will not allow you to plant anything in that space after whatever's there dies.  The salt will kill everything thereafter.
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Post  GWN 4/2/2014, 1:31 pm

thank you.. VERY MUCH
Another question..  does the acetic acid have to be 9%   OR can it be the regular 5%
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Post  AtlantaMarie 4/2/2014, 3:53 pm

I use the 5%.
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