Build a Simple, Weed-Proof Garden Bed

This summer, I moved into a red brick two-story, circa-1960 rental home. The front yard featured the massive, unkempt shrub you see above. I decided to replace it with some fresh plant life to try to freshen up the dated look of the brick facade.

Because of an upstairs balcony above the archway on the left, rainwater was constantly funneled into the bed, causing mildew to grow over the bricks. Oh, and did I mention the weeds? The entire bed was carpeted with them.
But with a few neat tricks, I was able to transform the barren bed into a colorful, weed-free addition to the front yard.

Outdoor garden rake

I started by clearing out all those awful weeds with my trusty garden rake. I can’t remember where I got mine, but I looked online and found them as cheap as $13.00.
The best part: you’ll only have to weed this bed once, thanks to a trick I’ll describe later!

Once you have a weed free bed with 2-3 inches of loose topsoil, you’re ready to plant. I planted three Evergreen Shrubs around a Japanese Maple. The Maple’s leaves turn a lovely shade of burgundy in autumn, which should contrast well with my brick exterior.

 Japanese Maple treeEvergreen Shrubs

You can save a lot of money by purchasing younger trees and shrubs from a nursery. You won’t get the looks pictured above right away. But you can get them there faster by using plenty of fertilizer. My grandpa has always used Black Kow, an all-natural, composted cow manure. He used to be a farmer, so when he talks gardening, I’m all ears.

Before I laid down all that pretty mulch, I put down… newspapers. This step is so crucial to ensuring a weed-free bed. IF YOU HATE WEEDING, don’t skip this step! A layer of newspaper under your top layer of mulch can hold off weeds for years, while retaining moisture, keeping roots watered for longer. Check out this article by Chris McLaughlin to learn more about the benefits of “newspaper mulch.”
The final step is to cover your layer of newspaper with mulch or pine straw. I went with artificial red mulch to achieve a bright red color to bring out the duller red of the brick. There is a possibility that some artificial mulch brands could contain toxins that hurt plant life, so I’ll probably use natural mulch next time. I’ve had this setup for about five months now and everything still seems healthy. To read more about different types of mulch, check out this great piece by Jeanne Grunert.

Don't forget to newspaper before you mulchFinished outdoor flower bed with red mulch, Japanese maples, and evergreen shrubs
I touched up the bed with a rock pile in the corner to absorb the worst of the rain’s impact. My hope is that the new plants will help absorb the excess moisture, and the brick mildew should subside with exposure to sunlight.
Thanks for reading, and happy planting!

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