I need help! Gardening freaks /green thumbs, please weigh in...

I am taking a week off of work and not going anywhere. My plan is to get some landscaping and gardening done in my backyard.

I am going to hit what is currently there (undergrowth, weeds, random wild plants) with a shovel, unearth everything and then put topsoil and mulch down, and I want to plant some … some … plants.

Here’s the problem. I don’t know jakkshiat about doing this sort of thing. Is hacking with a shovel and digging the best way to get rid of what is there?

Also, what should I plant? I really have no preference between flowers/plants/shrubs/whatever. I just something that will look nice. I am in Atlanta, so it gets pretty hot, and we don’t get a whole lot of rain in the summer. Also, they location of this area will mean that there will be very little direct sunlight, probably in shade for all but about an hour a day.
Any input you have is much appreciated.

I have input: Do this in the sFall. Planting in heat is setting the plants up for failure.

I mean, if you are DAMMED and Determined, then you really have to kill the weeds with a liquid killer (see you local nursery/landscape store) and wait til the soil is ok…usually a few days)…

…and you will need to irrigate (water) witout fail, several times a day…lightly…maybe 10 times…

And you will still fight weeds…even if you mulch…

And you will still fight death…even if you water…

And you will fight disease…because you planted when you shouldn’t…

Nature drops seeds in the Fall…hence the name…
Shrubs are ‘tougher’…more fool proof…

Tools: Pitch fork, Shovel, Awl, gloves , rake (metal).

Ingredients: (I don’t know how big an area your working with but put it this way 5 cubic yards of mulch/loam is A LOT and is spread easily. basically 30X30 feet. ) Get evergreens. Like Rhodadendron (sp?) Franklin Fur, Blue Spruce, or especially in Atlanta…get Dune grass (not the Japanese variety too meek)

If you are going to do grass, then you’ll need a roller. To pack the soil down after you seed.

What may be better is create some Burms around your back yard, with borders and such, it looks cool and reduces the area of mowable grass. Unless you like mowing grass in 105 degree heat and 100% humidity weather…

When your out getting the materials at Home Depot or Lowes…Go to their garden center and ask someone. Bring a pencil and paper, they will tell you EVERYTHING you need to know…I should know, Home Depot is my second home…

Good points, all.

As for what to plant, you might look at what others have done residentially and commercially in your area under similar conditions. Talk to a knowledgable nurseryman. (Bob’s become my close friend.) Drainage, light and soil type must all be considered. I know you’re putting topsoil down but a shrub or tree’s roots go deep.

I planted my trees first, optimizing their placement for shade and view. You might need to block your neighbor’s gameroom view of your bedroom.

Shrubs came next, higher against the fence and house and shorter in the middle and along the bed borders. If they bloom, consider color combinations and bloom duration/timing. Raised beds may be preferable, considering.

A mix of annuals and perinials came last in the beds we see most from inside and from the porch.

Space your plants for their mature growth and above all, don’t be in a hurry. If you want your yard to appear well-thought out, don’t try and put it all in place over a weekend.

Mine’s taken years but, heh, it looks goooooood!

OK, thanks for the info. To answer some points:

Philster: I am pretty determined to do this now. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that when I get motivated, I should take advantage of it. It doesn’t happen very often. I have no problem going with shrubs if they will be more idiot proof

Phlosphr: I already have burms setup, but I havent done anything with it in 3 years. There are nice rock borders and there was bark chips in places, but those have pretty much turned to dust. So, I have an outline of where I am going to work. I do not want more grass. It’s about 40’ by 20’ that I will be working with. I’ll look into the evergreens you mentioned.

lieu: I already have good tree cover and privacy. I am not doing any major overhauling of whats there, there is just that medium sized area I want to fix up. More “nice shrub/flower bed” and less “quasi-amazon jungle”.

I know azaleas (rhododendron (sp?)) work well in your area, if you have enough sun. I’ve had good luck with pittisporum, cleyera and indian hawthorn as well.

Liriope and monkey grass make good borders and are very hardy.

I also set one corner aside for a combination palm and fern garden. If that’s an option I’ll provide more details tomorrow.

I grew up working in my parent’s greenhouse and garden and have been an avid gardner all my life. Some suggestions:

If you’re bound and determined to do some work now, limit it to the clearing and soil preparation. If you’ve got good soil to plant in, you’re more than half-way home. Using a good garden fork, work the soil to a depth of about 12 inches and clean out the plants that are there now. Everything goes. Pick through the turned soil and get as many of the roots as you can (you’ll still leave some, but do what you can). Add composted manure to the soil and work in to your hearts content. Don’t do this if the soil is wet, you’ll only create clods and hardpan. Then, do nothing. As has been pointed out, the proper time for starting perennial borders and planting shrubs is in the fall. The heat is just too much for the plants now. They can’t develop a root system fast enough to get at the little water available, and watering, unless done correctly, leads to shallow roots that do more harm than good. Spend the summer doing some other things instead.

  1. Visit your extension agent and talk to them about native plants that will work in your area. He’ll also have lots and lots of written information on every gardening topic you could be interested in. He’ll also get you a soil test kit that you can send away to learn what amendments may be needed. You’re soil is probably acidic (most soil east of the Rockies is, more or less) and, depending on what you want to plant, you may need to add lime (NO LIME if you want to plant azaleas or other rhododendrons - they like acid soil).

  2. Visit a botanical garden in your area to get some ideas or start noticing what works in your neighbors yards.

  3. Nows the time to put in the hard, structural stuff. If you want to add rocks, pools, edging, etc. do that before you add the plants. You want to avoid destrubing perennials and shrubs once you have them set. After a few years you can divide the perennials for other borders, but that can wait.

  4. Since the area is shady, you should resign yourself to not having lots of flowering perennials. They tend to like more than an hour of sun a day. Hostas, azaleas (which bloom in the spring and provide color in shady areas), rhododendrons, ferns, hydrangeas all should work. Mountain laurel is another that will work in shade.

  5. Have fun! If it becomes work, it’ll become a chore and tending the garden is no fun then.

Screw the rake–how bout a tiller?