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Tue Apr 16, 2013, 07:03 PM

Advice on removing weeds in Azalea beds

I read that Azaleas have shallow roots, and to not cultivate or dig around them as the roots may be damaged. I bought a house late last year, and this year there's a huge crop of stuff growing in the beds, all around and even coming up inside the Azaleas in a few places.

How do I get rid of this stuff? I'm afraid to dig them out, as I don't want to hurt the Azaleas. Should I use something like Roundup instead? I know Roundup is bad, but I read to apply Roundup to a cotton swab, then put it on the leaves of whatever you want to kill.

Would appreciate any advice, not really a gardener but I guess I need to learn or my yard is going to be a mess.

Thanks in advance.

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Response to AndyA (Original post)

Tue Apr 16, 2013, 07:07 PM

1. I would pull up what you can and mulch - azaleas love hardwood mulch - they are acid lovers

If the azaleas are mature digging around to rid weeds shouldn't hurt them....I am not a fan of using any chemicals at all, and Round Up is pretty nasty stuff. Dig and pull what you can and get some bags of hardwood mulch and give it a nice layer - that's my two cents, anyway!

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Reply #1)

Wed Apr 17, 2013, 07:05 AM

6. Thanks, NRaleighLiberal

I just bought some mulch made of recycled rubber tires and planned on putting it in an area out by the street, but will get the real stuff for around the Azaleas. I appreciate your advice!

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Response to AndyA (Original post)

Tue Apr 16, 2013, 07:30 PM

2. I have an azalea that I have had for years.

There are always weeds growing around it, and I never heard that I could do damage to the roots if I dug the weeds up, so I have. All the time. I have never had a problem.

I rarely use chemicals, but there are times when they may be needed. (They aren't for me because I am not all that picky about how the garden looks and I do a lot of pulling up weeds.) Just remember that if Roundup touches anything that you do not want to kill, you could kill it. The only time I have ever used it is in cracks of the sidewalk where I can't get the weeds pulled out and there is nothing else around the weed.

Also, you may find that you do not have to dig much to get the weeds, depending on what they are. If the soil is rather wet, like it often is in the spring in my part of the country, many weeds will pull out without digging. Try it first before you do a lot of digging.

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Response to Curmudgeoness (Reply #2)

Tue Apr 16, 2013, 11:12 PM

4. Use a sprayer filled with white vinegar to kill weeds in cracks of sidewalks and in between pavers.

Spray when it is nice and warm and sunny and not when it's about to rain. The weeds will turn brown and dry up. I also use serrated edge table knives (from the thrift store utensil bin) to get the weeds out of cracks and then I just sweep them up. Of course this is an ongoing process (job security!) but it is very green and cheap!

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Response to CottonBear (Reply #4)

Wed Apr 17, 2013, 08:26 PM

10. Thanks for the tips.

If this works, it would be cheaper, although I still have a container of Roundup for 20 years ago when I first moved into this house and it was here then, so you can see that I rarely use it. I have white vinegar in the house all the time, so I will try that. I even think that I have an old serrated knife or two in a junk drawer I can use. I usually just pull them out, but there is that occasional weed that just will not budge, even after a good soaking rain.

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Response to Curmudgeoness (Reply #2)

Wed Apr 17, 2013, 07:10 AM

7. We're supposed to have storms tonight so I'll try pulling weeds tomorrow when it's wet

I have no idea what some of this stuff is, I can just tell by where it's located and by what it looks like that it doesn't belong.

I know Roundup is really bad, I was warned that wind drift could cause lots of damage, so I usually use it in cracks and along the seams in the driveway--thanks for the reminder!

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Response to AndyA (Reply #7)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 07:16 PM

11. Weeds are just plants in the wrong place!

See my post in this thread about using vinegar to kill weeds.

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Response to CottonBear (Reply #11)

Fri Apr 19, 2013, 08:01 AM

12. I saw your post on vinegar and will try it.

It's too bad that weeds aren't the normally accepted plants for residential yards, because I could compete with the best if they were!

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Response to AndyA (Reply #12)

Sun Apr 21, 2013, 09:57 AM

13. LOL!

My own garden needs weeding, pruning and mulching too.

After a long day at work, I usually have so much to do at home and with my family that my own garden is last on the to do list of chores. I have Gumpo (a very small variety) azaleas inside my enclosed patio garden area and they have to live with my very active 4 year old! They have sustained lots of accidental pruning as well as having had lots of sand poured around them and Tonka toys parked on, under and in them! It's a good thing that I can just close the gate behind me and no one can see the pre-school devastation! Fortunately, most azaleas are very hardy and with some TLC they can look beautiful all year round!

Good luck and happy gardening!

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Response to AndyA (Original post)

Tue Apr 16, 2013, 11:04 PM

3. Hi! I'm a gardener at a botanical garden. We only use natural methods to control weeds.

1. Get a hat, a garden kneeling pad, a bucket or bag, some close fitting nitrile coated gloves, a sharp trowel and a table knife with a serrated edge.

2. Don't use any chemicals especially Roundup! You can kill your shrubs, trees, vines, ground covers, perennials and annuals along with the weeds.

3. Weed when it is wet. Weeds pull up easily after a rain.

4. You just have to get down on your hands and knees and pull the weeds up. Use the trowel and knife to carefully dig out weeds with deep roots.

5. Remove all old leaves and old mulch by hand or with a little hand rake.

6. Mulch with new shredded pine bark or composted hardwood mulch. Don't pile it up around the stems of the azaleas. Put a 1" to 2" layer of mulch all under and around the shrubs.

7. Don't prune (if even necessary to prune) or fertilize your azaleas until after they bloom.

8. ENJOY your beautiful azaleas! Happy Gardening!

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Response to CottonBear (Reply #3)

Wed Apr 17, 2013, 07:16 AM

8. Hi CottonBear

The Azaleas are blooming now, and they do have some dead limbs on them due to the drought and heat last summer. The house was not being lived in, and the sprinklers were off. Actually, I'm surprised that they're blooming at all! (A few aren't blooming.) I have some yellowing and discolored leaves, so I bought fertilizer specifically for Azaleas, and I did read to wait until after blooming to prune and fertilize.

These Azaleas are very old, apparently, and I'd like to do what I can to sustain them and keep them happy. Thanks for your wonderful advice!

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Response to AndyA (Reply #8)

Tue Apr 30, 2013, 10:55 PM

15. Hi AndyA! How are your azaleas doing?

I spent the whole morning on my hands and knees weeding at the botanical garden and I thought of you!

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Response to CottonBear (Reply #15)

Fri May 10, 2013, 02:07 PM

17. Hey CottonBear--the Azaleas seem to be doing OK

I pulled most of the weeds by hand a few weeks ago, and most of the Azaleas were beautiful in bloom. A few were covered in blooms, others had less, a few had only a few blooms, and two didn't bloom at all.

The leaves seem to be a light green/yellow, so I think they need to be fed.

I trimmed the dead stuff off of them earlier this week, some still are blooming, so I'll wait for them to stop before I feed them. (Bought Miracle Grow for Azaleas, so should be the right nutrients for them. I have quite a few Boxwood, and I understand they like the same plant food as Azaleas, so I'll feed them at the same time.)

Still have weeds all over the yard, it looks OK after it's been mowed.

I'm going to spread some leaves around the Azaleas then put a tree bark type mulch over them, which should make the beds look a lot better.

I didn't know what some of the stuff in the beds was, but if it didn't look like something that was intentionally planted there, I pulled it. The landscaping was done professionally years ago by a company that did a very exclusive country club nearby, so I figured things should balance out visually, and it does look better now that much of the weeds have been pulled.

Thanks for thinking of me, it's going to be a learning process for certain! I appreciate your help very much, as well as others who made suggestions. I'm sure I'll have more questions later!

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Response to AndyA (Reply #17)

Sun May 12, 2013, 04:00 AM

18. Yay! Great news! You have been busy out in the garden.

It is amazing what a little weeding, mulching, fertilizing and pruning can do! It's like a makeover for your garden & yard!

You will be amazed at the transformation when you add new mulch everywhere!

My community collects lawn waste, leaves and limbs and transforms them into both wood chips/mulch and compost that is sold for $5 - $10 a pickup truck load. Perhaps your community has this service. If you have a place to dump the load, a wheelbarrow, a pitchfork and a shovel (and the need for a good total body workout!) then you can cheaply mulch your landscape.

Boxwoods are beautiful. There is a Korean boxwood in addition to the more typical species. They can both have some pest issues but are generally easy to care for. I love the un-pruned, flame-like shape of large, old boxwoods.

If you want to make lawn mowing easy then use this simple tip for mulch/bed design: use a long & flexible garden hose(s) to lay out bed lines adjacent to lawns. You can easily move the hose(s) around to suit your design. TIP: decrease lawn and increase mulched area unless you need lawn. Make edges easy to mow around (smooth curves and no difficult edges and corners i.e. non-90 degree intersections.)

One last tip: It can all be overwhelming so just concentrate on one little area or specific project at a time while keeping in mind your greater vision! This is what we do at the botanical garden.

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Response to AndyA (Original post)

Wed Apr 17, 2013, 12:17 AM

5. I'm not so sure about that shallow root stuff

I've been trying to dig up an old azalea and I have given up. Shallow roots? Not if they're old!

Re weeds around your azaleas, I like CottonBear's advice, but if you are lazy like me, just watch for some flat cardboard being put out by someone on recycling day. Take it.

Then put it around the azalea bush and put chopped leaves on top.

No weeds and your azaleas will love the mulch.


Cher

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Response to NJCher (Reply #5)

Wed Apr 17, 2013, 07:21 AM

9. Thanks, Cher

I've been told these Azaleas have been here since the mid-sixties, so I guess that's pretty old. They used to line the circular driveway, but those were replaced years ago with Boxwood, as too many of the Azaleas looked bad. I still have two beds on either side of the front door, as well as another at the top of the circle.

The people who owned my house for almost 48 years had a professional full time gardener to tend to everything--I'm sure the yard wishes he'd come back! I appreciate your advice!

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Response to NJCher (Reply #5)

Tue Apr 30, 2013, 10:59 PM

16. Great advice!

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Response to AndyA (Original post)

Thu Apr 25, 2013, 12:01 AM

14. mulch, mulch, mulch... whatever leaves you have on hand will do nicely

Here in my part of Florida, the traditional way is to rake all of your leaf fall underneath the azaleas... the love and thrive on the slight bit of acid and the leaves breakdown and provide nutrition and build a strong root system over the years. It also helps prevent drought having an effect on them.

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