A well-grown lawn will easily crowd out weeds. Any other ground cover doesn't even come close, and things like perennial flowers are not even in the ball park.
With ground cover other than lawn grass you'll either need to hand-weed periodically, or else put down heavy mulch, with or without weedstop, and then replace that periodically, plus deal with any breakthrough weeds.
All you need to do to your lawn, once it's established, is mow it.
Or pay some kid to mow it. And fertilize it every so often, spend 10 minutes walking with a spreader twice a year. Or spray some weed-and-feed from a hose-end sprayer.
So, really, if you're going to go for "grass lawn", you've got about 1/3 as much work as you thought you did. Just clean up the old mulch and weedstop, get rid of the weeds, do standard soil prep for new lawns, then follow the instructions on the Scotts bag.
Clean it up, prep it for lawn grass, plant grass.
You change the soil conditions, and the horsetail goes away. Prepping your soil for lawn grass changes the soil conditions.
If you have time, patience, a strong back, and access to a rototiller all summer, I'd do the till-water-wait protocol: Once you have it all cleaned up, you till it all up, water it if it doesn't rain, then you wait for all the buried weed seeds in the soil to germinate. Once they're up and growing nicely, you go in and till them all up. This kills them, and brings another crop of weed seeds to the surface.
You water them, wait, and when they're up and doing nicely, you till them under. Which brings more weed seeds to the surface.
You keep this up all summer, or until you're not seeing anything germinating, whichever comes first. Then you plant your grass seed, and you have zero weed problems for a long, long time to come.
Ask the Master Gardeners at the extension office, they'll have even more information than is on the website, personal-experience type stuff, "I did X in my garden and it worked, I know so-and-so who tried Y and it didn't work."
That's what makes them Master Gardeners. Call them, they looooove talking to gardeners and helping them.
A raised bed is better because you know what soil you're getting, you won't have to worry about weeds and it'll be easier to access but it's not a must-have. But don't make the mistake of putting them next to the house.
Anyone who works with foundations will tell you to never store anything directly against the side of a house.
If you insisted on putting a garden bed on the side of a house directly against the foundation you would need high quality water and vapor barriers. These barriers would need to expand past the bed due to unusual saturation of the area.
Now obviously you can put garden beds next to your house...and there is a way to do it without damaging the foundation but it is FAR more work than installing one away from your home.
The thing about gardens that are directly against a house is heat.
Because the house itself is a thermal mass, you may find that the garden bed stays warmer than other parts of the garden, especially if your house is made of brick.
This is a great thing in Winter, especially if you're growing something like a citrus, but in summer it will mean that you have to water more and mulch heavily as the beds will dry out more readily than other parts of the garden, and also may not receive as much rainfall under the eaves.
The other thing when you're planting directly against a brick structure is to remember that you'll get PH leach from the mortar between the bricks. This is no big thing if you're just doing standard vegie gardening but if you're planting something that's particularly PH sensitive (garlic, carrots, blueberries, flowing bushes like camellias etc) you'll have to watch your PH levels and occasionally even out the soil to keep it at the desired level.
Growing under a pine tree is very difficult. Growing something under a pine tree that deer do not eat is even harder. The only thing I can recommend to suit both those criteria is sweet woodruff.
We also have a lot of wild blackberries growing around our pinetrees.
Phlox is gorgeous, but it would need to be in full sun.
Salal (Gaultheria Shallon) would be awesome though I'm not entirely sure about growing it from seed. It's a broadleaf evergreen that can grow and flower in deep shade especially in acidic conditions, like under pine trees. It forms a nice thicket that can get a few feet tall and it produces sweet edible berries!
It's fairly deer resistant too. They're often rated to zone 6a so you're right on the line.
I used to live in the Mojave desert and as a gardener I learned this pretty quick: you can grow anything practically anytime out there with enough shade and water. Watch out for caliche - it's that hard white mineral in the ground. Remove it from your yard entirely when you encounter it.
I miss gardening down there really badly. I had fresh tomatoes in January!
But there are so many things that I find rewarding now as well.
- Buttercup and borage = weeds, need no special attention.
- Sunflower = easy to grow, but protect from slugs as they love it
- Poppy = scatter seed and leave, self seeds and comes back year after year
- Aster = boring all year then in autumn
- Snowdrop's and Crocus = Push bulb into ground, wait till January!
- Lavender = really hates to get wet feet, needs well drained soil in winter of it will die
- Thyme = great plant and excellent herb, nice flowers, start from seed and plant out when large enough
- Sage = Lovely evergreen, hardy perennial, makes gorgeous blue flowers in summer
- Fennel = Makes tall stalk with thousands of small yellow flowers. Self seeds easily.
- Geranium = grow from cuttings, protect from frost
- Calendula = easy to grow from seed, half hardy
Lavender really enjoys soil that is a bit sandier, better drainage to avoid those wet feet, and does very well if it can be planted by something that will radiate some heat back to it. Mine is right alongside my porch foundation, which is stone/concrete, so it holds the warmth from the sun and my lavender seems to love it! It even looks decent in winter.
Regardless, It loves heat and can take drought very well. I found some interesting facts on cals.arizona.edu regarding different types of lavenders, and it's from the University of Arizona. I hope it's helpful!
I recommend looking into if a particular type is more "native" or suggested for your area.
- Is it better for the plant if I prune off the flower stalk?
- Can I propagate from the cut flower stalks, or from any of the leaves growing off the flower stalk?
- Is there any way to harvest and grow seeds from the closed flowers?
I had an echeveria bloom last year and was able to propagate from the leaves along the stalk.
It truly does amaze me.
I have five leaves from the first plant I got and it died. The salvageable leaves look as healthy as the day I plucked them and only just this weekend one of them rooted so it was an exciting occasion. Been waiting months.
They grew pretty vigorously actually, until I let a frost get the best of them. I had another stalk that I tried to propagate directly from the stem which failed to root, but lasted a really long time without the parent plant attached.
I don't know if you can propagate from them, standard procedure is to prune them off with about a cm to an inch of stalk remaining. The plant doesn't care but it looks better.
Surprising how much energy is stored in those tiny leaves.
I worked partially as a florist for a few years, it's actually pretty satisfying work, though it can be busy as all hell.
I still consider trying to find a full time gig as a florist since it's steady work and pretty fun.
- Floral was a section in my department at the grocery store, it was a pretty decent sized floral section that rivaled some actual floral stores. I didn't wind up dealing with the flowers until I became the assistant manager of the department that also managed the Floral section.
I learned everything I know from our florist who came from working at a greenhouse. I eventually became the manager of the whole department and wound up spending maybe half my time in Floral because at this point, my florist could only work part time because of school.
- No real stories, just a lot of anger when shipments would come in and be dead already or not what I ordered. Also holidays such as Mothers Day and Valentines Day can suck a dick.
- It depends. If we're going potted, I really like Marigolds for their colour, but if we're talking cuts (bouquet/arrangements), Stargazer lilies probably.
Working floral in a Grocery Store is more or less what you'll actually see in florist shops most of the time, though it varies from store to store.
They really need your help. Your success depends on your part of the world as well, but I'd say that bees need the most help at the end of summer and early autumn, when they are scrambling for last minute pollen and nectar to store for winter--so do some asters if you can, and mountain mint.
They could also use some very early spring help, like crocuses...but planting enough of them could be a challenge since you'll need to plant those bulbs in sept/oct.
Just FYI, honeybees don't often do one-offs of random garden flowers. It's not worth their time. The hive will fixate on a large source and mob it until they've exhausted it. We're talking vacant lots full of asters or queen anne's lace. Or acres full of trees like tulip poplar.
So if you have any vacant lots near you, go fill them with wildflower seeds.
We had a nice large vacant lot next to us with tons of wildflowers.
Sadly, the lot has been excavated and there is now 6 new condo buildings, 2 more on the way. This has the bees scrambling for areas to live and get nectar from. I know my sunflowers and lavender may not help them out that much, but if everyone on my street were planting them then there would be hope.
I know this sounds silly... but you could drop an anonymous note in a few of your neighbor's mailboxes; especially people that have yards showing a bit of interest in gardening/landscaping, and have the note compliment their yard, acknowledge the work they've done, mention the vacant lot that previously had flowers feeding bees and politely encourage that, as a group of neighbors, everyone makes a small effort to provide a source of food for the bees.
Keep fighting the good fight.
And yes, if the bees have a whole street of flowers, that would help a lot. You may get the solitary bees, but honeybees (at least wild ones) will likely move away. That said, cities can work for honeybees due to all of the well-maintained landscaping.
My beekeeping friend said that some great honey was coming out of Washington DC because of the linden trees that have been planted.
Be careful what you buy - many of the wildflower packs are garbage and quite a few have flower types whose seeds require fire to germinate. Read the packs before you buy.
Many of these are great for beginners.
Sage and Thyme are super easy to grow-you can get a variety of thyme options from your nursery. Grow from plants rather than seeds to have them succeed earlier. I've never seen bees on my varieties though.
Lavender is a pain to germinate-I'd buy plants rather than seeds.
Find a wildflower mix native to your area! Cheapseeds.com has bulk seeds on the, well, cheap. As others have said, make sure they're beneficial and not invasive.
Black eyed Susans and anything in the mint family (including bee balm) will spread quickly.
I planted just regular spearmint and the bees go absolutely crazy for it.
One thing to look for would be plant descriptions like "self sows regularly" "spreads aggressively" "not recommended for small gardens" etc. as you'll get more bang for your buck. Honeybees definitely LOVE basil, which blooms all summer long. If you pluck the buds, the plants get bushier and grow more outward. If you don't pluck, they get taller. Either way you'll have more basil leaves than you know what to do with.
The flowers are actually quite pretty in my opinion. I grow some specifically to attract bees and plant them near my vegetables to encourage pollination of them. Not sure if it works, but I like the look of the basil flowers and I like providing the bees some pollen.
Zinnias are some of the easiest flowers to grow. Just get some seed packets, rough up the soil, and scatter the seeds in a sunny location after the last frost. Water from time to time, but they are pretty tough plants.
Borage grows like a weed in well-draining soil when planted from seed. Do not start indoors. It has a long long tap root and does better directly sown.
This is the biggest draw of bees to my garden. Bees love, borage.