Q: I have poor, sandy soil on the south wall of my garage. Whatever I plant there struggles, and I can never get ahead of the huge weed problem in that area. Would building a 2-foot-high raised bed be an answer?
— Melanie Messmore
A: You may have success with a raised bed, but an easier approach might be to try to diagnose and address the problem you have now.
I would start by having the soil tested. Many labs can do the work, but the Ohio State University Extension often recommends the testing performed by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (http://soiltest.umass.edu). The soil test will tell you what your soil needs and what to add to improve it.
As for the weeds, try putting a thick layer of newspaper over them and topping the paper with compost. The newspaper will smother the weeds and will break down over time, further enriching the soil.
It’s also a good idea to get into the habit of spreading a half-inch or so of compost on top of the garden every fall. You don’t even have to mix it in. The earthworms and other organisms in the soil will do the work for you.
Next spring, consider planting native prairie plants in the area. They like the full sun of your south-facing location, and they don’t require a lot of fertilizing, watering or other fuss.
Have a question about home maintenance, decorating or gardening? Akron Beacon Journal home writer Mary Beth Breckenridge will find answers for the queries that are chosen to appear in the paper. To submit a question, call her at 330-996-3756, or send email to email@example.com. Be sure to include your full name, your town and your phone number or email address.