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I used to have a lawn…

September 29, 2009

Well, I still have lawn, but I’m stealing some of it for garden beds. This is our first house. We’ve been here less than two years. Kirk has fretted about the condition of the lawn and the ants for most of that time. I can understand a bit. He has a toddler and wants to see her run and play. He’s thinking about adding a dog to the family. He’s a big Indy fan and likes to go out and crack his 9′ bull whip. These things require open space. Fretting about the lawn may also be a pastime that he inherited from his grandma, but I’m working on that.

I’m not opposed to lawn, as long as it remains chemical free so that I can use the clippings in my compost. About six months after we moved in, I got a sales call from a lawn spraying service. I was very naive. They said “organic” several times. With all of Kirk’s fretting about the ants, I had them come spray. I was not impressed with the whole procedure. This was when I learned organic does not equal harmless. We all have to learn somewhere. They’ve called many times since and never seem to understand my resistance to paying them to poison my yard again. The last time, I mentioned not wanting to kill the beneficial insects. That seemed to get the message across.



The garden fairy’s favorite place to play in the back yard is on these two rocks. The one on the right she can stand on and survey her kingdom. She can also reach into the garden to pick leaves from the daylilies that she dances with and uses to entice the neighbor’s cat to chase her. The rock on the left is under a very young maple tree. The garden fairy loves to hide in the trees, surrounded by leaves. Of course, running and jumping from one rock to the other is also great fun.

guord covered lilac

guord covered lilac

When I went looking for space to add a bed for next year’s squash, I first tried to capture as much sun as I could while staying to the perimeter of the yard. I lined up some rocks to mark the further edge. I asked for opinions and left the rocks for a couple weeks to get a feel for the location. It was not a great spot, but it achieved the goal of capturing the most sun at the edge of the lawn. I laid down the first layer of cardboard and newspaper and started piling in veggie scraps and spent plants.

tree garden

tree garden

Then, I received complaints about the location. Functional is good, aesthetically pleasing is better. It was suggested that I add garden to connect the two rocks. However, I have learned the hard way that planting flowers where the garden fairy runs is not a good idea. That spot doesn’t get much sun, either. To come up with a solution, I compromised a bit. I added planting area to connect the lilac circle, on the left,with the tree garden, on the right. That leaves the two rocks for open for the garden fairy, with a path behind the lilac for her to get back there.

The tree garden will eventually be redone. The planting design is a bit clunky for my tastes. There are two clumps of purple iris in the front with a peony behind each one. On the left is a clump of orange daylilies. On the right is a patch of low growing euonymous. A larger leaved euonymous is growing up on the tree trunk. Behind the trees is a patch of hosta. There was a small strip of wood aster, along with some other weeds, and a few lilies of the valley hiding between the wood aster and hosta. From above, it would look like a pie chart. I want things a little more natural and flowing.

edged with rocks

new bed

This is my second attempt at creating a new garden bed in this way. I’ve seen several names for it: layer gardening, sheet gardening, lasagna gardening, compost gardening. There are many articles online and many recipes. Some recipes can be planted sooner than other. I don’t follow a recipe. I just use what I’ve got; recycled cardboard and newspapers, kitchen scraps, yard wastes from pruning and spent plants, dirt from other landscaping projects or repotting houseplants, basically anything that can be composted, and time. If you do a search for composting, you’ll find many lists of what to add and what to leave out.

The time, well, I don’t require fast results. I’m new to gardening and content to take my time getting to know the plants and the soil. The process of transforming the yard into a pleasing space is probably more exciting than enjoying the finished product. I’m guessing it will be many years before I know for sure.

July 7, 2008

July 7, 2008

The first flower bed I started was around the mailbox. I’ll call it the paisley garden. The little circle of plastic yard edging came with the house and was filled in with dead annuals. Last year, I simply cleaned it out and put in red snapdragons. I didn’t want to leave it dead, but I was focused on the vegetable garden last year. This spring, I had been reading about these no dig gardens and had excess materials and energy left over from other yard projects. I also thought that if I started one of these gardens at that time, it would be ready for planting when I have plants ready to be moved and my garden budget is replenished.

June 8, 2009

June 8, 2009

The first step was to lay down a thick layer of cardboard and newspaper. This marks the area while it’s still easy to adjust the shape and size. Once the bed is built up, that bottom layer smothers the grass and weeds underneath. No weeding sounds too good to be true, and it was. The weeds already living in the area died easily, but weed seeds migrated in with compost and dirt added later. So, be diligent and get them out before they take up residence.

After that, it’s as easy as adding layers to compost. I started with a good layer of leaves. I have loads of them. The irony is that I had only recently finished clearing them away and hauling them down the hill in back to decompose into leaf mold for later use. Then, I started hauling them back up the hill and heaping them in the front yard. I can only imagine what the neighbors thought. It was a good workout, though. After the leaves, there was a layer of prunings from the lilacs. I added more leaves,  finished compost from last year’s pile, and dirt from digging the front walk.

August 3, 2009

August 3, 2009

I edged the bed with rocks dug out of the veggie bed and the front walk. I’m still working on relocating all of the rocks we dug up doing those projects. Leaving them in a pile near the vegetable garden was a bad idea. I’m hoping to have them all moved before it gets too cold for yard work. I also tossed in the spring pea vines from the garden when they were done and they’ve sprouted. It’s kind of a strange place to grow peas, but legumes are good green manure that adds nitrogen to the soil, so I’m letting them grow. I’ll mulch the leaves when they fall and add those, too.

August 26, 2009

August 26, 2009

I haven’t done much planting, yet. The idea was to create a bed for planting in next spring. I did find a few plants on sale very cheap that I put in to get started and see how they grow in part shade; one pot of Walker’s Low catmint, one pot of a hardy geranium with pale pink flowers, and one pot of tree mallows. Each pot had three plants. Since I’m gardening for the future, I split them up to make more plants. The tree mallows went into the bed along the front walk where they can reseed themselves, but the others are all in the paisley bed. The bed was really only a glorified unfinished compost heap. So, I added finished compost and soil to the planting holes to help the plants get established while the bed was composting.

There are a few other things in there already, a hosta that something dug up where it had been, a zebra grass from my garden guru, a columbine seedling, and a blue ornamental grass seedling. I have more to move into there now that the bed is ready to plant in; some of the iris and hosta from the tree bed, a plumeria, spidorwort if it lived, some bleeding heart seedlings. The neighbor has a huge bleeding heart that drops seed on my side of the fence. I’m going to move them and nurture as many as I can because the garden fairy loves to pick the baby hearts.

When the winter blues hit, I will have garden planning to perk me up. I’m thinking a couple of shrubs for structure, a variegated wiegela and something else? Mountain laurel would enjoy the mostly shady spot and might provide evergreen privacy, but would they overcrowd the small bed? It’s only a few feet wide, for now anyway. The lilac is on shaky ground. It hasn’t bloomed either of the two seasons I’ve been here. It was horribly overgrown and doesn’t get much sun. I pruned it earlier this year. I’ll give it a couple of years to produce some blooms and then consider removing it. It would be a chore, but I have plenty of other lilacs and that is now a prime spot. Then, there are all the perennials to choose from, but they have to tolerate shade. I do think I’ll incorporate some impatiens into the design, at least to fill in while the perennials are small and to give reliable blooms in the shade. Of course, helebores are on the wish list. I have to have a winter flowering shade plant to add an early ray of sunshine to the season.

So much to learn, so much fun to be had…

The Lawn Reform Coalition would like to hear your stories of lawn transformations or ideas for future transformations. They’re running a contest to spread the word and gather inspiration. Info and links can be found on Blue Planet Garden Blog. Whether you want to transform your lawn into a garden oasis or learn eco-friendly ways to care for your lawn, the Lawn Reform site is a wonderful resource.

If you missed it, I have another story of lawn transformation, the story of creating my vegetable garden, continuing with this year’s additions.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. marydelle permalink
    September 30, 2009 8:51 pm

    Planning can be fun. There’s always so many choices to make. Good luck.


  1. One World One Heart Giveaway « Evolution of a Gardener

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