Manifest Destiny

The flower beds are expanding again at the expense of turf area and that’s fine with me since I hate mowing the lawn, but the lawn clippings are my number one choice for mulch in the garden.  Less grass growing means less mulch is growing.  An inch or less of lawn clippings tucked in around perennials and vegetables is a great mulch, it doesn’t mat much, kills weed seedlings, and most importantly moves all that free nitrogen fertilizer from the lawn into the more useful garden.  Earthworms love grass clippings and happy earthworms mean happy plants.

So that’s my dilemma.  More room for plants or more mulch growing fields…. obviously plant room wins every time.  I guess my flower beds are like little European settlers ripping up the prairie and spreading across the land and the lawn grubs are tiny tiny bison losing habitat and being pushed to the edge…… ok too much coffee.  I don’t think this has anything to do with history repeating itself.

So.  Easiest way to expand beds: have someone else do it.

Second easiest: lasagna gardening or no dig gardening.  There are books, FAQ’s, youtube videos, but it’s a simple concept.  Basically all you do is lay down paper, newspaper or cardboard to smother whatever is there and then cover this with leaves, compost, topsoil or whatever else can hold the paper down and eventually become a part of the soil.  It takes some time (about a year to rot down) and can be messy, so what I do for larger beds is plant what I want right into the lawn, throw a little compost around them for the worms, cover grass in between with newspaper (leave the paper out in the rain for a couple weeks to wet- it’s much easier to work with) and then hide everything under a nice layer of wood mulch.  Much more suburban-friendly:)

Third easiest: Buy topsoil, dump topsoil 4 or more inches deep (with or without paper underneath, depending on what weeds are there), plant into topsoil, mulch, call it a raised bed.

Fourth: My prefered method, turn under everything and just plant away (more to follow)

Fifth:  (notice I’m leaving out the word ‘easiest’ from now on) Dig up turf…… throw down compost, fertilizer, lime, whatever goodness you want to mix in….. dig or rototill it all together… plant with pride.  You lose all the fertility and organic matter of the top few inches (the best part) but the soil prep makes up for it.

Sixth:  Double dig.  Hardcore stuff here.  Dig a one-shovel depth trench across the bed and put that soil into a wheelbarrow or on the side.  Get down into the trench and use a pitchfork to loosen the next shovel layer down.  Add soil amendments if you’re that crazy and mix them in too.  Get out of the trench and move over a couple feet.  Dig a new trench, shoveling the soil over into the first trench.  Repeat all the way across the bed.  When you’re done, drag the soil you put aside down to the last trench and fill it up.  Then to completely kill your back, redig the top layer across the entire bed adding whatever amendments you want.  It’s a great concept which I tried a couple times back in my teen years, but teenagers are not well-known for good judgement and/or good time management.  Plus I’m much lazier now.

Ok this is going on for way too long.  All I wanted to do was put up a couple pictures of my expanded flower bed and I guess since the kids are sleeping late I feel like I could go on all morning!….. wait here they come….. time to wrap things up.

My choice for new bed prep:  Line out your new bed with a garden hose to get the shape the way you want.  Remember less is more as far as curves go, so avoid a sharper turn than your mower can handle.  A sharp turn means you’ll always be missing that spot or mowing into the bed to get it.

Edge along the hose with a square spade.  Use a round tip shovel to pop out a little of the grass along the outside of the bed and establish your edge.

digging garden beds

Start digging.  Use the round tip shovel to slice off a shovelful of grass and soil.  Flip the dirt back into the hole grass side down and keep going.  It helps if you remove a couple shovelfulls first in order to have a spot to flip the grass over into.digging garden beds

I plant immediately after turning, the section to the left was yesterday’s section.  Over the next couple weeks the grass rots into compost and the plants love it.  As always mulch!

Two last tips.  Beware southerners, your grass isn’t as wimpy as mine and you’ll need extra smothering or even roundup….. also digging it over like this won’t barely phase it if it’s something like Bermuda grass.

Also ALWAYS sharpen your shovels and hoes.  Use a metal file or better yet a grinding wheel to put a nice sharp edge on the blade.  They don’t come from the store sharpened (for obvious reasons) and if you’ve never done this before you will LOVE how a sharp shovel or hoe cuts through the dirt and weeds.



Early June in the vegetable garden

Things don’t look too bad out there.  I was late in getting everything planted (of course) but the cooler weather and the last couple days of rain have helped the spring crops come along.  This butterhead lettuce (I forget the variety) is starting to look real yummy.vegetable beds

There’s also some romaine coming along.  These are all in the ‘safe zone’ behind the chicken wire, but even outside the fence its been a relatively damage-free spring as far as the rabbits go.  Slugs have been more of a problem.vegetable beds

Brocoli is making progress too.  It’s finally taking off and spreading its roots after a too long delay in the six packs (these I bought prestarted).vegetable bedsThese tomatoes have been in for a week or two as well as the onion transplants.  This will be the year of the onion since I started way too many seedlings and then couldn’t bare to toss them into the compost.  They’re small for the time of year but I hope I get something by the time the harvest rolls around….. otherwise I guess we’ll have hundreds of scallions to deal with!vegetable bedsThe tomatoes are dealing with what might possibly be the worst soil prep in gardening history.  A month ago this bed was lawn.  I turned under the grass and added a little compost for the onions, but all the tomatoes got was a layer of leaves and grass clippings to kill the turf and then holes dug directly into the lawn.  Maybe I gave them a little compost on top.
Actually the sister bed across the path which I planted on Saturday was even worse.vegetable beds

You can still see the lawn peeking out from behind the tomatoes and along the bed edging.  The plants went straight into holes dug into the lawn and then the grass and weeds were covered with a mulch of chopped leaves and twigs and whatever else the mower picked up during spring bed cleanup/winter debris removal…. I didn’t even have any nutrient filled tender grass clippings to put down!  Once I can dig out some more compost I might put a bit around the tomatoes, but until that happens they’re on their own.  At least I planted them deep, covering all the stem up to the top clump of leaves.  this should let them sprout more roots into the mulch and should help with the lack of soil prep.

vegetable bedsHopefully if I keep it watered the earthworms will find the mulch and rototill the soil with their tunnels.  Grass clippings will surely bring them in, in fact last Friday prior to the rain, I fertilized the front lawn.  I’m hoping it will produce a nice bumper crop of clippings before summer drought dries it up.

The garden isn’t all healthy vegetables, it’s also juicy sweet strawberries.  Even with the late freeze there are a couple coming along.

There’s also the promise of a few blueberries this summer.  Most likely the birds will beat us to them, but this bunch might be worth covering up and saving for ourselves.vegetable beds

Of course I’m only showing the good and new.  Peppers and eggplants still have to go in as well as pole beans.  I’m far from having everything planted and growing.  Right now the process of digging up the tulip beds is going on and it’s into these beds that the last of the transplants will go.  Someday I hope to have beds where I want them and supports ready to go but obviously it’s not going to be this year!

Please tell me I’m not the only one falling behind:)