I haven't done a whole lot of serious gardening this week or so, but one of those glorious days we had last weekend found me enjoying every minute of it, digging a new garden bed. Without having any overall garden plan, I do have a rough idea of what I'd like to aim towards in the Tranquil Garden. One thing I'd like to do is gradually phase out more and more lawn areas and create more flower beds in their place. When it comes to gardening, it helps to be realistic about how you function. If you are a high-energy person with lots of enthusiasm and a lot of free time, feel free to go wild! Plan and dig out a pond, for instance, or decide that this is the year you're going to take out all the lawn and make your yard into a mini botanical garden. Knowing myself as a fairly low-energy person who can easily get overwhelmed by large projects, however, I have done all my gardening gradually, every year a little more flower bed, a little less grass in the yard. I like to look at the shape of the beds and think about what pleases my eye and what doesn't and where the next bed would like to be.
If you have beds in the usual backyard way, i.e. all around the perimeter, leaving a large, easy square or rectangle in the middle to mow and for the kids and dog to play in, then digging holes in the middle might not work for you. One day, however, when the kids are grown up and the dog dies, (or better still, you've trained him not to go through your flowers!) you may feel inspired to do something different with your garden. If you wonder how to make a start, try this: fall in love with a large plant at a garden centre that you absolutely have no place for in your present set-up. That's when you'll feel compelled to dig a new spot for it in the middle of your lawn and then the fun and creativity begins! Once you've dug one such bed, it's easy to make it a little bigger so you can group a few plants together, perhaps dividing a couple of perennials you already have that are getting too big and cosying them up to your new plant.
I have tried a couple of methods for 'reclaiming lawn' for the garden, both of which work well. For an area that's not too big (for example, mine last week was about two feet by four feet), start by outlining the area you want to dig with a hose or piece of rope. Then take an edger or sharp spade and dig along the outline. Then you can continue with the spade to divide the sod inside your outline into manageable chunks that you can lift without hurting yourself. Shake off the excess soil from each chunk of sod as you lift it out of your new bed, carefully saving all the earthworms you see and returning them to the soil. Keep doing that until you've removed all the grass including as much of the root system as you possibly can. The pieces of sod can be planted elsewhere if you have a place for them, or composted, or put out with the garden waste pick-up or (last resort) put in the garbage. I wouldn't put them into a regular backyard composter, except maybe after they dry out and die and then only a portion at a time, or the chemical balance needed for breakdown in your composter might go out of whack. Before you plant anything in your new bed, amend the soil with some compost, composted manure or shredded leaf mould and perhaps a bit of topsoil, sand or peat moss, depending on what your soil seems to need.
The other method is best performed in early autumn. Have on hand the following:
lots of newspaper
compost or manure (several bags)
cedar mulch (several bags)
-Decide on the shape you want your bed to be by outlining as above with a hose or rope. Mow the area. Lay down the newspaper all over the outlined area, one or two sheets at a time, hosing down the paper between layers. You should lay eight to ten layers of newspaper.
-Spread compost or manure mixed with topsoil in three-inch layer all over the newspaper, sprinkle blood meal liberally all over the compost layer.
-Spread mulch in a layer at least another 3 inches thick all over the bed.
-Water very well and continue to water well- unless there's plenty of rain- until the snow flies. -Leave undisturbed for the winter and well into the next spring or summer. Don't rush, as you're waiting for the grass and newspaper mixture to break down. When you feel you can't wait any longer, start planting things by digging a hole through the layers, including the paper (which should be soggy and shapeless by now) and sticking the plant into the hole and planting in the usual way. The advantages to this method are that you don't have to find a way to dispose of the sod, or even dig it out in the first place, and you're actually using the grass to feed the soil, instead. The disadvantage is having to wait quite awhile before planting.
I'm including a picture of the new bed (pre-planting) that I dug recently. Only one plant has made it so far, an upright type of clematis. I may plant some tulip bulbs and perhaps some silver thyme and perennial creeping phlox as well. Who knows?
P.S. I made a few changes to the blog, check them out!
Welcome to The Tranquil Garden
I hope you will enjoy the journey I'm starting today. I welcome all your comments and questions on my blog posts and hope you will find my observations about my garden interesting and possibly helpful. I am not an expert (far from it!), so this will be a learning experience all round. I'm planning to do research when questions come up that I can't answer. Frankly, the only reason I feel qualified to write a blog is because anyone can do it! The reason I chose to blog about gardening is because I love it, and I think it's therapeutic to get one's hands (or gardening gloves) dirty by planting things that with luck, educated guesses and a bit of sun and rain, will grow!