Monday, July 11, 2011

Tending To Two

tending.to

I tended to two gardens this weekend. Only a tiny bit more of this, indoor, patchworky one (oh, but the joy found there). Much, much more time spent on the outdoor gardens. And not the charming kind of tending either, more the chainsaw, electric trimmer, 2000 sq ft of black plastic kind of tending. We've needed to trim back trees and wayward undergrowth from trees for a while, as well as hedges, limbs and all that. I also decided that I was finally going to do what I've been wanting to do forever with our front beds and that is increase them by about ten times. I currently only have narrow borders about 3 or 4 feet wide along the front walk and house perimeter, and I find that perennials just overtake one another, and quickly get shaded by the flowering trees, etc. I just need more space. Everything needs digging up, dividing, and replanting in a more thought out arrangement. So the process has me trying to kill about 1500 sq ft of grass without using chemicals. Without doing any research (typical Anna fashion) I decided to just sweat out the grass by using lawn staples and black plastic sheeting to cover all my desired new flower bed space. I'm hoping by next weekend that it'll be dead, and ready for tilling, clearing. Kill stuff naturally much? And effectively? Any input appreciated.

Being the genius that I am, I thought this was the best sort of thing to do in 100+ degrees.

Eleni picked this little bundle for me from our surprise Zinnias (that just showed up again after an annual seeding last year, I guess they dropped some seeds for me....someone needed to do it) and also some from two bougainvilleas that I have potted on the front steps. Thats about all the work I've managed outside this year until this weekend.

So. Back to the indoor flowers. And patchwork. And books and you.

Our randomly chosen winner for the wonderful Block Party book is:

Marika said...

I got some Liberty coming my way too and I can't wait to receive it !
What you made with it is really nice :)

7:27 PM

Congratulations Marika for winning a copy of the book, send your address details to amATannamariahornerDOTcom.

Thanks everyone for your lovely comments!

xo, Anna Maria

51 comments:

  1. I just pinned that photo of the flowers - so beautiful!

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  2. It could not be summer without Zinnias! I have heard of laying down layers of newspaper as a natural lawn killer, but I am guessing you are looking for FAST results. With the heat you are having, I think your method will be quite effective.
    True story: I saw a woman in a pretty dress at the market... I had to chase her down, so I could ask: "Did you make your dress...?" And I just knew-knew-knew it was one of your prints! I was right, and after she realized I was not nutsy... just enthused, she was thrilled to tell me how much she loves your fabric and she even told me about a new-to-me shop where I am sure to fall in love with fabric all over again. It made my day sharing a chat, recognizing your artful print, learning about a new spot I hope to visit.

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  3. White vinegar! I must confess that I use vinegar to solve almost every household problem, but I really have read that it's a great way to kill unwanted grass. And I believe it works quickest in the heat, so you're in luck this week!

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  4. Angela B.12:52 PM

    I have killed lawn the way Natalie suggests with newspaper. If the grass isn't quite dead enough from your plastic by the time you want to plant, you can just dig holes in the lawn where you plant the plants and lay newspaper in between (7 layers) and mulch over it. The newspaper will degrade over a season or two. Of course that is not nearly as satisfying or easy as planting in an expanse of freshly tilled soil and it makes it harder to amend the soil too. I've also made new planting beds by digging off the grass with a flat head shovel, getting just underneath the roots.

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  5. Thanks Angela! I've always dug off the whole head of grass down to the roots as well, but there is no way I can tackle that with this much space, its huge. I am willing to rent a tiller and dug everything up, then rake out the (hopefully dead) grass. I am glad to have the newspaper trick however, because I was thinking of also using that lawn fabric before planting, but I think the NP might be just as good! thanks!!! And I love vinegar! The do- all solution :)

    Anna

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  6. I am so supremely jealous. Flowers are my favorite thing to recieve. I would much rather my husband bring me a flower than diamonds. I feel like you are the young embodiment of my grandma who died too early for me learn all the crucial stuff from - like quilting and gardening. I don't mean that as an age insult at all! Its really a compliment. I live in southwest Florida, but I grew up in North Carolina. I think Tennessee and the Carolinas are the prettiest states because of the insanely beautiful plant life. I'm going to wrap this up, I promise. I guess I'm just trying to say thank you for being here to show me your beautiful flowers, which I cannot grow. I would love nothing more than to see a picture of your completed garden (and also learn how to tend one in the hundred degree weather with you). Also, thank you for teaching me to quilt- or inspiring me, rather- when I thought that interest died with my grandma. I will stop now. Enjoy your day!:D

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  7. Vinegar! I will be trying that in my beds too. I finally started to use mostly pots because then i can just switch them out with the season in our smallish space but the darn crab grass is trying to defeat me. i used newspaper...not thick enough it seems and have been weeding in almost the same heat to keep the bed looking good. Love the sweet flowers!

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  8. Here's what we (successfully) did. Throw down about 10 layers of newspaper (I know, it's lots)straight over the grass OR use landscaping fabric (is that what' you're using already?) OR use landscaping paper (equivalent to about 10 layers of newspaper). Water heavily (or presoak). Put dirt and compost or mulch on top (I think it's minimum 3 inches recommended). Plant immediately- cut a hole through the paper where you need to get the plants into the ground. Grass will die and compost with the paper and feed the plants that you plant. Tada!! Super easy and what is recommended by our Canadian garden guru, Ed Lawrence.
    Good luck and happy planting!!

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  9. I'm not sure the vinegar is a good idea if you're planning on planting other things. Though it is effective between paving stones and stuff. Also- the bonus with Ed's method as above is no weeds (virtually). Whereas, if you til then you'll get grass growing back up between the plants for years. Just sayin'....

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  10. I read on another blog where the gal just dug up and turned over the grass area she wanted to turn into border and then the grass acts as compost in the soil. Made sense!

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  11. If the sweat out doesn't work - just rent a sod cutter from your local home center. It takes up the roots and a little bit of soil and you can roll up the grass. Just cut it out in strips (like you're making sashing), then roll it right up. If it's not dead (or before it's dead) you could transplant it and recycle it on another part of your lawn or area that you'd like grass.

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  12. I have done the 'no dig' garden of layers of newspaper in New Zealand and as JennX says, you need then to layer your new soil, compost, bark, whatever landscaping brown stuff you choose on top. The top layer has to be very thick and dense or your weeds will come back. Underneath the paper quietly composts. I love your zinnias. I have never managed to get a good crop of these growing here in the south island here, our summer is too short, but I like to buy them as cut flowers when I can. I love their casually bohemian mix of colors.

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  13. Yes, I saw the newspaper method on "Victory Garden" and have read about it since then - it must really work. Good luck!

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  14. sacha2:42 PM

    I've used a lot of newspaper and then covered that with a thick layer of compost- I watered it sporadically, but pretty much left it for a season and then the grass was done and I planted right on top.

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  15. have top soil brought it and put it over the darn grass . Likely to have better soil that way too.

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  16. Our method for grass-killing without tons of labor or chemicals is to use cardboard (rather than the newspapers others have suggested) -- carefully remove all tape and stickers, then lay the cardboard out over the spot you want to use for gardening, and pile dirt over the top of it. We do this in the fall, and by the spring it's ready to plant. So that doesn't help your desire to plant flowers immediately, but it does minimize the amount of digging and sweating involved in the long run. (And, based on my current experience with a dahlia bed that was set up with insufficient care, I would say that it's important to overlap the pieces of cardboard generously and to use a lot of dirt. Too little, and the grass will just grow up through the cracks, and then will go crazy in the new dirt, and you'll be weeding and grinding your teeth all summer.)

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  17. Oh, these are all great suggestions, and contrary to my typical M.O. I am actually willing to be patient and not plant much till next spring, except maybe a little dividing and bulb planting this fall.....slow and steady, slow and steady....

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  18. You need a pair of pigs. Seriously. They will eat the grass, turn the sod, and fertilize everything in a very short amount of time. We have been using pigs to clear overgrown spots on our property for three years. They come to us in May, do their jobs while eating all of the trimmings from our large garden and by Thanksgiving our freezer is filled with the most amazing hams and bacon and roasts. Perfection!

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  19. OMG! I love the pig idea! My pigs only eat cookie crisp cereal!

    ;-P
    xoa

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  20. Annie C4:35 PM

    Watch out for the plastic thing: a friend of ours moved a plastic pool from where it was all winter and it had developed some major mold underneath. The spores took flight when he moved it and he ended up in the hospital until that evening with a very dangerous reaction! Plastic is hateful! The newspaper method sounds the best. Wishing for lots of flowers for you next year!

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  21. Oh good note Annie! Yikes! I think we only plan to keep it on for about a week, so hopefully it won't be enough time for all that ugliness! Yikes! I am starting to think that the newspaper will make a great layer after my dead grass tilling and raking out is done, and before I layer new soil and mulch....

    thanks all so much!

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  22. I did something different than I normally to in our garden this year! On the paths, I placed several layers of newspaper and then covered them with hay. I can now stroll through my garden, bare-foot on soft and warm hay, undisturbed by the nasty weeds that always seemed to over-take this area! I would imagine it would also work with flower beds?! I really love the fact that you've chosen not to use herbicides. Wish everyone would think like this! All the best from Denmark!

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  23. Regular (5%) vinegar will kill stuff, but it won't keep it gone. If you can find stronger (20%) vinegar, it will keep it gone for the year, in my experience. I found it at a farmers' market once.

    Also, I read the blog of a gardener, and she swears by black plastic...underneath the areas where she doesn't want weeds. She puts it down and then puts whatever she wants over it, and the weeds can't get through (you could save yours for this). I think she uses newspaper on flower areas. You can check it out (just search for black plastic on her site): http://www.anoregoncottage.com/

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  24. Anonymous5:24 PM

    We dug up grass for a garden this year. We rented a machine from Brentwood Rental and it took no time at all and was reasonably affordable. Way easier than the black plastic I tried last year. Black plastic and then mulch after works great :)

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  25. Donna6:23 PM

    Please be sure to take before (well, post-plastic-application) and after shots of the yardwork and share with us :)

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  26. The black plastic will kill out the lawn but don't be surprised if it shows up again in a year or two or three. Those roots are tenacious! I am having trouble with grass moving back into my flower beds. :( It's so hard to get rid of it!

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  27. I love the colours and simple shapes of Zinnias, they're just gorgeous happy flowers aren't they! I think you might need a little more than a week to kill off your weeds under black plastic, weeds are very tenacious, so if you want to be organic, you're probably looking at six months to a year to kill them off totally, and even then that might not do it. I'm so sorry, this isn't what you want to hear at all. The other option is that you get a big strong person to clear them laboriously by hand, and then keep on weeding, eventually you'll win! Vanessa xxx

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  28. Hi,

    We bought this house in Florence, Alabama almost eleven years ago. I have killed most of the grass and the whole lot is now gardens. I did it with cardboard and newspapers. Every year, I put down another layer of CB or NP with mulch (pine needles) on top in areas where the flowers aren't too thick. Every year, there is less to do,the weeds are fewer and what weeds are there have grown on top of the CB/NP and are easier to pull up. My goal is thick flowers everywhere, except for the veggies and paths. I just came in from a walk around my garden this a.m., picking the random weed here and there, but mostly just enjoying. I highly recommend this method. You really get to know your space and the process has brought me great joy. So have your fabrics and blog by the way. thank you.

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  29. We just re-landscaped our entire front bed areas. The azaleas underperformed and the hedges of years past were overgrown and boring. We also had two holly trees flanking each side of the house and they were so large they dwarfed the house itself. We removed everything and started over. We cut out the sod. It took four weekends, but we cut out the sod. I'm really glad that's over with.

    We pulled up the black plastic edging and replaced it with brown steel edging, threw in no less than eight Encore azaleas, four knockout roses (yellow is new this year!!!), two large lavender crepe myrtles to replace the holly trees and six lime colored barberry bushes.

    A nearby peony farm (I know, right?) divides their peony bushes every year and sells the yield each September. I know you said you weren't going to plant until next spring, but apparently peonies are best planted in the fall. If you want to throw some peonies into the mix, email me and I'll give you the web addy to the place. I don't want to put it here because I want to be sure to get a few plants myself, lol!

    Wow. Sorry for the enormously long comment!

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  30. Oh yeah, I forgot! I use vinegar all the time and if you were to use it to kill off the grass, I would suggest removing the sod. ;)

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  31. I have a wonderful way of killing weeds naturally that I learned at
    dirtdoctor.com. Here is the recipe:
    Vinegar Herbicide Formula
    1 gallon 10 % vinegar (available at lawn and garden centers)
    1 oz. orange oil
    1 tsp. liquid soap
    Mix and spray on weeded areas full strength.

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  32. You don't need to remove the sod if you use vinegar as an herbicide. I suggest that you go to dirtdoctor.com
    and click on the Library button, then lookup "weed control" to read Howard Garrett's advice on this subject. This is a wonderful website devoted to organic gardening.

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  33. Anonymous11:58 AM

    To get rid of the grass put down 10 layers of newspaper, water well to hold in place and cover with 5-6 inches of soil. You can cut an X through to plant. Add mulch. We did our entire front yard. Lots of work, but very successful! We now have a low maintenance yard filled with beautiful native plants. Good luck!

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  34. We had a couple of clear plastic tarps (quite large) and my husband wanted to dry them so he laid them over big areas of our lawn for just a few hours. The grass under is completely dead. And the weeds too. It looks ridiculous- two enormous rectangles of dead grass in an otherwise gorgeous backyard. I have spent so much time there this year to get it gorgeous.I wanted to punch him.

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  35. Anonymous4:00 PM

    Having tried many of the suggested methods for banishing lawn for new garden beds, I vote for the laying down of cardboard. It requires patience, but you don't have the backbreaking work. (And it's a great way to recycle corrugated cardboard.)

    I layer soil or heavy mulch (leaves or straw for example) or even just weigh it down with paving stones. Watering occasionally helps too. In my yard, the earthworms get to work and if you lift the cardboard to peek, often you'll see the earthworm castings and the worms are on the surface, loving that moist environment.

    Typically, if I do this in the spring the area is ready by fall, and if done in the fall it is ready by spring.

    The results are amazing compared to waging war on the unwanted grass and weeds. Happy gardening!

    Like a previous commenter, I also get great joy from your fabrics and sewing with them. I am not a blogger, but I garden and sew, and really appreciate your blog. -Becky

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  36. Alison9:31 PM

    "Lasagna gardening" works for me. You can get the book from the library or google it.

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  37. Carol in Colorado11:36 PM

    I would not leave the black plastic for more than a week as it can "sterilize" the soil with a lot of heat (kills the good nutrients in your soil along with the grass). I would layer newspaper (cardboard may work for you; I'm in Colorado and it won't decompose fast enough with our low humidity) with a few inches of compost, then about 3 inches of mulch. If you want to plant some bushes/small trees for the bones of your garden this fall you can "x" through it all. In the spring rake back the mulch, turn over the soil with the paper and compost and you will have a great bed!

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  38. No, no, no....don't till. Think of how God plants in the forest, no tilling ever happens, but it's some of the most fertile soil anywhere. The forest floor is made up of layers, like in a 7 layer bean dip, or better, like lasagna. And guess what?? Patricia Lanza wrote a book on this concept, Lasagna Gardening.I haven't tilled since 1994 & I have helped MANY friends start their gardens this way...one friend just sent me pics yesterday showing a huge abundance of gorgeous vegetables, thanking me for turning her on to this method last spring. I have made no less than 15 gardens this way, and I plant into them immediately, first killing the sod with layers of newspaper that I wet or cardboard...then grass clippings (I steal them from my neighbors' curbs too), then manure, grass, peat, etc...the order is not important, it's just layers of organic matter, which will immediately begin to decompose, the very bottom sod layer of grass & its roots become rich nitrogen food for the bacteria, worms, potato bugs, beetles. All you gotta do is google: lasagna gardening. You will be amazed at the plethora of pictures & blogs, but mostly, the EASE of doing it naturally.

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  39. You GUYS are seriously the best!!!
    I love the layered garden idea, I think actually mine would be a layered fabric bolt garden!!! I have so many cardboard bolts its insane...
    Anyway, my thoughts about tilling also are that I am afraid that the bed will get built too high (and even higher than the existing beds, and way higher than our front walk) if I don't get some of that root/grass dug out first before layering on cardboard, soil, mulch.

    Such good thoughts- I may post again about it this week :) thanks all!
    xo, Anna

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  40. It wont get too high, it will sink and settle. The earth is alive. If it didn't sink as it decomposed, all the forests in the world would be a mile high. All the dead fish and detritus on the bottom of the ocean floor would reach the sky. When you make the layers, keep it watered well, so the bacteria/creatures/decomposers don't die off. And that's it. I built my front bed at my new house the week after I moved in, by the next year, it was level with the rest of the lawn, and has been ever since.

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  41. I don't have grass-killing advice for you. Our best grass/weed killers so far are the pigs we put in the half of the garden that I didn't want to garden anymore!

    This weekend I'm going to sweat it out and prune all 5 million of our azalea bushes. So, I feel your pain. Would so rather be embroidering flowers (I'm working on your Writing on the Wall project). Oh well, at least I have a reason to push through and get back indoors!

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  42. I sent you an email this morning about a food question....odd I know but thought you'd be perfect to answer. Just wanted you to know it isn't spam!

    Someday we will have a garden going here..we have too many projects going at one time inside and out. The flowers are beautiful!

    Lisa

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  43. Anonymous3:29 PM

    I had a great book from the library about lawns (organic at that) which recommended killing off weeds etc with plastic just like you're doing. (the author actually suggested pond liner as it is extra thick) the process is called solarizing and works really well to kill of weeds/ grass etc. without noxious chemicals. i would expect it to work particularly well in such hot weather. Good luck with the garden! :o)

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  44. The black plastic will absolutely work - I did the same thing a few years ago after filling in our decrepit inground pool and having weeds overtake my grass seedlings in the new backyard lawn. It might take a little longer than a week, but nothing will be left. You're probably going to want to amend the soil afterward though, as the heat will also kill off all the good stuff too (there's good stuff in soil, right?) And yes, all good gardening projects are undertaken in 100 degree weather - just like moving furniture. Have a wonderful weekend!

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  45. It looks like so delicious, i like your post,thank you!

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  47. Anonymous1:18 PM

    Just rent a sod remover! It'll gobble up all the lawn. Easy-peasy!!

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  48. i love your garden sweety 1 why you don't post some photos of it ?

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