Thursday, 31 July 2014

DIY removing grass to make a garden bed

Over the last 6 years I have removed a lot of grass to make new garden beds throughout my yard.  Once a bed is in place, by the next year I've decided it needs to be expanded.  Making more garden bed space is not just an obsession it makes for a more appealing bed that has enough space for tall, medium and low  height plants.  The first 4 years of garden making, me and my trusty spade became an efficient grass removal machine.  If you gave me 30 minutes and a napping child,  I could cut out a 10 ft sq swath of land.  If you've never removed sod,  the process involves jumping down with one leg onto your spade to cut down as deep down into the earth  under the roots of the grass and then pushing the shovel and sod up.  This jumping down action in addition to childbirth has done a number on my pelvis, I won't get into pelvic anatomy but let's just say I end up in quite a bit of pain when I forget I am not a machine.  So last summer when I realised my back yard bed needed to be expanded I decided to try out the "lasagne method" a gentler form of turning grass into a bed.

Below is a picture of the first step.  Just the perimeter grass of the bed needs to be pulled up. My trusty spade can be seen in the foreground.

Step 2:  Cardboard is laid over top of the grass.  A layer of organic matter is put overtop of the cardboard, in this case lawn clippings and fresh compost.  Another layer of soil is placed over top.  The idea is that the cardboard will work to smother the grass and then eventually decompose.
Step 3: Patience.  Once your layers are in place you can really only plant shallow rooted plants until the grass is smothered and the cardboard layer has decomposed which will take at least several months.  I cheated a bit to plant a lemon cypress, cutting through the cardboard.  Below 2 pics of the bed one year later.

You can see from the first "before" picture that some plants have been shuffled around.  Shannon gave me some rudbeckia  and I added the lemon cypress which really glows in the winter time.  I've grown some carrots at the apex of the bed for easy access for kids needing a snack .  I'm quite pleased with the result of the new bed and found the "lasagne method" to be kinder to my body. I would recommend this method to others looking to eradicate grass in order to establish more garden space.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Stone versus Steel

Lauren started landscaping her front boulevard slope recently and she decided she needed some boulders as part of her design. So we loaded up all the kids in the back seat of my truck and headed to the quarry in Pitt Meadows.  The entrance into the quarry was sketchy and we had to pull over to let tandem dump trucks pass but this did not stop us.  Lauren convinced somebody in the office to sell her a boulder even though they don't normally.  They drove her up to the rock pile so she could pick out the perfect boulder. 

It turned out the perfect boulder weighed in at a hefty 600 kg (1300 lbs).  It was loaded in the back of the truck with a giant machine and we were off.

Back at Lauren's we unloaded the kids and set them up in front of the TV, we figured boulder moving isn't the safest thing for children.  I suggested we take off the tailgate but Lauren confidently said that I wouldn't want my truck bumper to be damaged by the falling boulder so we left it on.....  Our first attempt to move it resulted in panic, after both of us pushing on it with all our force we were not able to budge it, and the possibility of us not getting the boulder off before our husbands got home began to loom.  Lauren asked an inquiring neighbour if we could borrow a large metal pry bar and she kindly obliged.  We grabbed some scrap plywood and were able to pry up the boulder high enough to slide the plywood under.  Then with a combination of prying and pushing with all our might we were able to slowly move the boulder out of the bed of my truck and onto the tailgate. Then forward movement halted and that is when I saw the tailgate start to slowly bend in the middle.  We pushed and pried some more but the tailgate continued to bend essentially making a nest for the boulder to sit in.  Somehow we gathered all our strength and had to pry and block the bolder to inch it off of the tailgate.  After letting out a few hollers of success a couple neighbours came over to congratulate us and asked us how the tailgate faired.  I was able to close it but there was a gaping 3 inch space between the truck bed and the bottom edge of the tailgate.  The next day we were at my brother's house and he was able to bend the tailgate back to a much smaller gap of only an inch and a half. 

Luckily the truck has a few injuries besides this one and a 2x4 fills the gap very effectively. 

So at the end of the day Lauren got a boulder and I got a bent tailgate.....I think I came out the loser. I understand Lauren wants a couple more boulders, anyone game to help her out?