easy garden prep for no-weeds

oliveoyl3November 1, 2010

If you're like me with physical limitations that prohibit heavy digging and lifting or you just don't want to spend a lot of time digging you might want to try composting right in the garden spaces. I'll share some pics if you promise to ignore the garden clutter as well as the neighbor's shed & stacked window frames. Work in progress doesn't always look neat & tidy, but I do desire to make it finished like the gardens next to the house I'll post at the end.

We have a lot of garden and various projects ongoing, but none are filled with weeds because of my methods. I'm also cheap, so I've not purchased compost or topsoil to create our garden soils, but have gathered compost materials.

Some call it lasagna gardening (LG), which is basically sheet mulching especially now in fall to let the areas compost in place, so all you do is plant in spring not dig nor pull loads of weeds. I layer organic matter over the top of my rocky, clay soil. Garden space began in 1995 as layers over pit run along the gravel driveway next to the forest. First, planted fruit trees and large containers of vegetables and flowers in '95 or '96. If I can do it, you can, too!

August 2010 after potato harvest.

Bare soil where potatoes were behind the everbearing strawberries, & in front of zucchini & fruit trees. We removed straw mulch, lifted potatoes, added a mix of organic matter, but left off the mulch for 2 weeks because there were slugs in the straw. Our weather turned quite wet mid-August, so I didn't want to encourage the slugs. Straw went back on when we had another dry spell. Early spring 2010 we added concrete blocks to hold back the soil we've created over the years with the layering methods & filled them with chives, oregano, thyme & sedums. From 2010 flower garden

Once crops harvested add compost & replant or do above to that area.

Here are pics of our raised beds both with wood and concrete blocks along the side of the gravel driveway. Herbs are in pots as well as plants I've propagated or received from plant trades. From 2010 flower garden

-Black plastic container is earth machine composter mostly used as kitchen waste & household paper storage until we build compost piles in place. They slowly compost ingredients, so I can harvest from the bottom small amounts.

-The green buckets and large white were an experiment with those self-watering containers for tomatoes and peppers, but without an overflow hole didn't work too well. I'm slowly hot composting that soil out of the buckets to renew it and may try that idea again, so have left them in place so that the cats don't use that area for a toilet.

-burlap bags suppress weeds on my path and also cover up some of the bare soil on edges I try not to let any soil be uncovered or the cats will do their thing. From 2010 flower garden

Hanging yellow balloon is my attempt to keep the deer from the strawberries. On my chair is my red insulated cup & soft blanket for my resting chair along with my green bag of gardening books. I love to relax & read in the garden.

Center of strawberry bed has a pit of organic matter composting under the burlap bags. With adding the concrete blocks & soil to the edges I was a bit short of soil ready to transplant our strawberries into, so raked it to the edges & created a pit for various compostables with a lot of brushy matter.

Since August I've pushed finished material to the side as well as top dressed strawberries with it using my hands. I planted 7 different types of daylilies behind the front 2 rows of strawberries. Added more material to fill the smaller pit & folded burplap in 1/2. From 2010 flower garden

July 2010 view from my chair looking back toward our home. My family moved the rocks and helped build the mounded beds to connect the front corner bed with a center bed all alongside the house as well as expand the bed around the cherry tree. We used the layering method gathering materials over time including soil excavated from our backyard patio project. I covered the compost in place with burlap bags, which created a uniform look in between additions of material. From 2010 flower garden

view toward front porch showing weeds in gravel (must be pulled & needs more gravel to prevent weed growth)

A great book to read about methods of composting in the garden (easy & no wheelbarrows or buckets to haul about) and especially ideas about controlling weeds without pulling them is The Complete Compost Gardening Guide: Pleasant & Martin, Storey, 2008. There are many ways to compost and I think this book explains them well with pics and text. I especially like her explanations for how to compost in place because you can carry the materials in small bunches to build your layers, then once it's matured a season or two, you're ready to plant without digging!

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Looks pretty good to me.Our city recycles our green waste so we can get free compost,which is what we do,and so far so good.We've been doing it at least 8 to 10 years.The weeds that come up in the cracks and seams of the driveway i kill just by pouring plain iol cheap white vinegar on them.I don't use it in the beds though.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 2:47PM
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Thanks for sharing. What are some plants (prefer perennials) that one can grow from seed to plant in spring after preparing the area in fall using the lasagna gardening method? I am looking to cover some areas of my backyard which is right now bermuda lawn and convert into flower/veggie/herb/perennial beds. I have seeds of echinacea, rudbeckia, coreopsis, butterfly weed, gaillardia, hollyhock, columbine, balloon flower, zinnia, and a lot of other seed packets. I am waiting for people to start putting their bagged leaves out by the curb, so I can use it as compost in my backyard.
Your post is very inspiring :)

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 5:22PM
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Glad my post was helpful. Even easier & faster to bloom than seeds are free perennial divisions from plant swaps. Check Craigslist. That's how I found out about our Green Elephant in Redmond, WA. Shrubs, perennials, etc. and not just thugs are given absolutely free potted or bare root sometimes.

I have more shade than sunshine, so don't have many of the perennials GW2010nc mentioned. I winter sowed a lot of things, but foxglove & columbine grew the best for my climate. Direct sowing has seldom worked for me in my climate, but might work better for you.

Another source of free organic matter is sweepings from your local feed store after they sell hay on the weekend, so Monday or Tuesday is a great day to go scoop it out. Wear a dust mask, gloves, & long sleeves so you won't be itching & sneezing all day. Be careful around wet & moldy hay. As long as I keep another layer of mulch over the hay I've not had a big weed problem. The alfalfa hay is the most amazing soil booster and it's been absolutely free!

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 6:08PM
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I love the look of your path alongside your home, and really like your ideas which could also apply to us seniors who can't comfortably carry the heavy buckets, etc. anymore.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 10:00PM
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Everyone likes the pics of the path, but not so much when they walk it. We knew stepping on the roly-poly rocks would be a pain as we've been doing it for years along the kitchen garden/driveway border. After I found the free concrete blocks to replace the rocks we came up with the idea to use them for a riverbed path to solve our driveway water problem as well. The rocks are large enough that the water flows between and we attempt to match our steps with the stepping stones. One thing I didn't think about was that the cart can no longer go down that way between the trees, but can go around between the trees the other direction if needed. A bucket for trimmings works pretty well and can't get too heavy for me to carry. From 2010 flower garden

Mid-July 2010 view from middle of path back toward driveway with background of our edible garden across and along driveway.

Notice the blue pot that contains some hand tools along with a cut away milk carton if I deadhead or find seedlings to pull. I have 2 of these pots filled with plastic liners & potted up with layers of bulbs with perennials on top, but I pulled out the plastic liner in that one, so I could use the pot for tools as well as a hose guide when I needed to water during dry spells. I wasn't sure how useful it would be, but I've left it all summer and it worked well as I was transplanting out divisions or cuttings I'd potted up in spring. I walk the path daily in good weather, but not pouring rain like today.

Hubby also buried a hose in the mulch and through the path from spigot next to house to the hose reel between the trees for easy access to pull across the driveway to kitchen gardens or to use in front yard. You'll see the hose exiting the mulch going toward the hose reel on the right side of pic. It worked fantastic for car washing as well, so everyone was happy with it. From 2010 flower garden

This is a new bed as of this spring except for the fruit trees & some groundcovers. The view looks better now with growth on everything especially the forsythia and rhodie placed there, but it's still an eyesore with that door & power box. We'd remove the unused door, but we don't own the home. There is another entrance with a usable door. In the future I'd like to add a tall trellis and an evergreen climber to cover up that space. We've left a 2-3' path sloped down to ground level behind the mounded beds and filled it with wood chips for access to windows, water spigot, gutters, etc.

We were also trying to create a privacy screen for that window to view garden instead of neighbor's cars in the driveway. It's worked pretty well so far and is a jungle type view that we have all enjoyed. We even sold the air conditioner we used to put in that window just so we could see out all summer.

The path is lined with landscape cloth before the rocks and free scraps of stepping stones were laid. Our son worked hard to cut the edges in the sod & clay removing rocks as well to smooth it and slope downward from the driveway. We dug some dry wells in the path so that we'd get better control over the water that flows from the top of the driveway toward the grass. That sod/clay mix was added into the layers of the mounded beds.

I suppose if you weren't dealing with the water flow like we were you could just cardboard over the sod and lay rocks for the path.

I hope to get some fall color pics taken tomorrow when the rain stops. The hosta is golden yellow and the creeping jenny has really spread nicely along with some fall bloomers (Rudbeckia, obedient plant, white bomb chrysanthemum, Japanese anemone, and cherry bomb echinacea).

Most of the plants were absolutely free either from plant swaps or from craigslist offers. Some were gifts or discounted fall purchases last year. Sometimes, the plants were large enough to propagate right away and others will be divided as necessary. I planted close for water conservation and a filled in look. I know I'll be moving things out, but sure beats keeping them in a pot as dug for a free swap.

Hope that helps you by seeing my pics.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 11:42PM
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