Saturday, December 8, 2007

Creating Borders the Lazy Way

With my new border as finished as it is going to be until spring, I turned a critical eye today to the back border. Like the others, I created it a couple of years ago when I had no idea what I wanted to do there, and like the others, it turned out to be way too narrow.

I had mentioned this problem to the household management on numerous occasions before, and had secured permission to expand it to a width of about ten feet, and so I thought it best to get to work sooner rather than later. (This is sound advice anytime you have permission to do something that you want to do. Waiting is never to your advantage.)

I got the idea that, since I won't be planting anything there for at least a year, why not make the entire border into a giant compost pile, 60 feet long by 10 feet wide, and keep adding stuff to it over the next year? By the time I'm ready to plant, that soil ought to be so rich that I can just throw plants on top of it.

I put down some newspaper first, then covered it with sod dug up from the other border, and finally covered the whole thing with the leaves that I appropriated from my neighbors' curbs. Andy supervised the process.

See, if I were smart and patient, this is what I would have done from the beginning: mark out my beds and borders, pile compost on top of them, and let them sit for a year while I sat on the deck drinking tea and leafing through gardening books deciding what I wanted to plant and where.

In other news, remember those weigela that I rooted? I planted them today. Check out these roots! (This photo says more about the plant's adaptability than it does my skill at propagating.)

I saw a Baltimore Oriole at the feeder today. I was so surprised that for several minutes I couldn't think of the bird's name--all I could think was, "orange bird, orange bird." Orioles are uncommon in Greensboro, although I did have one visit the feeder last winter. Here's a photo from last year; it's not very good, but it just seems wrong to write about an oriole without posting a picture. Maybe I'll get a better one if he comes back!


Lisa at Greenbow said...

Management was wise to give permission for border expansion. I am sure your supervisor appreciated the leaf mulch now as much as the border plants will later. You have chosen a very good way to deal with expansion. I only wish I had such patience.

One year I did this same routine for a cutting bed. It worked marvelously. I didn't even do as much to it as you did. I simply put down used birdseed bags and left them all winter to kill the grass and by spring they had done the trick.

Anonymous said...

I unfortunately am a brown thrumb gardener. I can't even grow weeds with any success. But I do love your blog and am learning; now to just put some of it into practice! BB.

David in Greensboro, NC said...

Well, it's not so much patience as not having money for plants and having a whole bunch of sod that I needed to do something with. I'm glad to hear you had success with it!

Thanks Brenda. I'm glad you enjoy the blog. Although I'm not sure how much useful information it imparts (:

Hellebore Queen said...

I like your slideshow! what a nice addition.

David in Greensboro, NC said...

Thanks HQ. See you Saturday!

Robin's Nesting Place said...

That is a great plan for the back border garden. I don't know that I'd have the patience to wait that long, but being indecisive sometimes allows more time.

What was in your feeder to attract the oriole? I hope it comes back to visit you again.

David in Greensboro, NC said...

Thanks Robin. I think the oriole was eating sunflower chips at the feeder. Their preferred foods are insects and fruit, but I guess they eat the soft inner parts of the sunflowers if they have to.

Carolyn gail said...

The rule of thumb for a garden bed, in general, is that it be at least 5 feet. Of course you can't always get that in an urban setting. 10 x 60 '-I'm envious !

That's a great idea to prepare your beds with all that good stuff, but what did you put on top of the leaves ? If nothing, they'll blow away. Dig them down into the compost or cover them with some manure.

Are you sure you have to "throw" the plants on top of the bed ? With soil that rich they'll probably walk all the way over .

Is it still warm down there ? We have an ice skating rink here.

MrBrownThumb said...

Love the cat photo.

Your cat seems rather lazy though. Mine will help me dig in the garden if he sees me out there with a shovel or trowel.


Mary said...

I'll be your assistant Andy had more fun than you.

Of course you can pile up the leaves/compost. Nothing is happening in North Carolina to benefit the plants so you may as well wait! Maybe by late spring we'll have a few rain showers.

Good thinking on the bed. The end result will be fragrant and fabulous!

Darn. I haven't seen an Oriole here.

healingmagichands said...

That form of creating a new bed is called "lasagne gardening" because of the layers. If you have more time, you can put down another layer of paper and compost. I like to "mine" the dumpsters behind the auto body repair shop or the furniture store. You can find gigantic pieces of cardboard that you can use as your light blocking layer before the compost and leaves.

Also, when you collect leaves, if you have too many right then, they will store very nicely in a black 33 gallon garbage bag. I have found that if I fill a bag with leaves, water it fairly thoroughly, poke holes in the bag with my pitchfork and toss it over in a sunny spot for a few weeks, when I am ready to put it on top of the cardboard, the leaves have broken down enough that they no longer blow around. You can even put the bags of leaves on top of the cardboard for a while, and then pour them out in situ.

Your border will be beautiful, I'm sure.

David in Greensboro, NC said...

Hi Carolyn Gail! I've got some more old compost to put on top, but as you can see I haven't gotten to that yet. It was a bit chilly today--only 78 (he says with an evil chuckle...)

Welcome Mr. Brown Thumb! Lazy doesn't BEGIN to describe Andy. Unless, of course, he sees a mouse.

He definitely had the easier job, Mary. Reckon we'll get rain this weekend? Snow???

Healingmagichands, thanks for the advice about keeping the leaves in plastic bags. That sounds like a real lazy way to do it, and I'm all about lazy!

Wicked Gardener said...

Lazy or not, I've always used newpaper and have had good luck with it. When I can see the writing, I know it is time to re-mulch! I wish I knew the five feet rule. I made my beds way too narrow this year.

David in Greensboro, NC said...

I think the newspaper is going to work well, Wicked Gardener. And I think it's good for the soil when it breaks down. Your beds look great--you can always expand them!