Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lessons Learned from the Edible Front Lawn

My edible front yard has evolved over five years. Many lessons have been learned that are worthy of sharing. Let me save you some needless grief and work.

First of all, I pride myself in being frugal to the point sometimes of fault. My friends call me the Frugal Fraulein for a reason. Although I strive to be a Martha Stewart wannabe, I don’t have her bank account and resources. I live very simply. If it is free, I am interested in giving it a second look. Therefore ridding my yard of grass had to cost little or nothing but my own time and effort.

I looked at many gardening books, articles, websites and television shows. I did not find many resources that provided instruction on what I hoped to accomplish. I was on my own. I could not afford to bring in heavy equipment, de-sod the yard, skim off the previously poisoned soil and then dump in yards and yards of new top soil. I had to make due with what I had.

Cardboard and newspapers were the answer. Paper products will cut out the sun and in time breakdown and self compost. Many layers of clean, black and white paper products were collected. I worked at a hospital and found out they have an abundance of boxes and packing paper to get rid of daily. The department head was glad to have me fill the car every few days. I picked up boxes at every store I visited. One day I found the holy grail of broken down boxes at the local re-cycle center. Here was an unlimited source of material to lay on the front lawn. I only had to climb the side of the container, hang in from the waist down and pull out the prizes. I am not a small person so I am sure this must have been a sight. Who cares it was free!

Who would think there were lessons to be learned from cardboard? Yes, there are. Look for heavy duty cardboard. It lasts longer before it begins to breakdown allowing more time for the plant matter to die off. Choose paper material without color and ink to reduce adding more unwanted chemicals to the yard. Large boxes work really well because that means you have to collect fewer and that means less work. Cut off all tapping material. It will only come to haunt you later on by rising to the top and appearing in unsightly clumps and being very slippery if you step on it. Newspaper works well too but must be layered thickly. In fact, all paper products work best when layered thickly. If you think you have enough, go get some more. Be sure you add another layer over all seams. If you don’t heavily layer you will have grass and weeds popping out in lines. When lines of green appeared a few months down the line, I tried to say they were simply access lines but no one bought the story.

In a couple of months the paper and cardboard began to breakdown. Since I live in the Pacific Northwest, there are slugs. Composting paper products did create a perfect breading ground for those slimy critters. I put out containers of beer and ended up with drunk slugs. I tried salt and ended up with slug goo everywhere. Finally, I resorted to early morning safaris picking up slugs and putting them in a jar. I fondly remembered living at a former residence that had loads of slugs. One sunny spring morning I went to my garden box that was still covered with black plastic. The box appeared to be moving. I pulled up the plastic and the box was full of garden snakes. At the time, I was horrified but now it is just another lesson learned. Garden snakes love slugs.

If you have any suggestions for ridding the garden of slugs please include in comments. When I was a child we delighted in sprinkling salt on them and watching them wizzle up. That is probably why my garden is so loaded with them now. Slug Karma!


Suzy said...

Better slugs than snakes. EEEKKK

Suzy said...

Better slugs than snakes. EEEKKK