Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lessons Learned from the Edible Front Lawn #3

Once I had the yard covered to kill the grass and weeds, had built some garden boxes and filled them with good garden soil and compost, planted vegetables, I was left with an unsightly yard. It was time to cover the cardboard with something useful and aesthetic.

I went online and explored solutions. I saw garden paths covered with nut shells, coconut byproducts, gravel, bark mulch, straw etc. The Herb Farm in Carnation, WA has beautiful gardens whose paths are lined with nut shells. It is organic and a good use for a byproduct. I called around and could not find a local source for nut shells. The source I found was too expensive for my taste. Straw was not going to work for me because there are too many slugs around. Straw can be ideal breeding ground for slugs. Finally I decided on bark mulch.

I borrowed a truck and got two yards of red bark mulch. I spread it about 3-4 inches thick around the garden boxes and covering the cardboard. Seemed simple enough and was the first year. By the third year things began to sprout through the cardboard and mulch.

There had to be a barrier between the cardboard and the mulch since the paper products would be decomposing and eventually weeds could pop up through the gravel. My choice was plastic or garden cloth. Again cost got in my way. A neighbor had give me a huge roll of black landscapers plastic. I had some garden cloth that I had been collecting at yard sales and garden center discount racks at the end of the season (I buy very few items new and at cost). I also tried a blue tarp in one area.

The results of my experiments proved the garden cloth is superior. It is essential to carefully overlap the cloth so that if the seams split from walking on it grass does not pop up. It is a pain in the you know where to pull up a line of grass because you were not careful. It is also important to secure the cloth using U tacks. You don’t want it to slip and move.

The black plastic can move easily and the moles decided it was a great place to dig tunnels. I now have places with bumps and places that sink from the tunnels in some areas. The plastic can slip when you step on it as well.

The blue tarp shows if the mulch shifts and it is a dead giveaway where you used the tarp!

The fouth year I spurged and bought pea gravel. Of all the things I have tried for mulch in the garden area especially for paths I like the pea gravel the best. The gravel was heavy to haul and shovel but lasts forever. This year I did add more pea gravel to places I had laid it out too thinly the first year. Now I have a look sort of like the rocky New England beaches I grew up with which is neat and mostly weed free. Experiment and let me know what solutions you have found to covering pathways in your garden!


margearm said...

now you need to make a fountain so you can have beach sounds!!

Frugal Canner said...

I have a small pool with water plants. If I dip my foot in it and kick around I would have water sounds!
Actually, the crows play in the birdbath and makes lots of racket! For some reason they like to bring food and dip it in the birdbath so it gets soggy then they eat it. What a mess.