July 28th, 2006

self portrait

Gardening meanderings

My friend cakmpls bemoans her fate at wanting a garden but being unable to garden both physically (she has difficulty kneeling) and metaphysically (she's lacking a "green thumb").

Myself, I'm a lazy gardener. I want fresh vegetables but I'm unwilling to put any work into growing them. I like pretty flowers but I'm not going to weed and water the suckers.

I've taken an approach to my prairie gardens that I liken to "benign neglect." I trim off the year's growth in the spring and pretty much leave them be after that. This has worked pretty well this year. I have needed to yank some big thistles out of the edges of the garden (though I admit to finding the one that's flowering next to my driveway pretty). Some unwanted species of grass grew up around one of my clumps of Little Bluestem. When it flowered I could finally convince myself that it was unwanted as opposed to something that had self-sowed from elsewhere in the garden and yanked it out too.

I'm planning on expanding my prairie to take over more of the lawn that I don't mow. (There's a helpful neighborhood guy who does it for me for cheap.) The part of the planning that's vexing me currently is how to keep things on the up-and-up with the city and the neighbors. I'm already feeling bad about how the Creeping Charlie that thrives in my back yard is invading my neighbor so I don't want to become the guy with the yard full of weeds that causes the neighborhood problems.

So I'm looking at having a demilitarized zone around my property and plantings that will keep things looking like they are planned and controlled without me having to put in the work to keep them that way. My current reading is a book by Jerry Baker in which he lays out a method of creating a good bed of soil if one has only poor soil. I don't have that problem, thankfully, but his method may make construction of a DMZ easier too. It begins with layering newspaper where you want to start planting, covering that with compost and then with good soil. The theory being that the newspaper smothers anything already there and serves as good food for the earthworms that work through the rest of everything and give you good, deep, rich soil.

My sticking point right now is a lack of newspaper. I looked briefly into getting some from the city recycling. They, however, only sell the collected newspapers to various entities they have contracted with. I'm thinking I'll have to become a collector of the unused weeklies at my bus stop to store up enough to get started with. (It seems silly to subscribe to the paper for this reason alone, particularly when the colored inks and glossy paper will be unusable for my purposes.) Another thing I'm thinking of researching is getting shredded office paper from one of the places that specializes in that. We shred a lot of things here so I see big bags of it going out every week.
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