Friday, January 14, 2011

Northwest Flower and Garden Show

"There is a long standing rumor that spring is the time of renewal, but that's only if you ignore the depressing clutter and din of the season. All that flowering and budding and birthing - the messy youthfulness of Spring actually verges on SQUALOR. Spring is too busy, too full of itself, too much like a 20-year-old to be the best time for reflection, re-grouping, and starting fresh. For that, you need December." -- Vivian Swift
I love this quote. The only thing I would change is that I would replace the word "December" with the word "winter." Winter is that quiet, gestational season when we gardeners take stock of our gardens and make plans for the coming year. While our gardens sleep, we dream.

Fortunately, we folks in the Pacific Northwest have more than just magazines and seed catalogs to inspire our dreams. We have the Northwest Flower and Garden Show coming our way, February 23-27, at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle.

One of the largest of its kind in the US, this show features over 20 spectacular display gardens, more than 300 exhibitors in its Market Place, and offers an outstanding roster of free gardening seminars presented by gardening experts.

For complete information, visit the Northwest Flower and Garden Show website. While you are there, buy your tickets online -- and save $4!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ready To Take Out Your Lawn?

Have you been flirting with the idea of getting rid of your lawn? It is a big step to take, especially if you have no idea how to begin. You may have lots of ideas about what you want to do with the space currently taken up with grass, but how do you get rid of it so you can get started?

There are at least two methods of sod "abatement." One is to remove the lawn, roots and all, with either a sod-cutting machine or with a hand tool called a mattock. The second method, called sheet mulching,  involves covering the grass with newspapers or cardboard, layering over that with organic material and soil, and planting right over the top.

I've used both methods and have had success either way. Sod removal is definitely more labor intensive and you have the problem of sod disposal (trust me, it does not compost easily or quickly). Sod-cutters are big, heavy machines, which is why I've removed miles of sod with a mattock instead. But once that sod is gone, it's gone. No grass will be poking up through the new beds.

Sheet mulching is much easier, and for many people, more practical. Care must be taken, however, to be sure there is a thick, even layer of cardboard with no gaps between pieces where grass can shoot up. Sheet mulching also raises the level of the yard a little bit. In most cases, that adds a pleasing bermed effect. Just be sure the sheet mulch is not in contact with wood (a fence, deck or the siding on a house) or  you will have problems.

To get a look at how these methods work, here's a great series of videos showing the Urban Farmers Guild of Sustainable NE Seattle converting a homeowner's lawn into a food garden. The sod is removed in half the yard. The sheet mulching technique is used on the other half. The videos are taken over several months so you can see the process from sod abatement to thriving vegetable garden. Enjoy!