Just Say No (to Grass)

My parents always told me, just say no to grass, although I think they were talking about pot, not lawns. I have learned to say no to both.

I would love to get rid of all or at least most of my grass, but when you have 3/4 of an acre, it is a long drawn out  process.

One of the most annoying areas to cut the lawn is in the Kitchen Garden. When it is freshly cut and edged, the grass  paths look really pretty, but that is not very frequently. I do cut it quite often, but the edging just doesn’t happen. And the grass gets higher and higher in the corners. And because the raised beds were built on top of the lawn, some of the grass had been growing under the boards and coming up in the beds.

I really want (and still do) gravel paths. I think it looks very clean, and it is a very traditional look. But we have this mountain of bark chips from our tree that came down. I told you about it here. I think that the neighbours are getting a little tired of looking at it.  And it is right in front of the garage door. Couldn’t the tree guys think of another place to put it! That is one of the problems you face when you are an absentee owner.

So, when we were on holidays last week, this was one of the jobs we tackled.

This is how it looked before, a lot of leaves are starting to come down, not even any nice colour.

gardenOct09 063

Notice how beautiful the hydrangea are.

gardenOct09 064

From the other side.

First, I dug a small trench around the outside of the raised beds. We then started by laying down a thick layer of newspaper(see, Ian, all those newspapers I read come in handy), and then covered them with a thick layer of bark mulch.

gardenOct09 068

And the other side.

gardenOct09 069

Here it is finished.

gardenOct09 107

See the hydrangea. This is just two days later, and they are all brown. We had a really cold night, way below freezing, and they didn’t like it. It took us three days to finish the job because we kept running out of newspapers. I read three newspapers a day, and had a stack 2 feet high, but it was not enough. On the last two days, I would read my papers, come out and lay them on the ground and then mulch over top.  Needless to say, I am saving newspapers again. I am sure I will find some more lawn, somewhere, I need to get rid of.

gardenOct09 114

Finished! A lot more leaves down, I guess that will be the next job on the list.

I am glad this is done for a number of reasons.

First, no cutting, now it will always look tidy.(till the weeds start growing)

Second, this will give us a firm base for the gravel in a few years.

Third, I sometimes find the grass wet and soft, as this area is the closest to the Escarpment. Water rolls down the hill and this is the first level spot. The good thing, not much watering needed here, the bad thing, sometimes a bit soggy. But the bark will absorb some of that water and give me a dryer place to walk.

Now, I just have to figure out how I want this path to merge into the Serviceberry Allee!

41 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Janie said,

    The other ‘plus’ to this is that you will be able to get into your garden when it is raining buckets. I love this solution, I use it in my garden!

    • 2

      And that is a big ‘plus’. As I am only up on weekends, (and not every), I have to do things right then, not when the weather is good. The soil is clay and can get quite slippery when it is raining!

  2. 3

    Scott said,

    Yep, nothing worse than having the edging take longer than the mowing. Great solution.

  3. 5

    miss m said,

    No small enterprise. Well done !

    I’m still pondering what to lay down the aisles in my plot. I’m with you on gravel, so nice and neat but I am haunted by the prospect of removing
    it if ever I had to. (In the last few years, I’ve hauled over 5 tons of it. I’m scarred for life !) I’m hesitating between straw and wood chips, at the moment, at least ’til the plot is finalized (it’s still in tweak mode). Then we’ll see. Brick paths are also splendid and so typically potager.

    A fellow non-edger

    • 6

      I would be ‘crippled’ for life is I hauled over 1 ton, never mind 5 tons, whatever were you doing? My wood chips are ‘temporary’, there is a great garden in Tobermory (north of Owen Sound) called Larkwhistle. The owners, Patrick Lima and John Scanlan, have written books about it. They have very lovely hard dirt paths. Although I wonder what they are like in spring.

  4. 7

    Great pictures, and so much hard work! I really love the layout of the kitchen garden, it’s so pleasing and maze like. Using newspaper is a great idea, I wish I had the patience to do it for new beds, instead of ripping out established grass.

    Your hydrangeas are stunning, are they Nikko Blue? I’d love to have a blue hydrangea, but none do well here, other than endless summer with major soil ammendment.

    Terrific post (& title!), it’s so much fun to watch your garden develop.

    • 8

      I’d rather be patient, then kill my back somemore(although I did dig out a bit in the Flora Glade). I won’t be in the garden again (except for leaf raking, and admiring my efforts) so the path will just sit there all winter, grass rotting under newspaper and mulch.
      The hydrangea are just leftover from Easter, they didn’t all sell at the store. No Name, but they were free!

  5. 9

    Alice Joyce said,

    You should receive an award for the lead-off/introductory line to this post!

    As someone who has always opted to immediately remove any grass that I’ve inherited from previous owners, replacing it with perennials, trees, vines and shrubs,
    I applaud your efforts, and look forward to updates.
    My garden has gravel paths, and I highly recommend them.

    • 10

      Thanks Alice Joyce, that is a very nice compliment.
      In my last gardens, I have always got rid off any grass, but this garden is 3/4 of an acre. I think it will take me a long time.

  6. 11

    Deborah, Have you considered changing the “paving” material between the two spaces? So, for instance, you could keep the woodchips permanently in your kitchen garden, should you choose, but the area between the two spaces might be stone, gravel, or what I believe is called (in fact it is; I just looked it up) decomposed granite. Here’s a link to another blog that shows some images and talks about the latter:


    • 12

      Helen, I would like to change the “paving” materials. I have heard about decomposed granite, I saw it on Deborah Silvers blog, but I have not heard of/or seen it in Canada. Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out.

  7. 13

    Barbara H. said,

    Oh, well done, Deborah! I was just thinking about this the other day, wondering if you had gotten to it yet. Cardboard is another option instead of newspaper that might go down a little faster, but of course you have to have it on hand. I planted my first tree in the open field, a cedrus deodora, which is my first step towards breaking up an open expanse. I was wanting it to screen the Thicket Garden but of course once I dug the hole I realized the placement is wrong for that. And the tree that looked so big at the nursery looks so small now. But I’m on my way, thanks to you.

    • 14

      You inspired me Barbara, to get it done. I thought that I might wait, but when our tree came down, there was a mountain of bark chips needing to be put to use. Cardboard would have been great, but as I read three papers a day, they was stacks of them.
      I am glad that I inspired you to divide your open garden into rooms. I like the name “The Thicket Garden”, very cool. Trees always look so much smaller when you plant them. When I had the serviceberries in their pots on top of the beds in the Allee, I thought, not so bad, and then I planted them!!! Not so good!!!

  8. 15

    Mary Delle said,

    Love the new look in the Kitchen garden. yes, I like this way of using newspaper. Grass no more.

  9. 17

    Wendy said,

    your kitchen garden is just gorgeous! I have the little mini version. maybe I’ll post soon. I’ve been wanting to do something with the paths too and find the same prob as you with the grass growing. I’m also struggling with how to determine the threshold between path and grass. But looks like you simply stopped at the edge. This year, I added mulch, albeit not a very thick layer. During a storm with lots of rain, the rain basically washed much of it into a pile. That was annoying. I have all kinds of weeds again.

    Looks like your garden is on a slight slope. Can’t tell, but looks like you’ve cut your bed into the slope. THis is also an issue I have. Your beds look just beautiful though! Love the centerpiece as well.

    • 18

      You are very observant with an eye for detail, very important in a landscape architect!
      It does look like I just stopped at the edge of the Kitchen Garden, cause I did! Still not quite finished, I have to extend the Serviceberry Allee all the way. I am not sure what I am going to do for the path of the Allee, probably leave it grass for the moment anyway. But what I will do is sink a line of bricks (or Ian will) or use limestone screening to make a division between the Kitchen Garden and the Serviceberry Allee. But they will be the same height, so the lawnmower will just roll over them (no edging!).
      The Kitchen Garden is on a slight slope, and the raised beds were cut in.
      Thanks for all the compliments, I don’t think that my head will fit through the bedroom door now!

  10. 19

    I like the geometric look, and L shaped corners to your raised beds. Everything looks so pretty with the fallen leaves. Your new paths should work out well around the beds, and make for more comfortable walking after the rain. I’ve been gradually shrinking my grass sections as well, because I like the look of shrubs and perennials better, and because mowing is my least favourite garden activity, although I love running the mulching mower over the fall leaves.

    • 20

      I do love geometric designs (thinking of a knot garden down the road) and straight lines. I am looking forward to how much easier it will be after a rain.
      My muching mower will last me a lot longer if I am only mulching leaves.

  11. 21

    Racquel said,

    Great way to reuse what you already had in a practical manner! You will be happy you completed this task come next spring. 🙂 The newspaper should help suppress the weeds for awhile at least.

    • 22

      Thanks Racquel, I find the weeds easier to pull out of a thick layer of mulch, than out of soil. (At least, they are in the Flora Glade). Or I will just dump another inch or two of mulch on top!

  12. 23

    Sylvana said,

    Great raised beds. I am working on my own raised bed garden. Since I do a lot of tending in my vegetable garden, I made that into raised beds. It really cuts down on weeds and makes it really easy to care for. Yours looks like you can actually sit in it and enjoy your surroundings. I would like the same for the veggie garden as it looks quite lovely sometimes — but I didn’t plan for that. Oh well, I still have the flower garden.

    If it gets wet in that area, gravel is probable your best option. Wood chips get soggy and slimy when they are wet.

    • 24

      Sylvana, I do want to change it to gravel, I am hoping in the next year or two. By then the wood chips should have killed all the grass and weeds under them (keep your fingers crossed). I figure I can just shovel it up and throw it into the beds and/or compost heap.
      Sometimes I sit on the concrete bench(very cold) and sometimes I just sit on the side of the raised bed (probably shouldn’t do that).
      Thank you for visiting my blog and your kind comments. Hope to see you again soon.

  13. 25

    Town Mouse said,

    just say no to grass. love it! i’m sure you’ll find other creative ways to replace more.

  14. 26

    Town Mouse, it takes a lot of creativity to replace 3/4 of an acre of grass, but I am working on it. When we first moved there, it took 4 1/2 hours to cut the lawn, and that is without the edging. I was down to 3, I will see in the spring how much time getting rid of the grass in the Kitchen Garden has saved.
    Thank you for visiting my blog and hope to see you again soon.

  15. 27

    Joanne said,

    I know what you mean about grass. Since we dug up most of ours and laid down to vegetables and plants I am sure we spend less time than we did constantly moxing.

    Your new beds look great.

  16. 29

    Barbara said,

    I like your kitchen garden, and am trying to do something similar, except I’m enclosing my beds with boxwood hedges. I’d also like to do gravel paths, since, as you say, that’s very traditional, but find it to heavy to manage so will probably also resort to tree bark.

  17. 30

    Barbara, it is funny, I was on your blog commenting on your kitchen garden at the same time as you were on mine, commenting on mine. I love yours, this was the very first garden I put in, and used it as a “holding” bed alot at first, while I was laying out some of the other beds.
    I do really like the box edge on your garden, might be an idea for another garden there!

    • 31

      Barbara said,

      Yes, I just read your comment! Must be some empathy there. You mentioned that boxwood is more expensive on your side of the ocean. I think that’s true, since on a recent visit to Chicago I helped my cousin plant some and they were quite pricey. It cost me about € 150 to purchase the (very small) boxwoods for about 30 meters of hedge. I don’t think that’s too bad, and I really really wanted boxwood. It’s very traditional for hedging old-fashioned kitchen gardens in Germany, and when I read that snails and slugs don’t like boxwood and may even be discouraged from entering thus hedged beds, I was sold.

      • 32

        Barbara, I actually have purchased some larger boxwoods, and inspired by Monty Don am trying to root some boxwood cuttings. I have the time to wait for them to grow, and the small ones seem to grow faster then the larger ones. Yours seem to be a good price!

  18. 33

    Barbara said,

    I was too impatient to do cuttings, although there are some beautiful ancient boxwoods in my garden I could have used. I’ve also read that that works well. Did you also read that the best way to do the cuttings is to simply rip them off the bush, i.e. not cut them off neatly with clippers? The ripped-off cutting should include a little bark from a woody branch of the old box. I’ll be interested to hear how your boxwood project progresses!

    • 34

      I did read that, although the idea makes me cringe a little. I also read the best time to do them is in June so I will have to wait until next year.
      This garden is really teaching me a lesson in patience. What makes it easier is, 1. I am only there on weekends, and not even every weekend, so I am not out every day willing the plants to grow.
      2. When I finally arive, after the mandatory admiration is over, there is a ton of mowing, weeding etc., no time to moan over slow growth, (as I would be inclined to do if I lived there full time.)

  19. 35

    Barbara said,

    By the way, Deborah, I was just reading in one of my favorite German gardening websites again on the subject of boxwood, in particular growing your own from cuttings, and the consensus was that this *must* be done in the month of August, and can be done right there where you want to have them. About 20% won’t work, reportedly. So guess we missed the boat this year.

  20. 37

    rosey pollen said,

    I really like the layout of your beds!

    • 38

      Thanks Rosey, I like them too. It really keeps everything in it (which is a mish mash) looking kind of organized. And they are a great place to plant everything I don’t know what to do with.

  21. 39

    catmint said,

    Hi Deborah, i have gradually got rid of all the grass too, and have stone paths. I am happy with this decision, but my dog has never forgiven me.

  22. 40

    Catmint, I think that I will be happy when it is ALL gone. Unfortunately, there is still a lot more, but I have got the lawn cutting down from 4 1/2 hours to under 3. When I get a dog, I will have to train him to go on the gravel.

  23. 41

    […] Oldest offspring MA, son of offspring Chickenpoet was helping us out with the reel lawnmower at age five. He is now eleven and would have no problem pushing that heavy mower. The line of muhly is not even a figment of our imagination yet. The things sticking up at the driveway edge are the seed heads of liriope, which rims the entire lawn space so there is no edging needed. I hate to edge. There are those who want to do away with lawn and those who have successfully done so. We enjoy having a little green, thinking of it as just another plant growing here. Deborah, (Kilbourne Grove) of Green Theatre has written about her lawn thoughts here. […]

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