What causes back aches, frustration, and stiff joints? Digging a new garden bed. If you have ever attempted this with soil that has never been tilled, it is time intensive and hard work. Don’t let television fool you. How to make it easier? Visiting a local equipment rental company. My tools
- Sod cutter (lifts the grass up like a carpet) Mine cost $90 for the day, but well worth the price.
- If you prefer the greener way, a spade. Here is an article on how to use a shovel. Unfortunately, I tried this for about an hour and gave up. I am not strong enough to battle field grass.
- A heavy duty tiller if you are creating a veggie garden or a shovel to just put in plants. See my article about creating a new veggie garden.
So what happens if you just don’t need the bed now but are thinking about it for next year? Why not try the no till method? Let nature help. What do you need?
I wanted to create 5 foot beds so I started with a layer of thick cardboard. However, obtaining cardboard is not as easy as you would think. Most grocery stores that I went to crush their cardboard right away. I checked with Wal-mart, Home Depot, Lowe, Best Buys, and other big box stores thinking all of these large chains must have boxes. I wanted them crushed since it is easier to use. A lot of them gave me the same response as the grocery stores. “We have to crush our boxes for fire code reasons.”
So, where do you get them? Your best bet is a mom and pop appliance store, liquor store, or other small store. In addition, go to your local recycling center and take it out of the recycling bins.
My favorite cardboard boxes were the appliance boxes since I did not have to layer them. One cut down the side and instant area coverage!
Once you put down the cardboard, I put a layer of 5 sheets of paper. Where do you get newspaper? I steal it from my neighbors on recycling day or I go to the recycling center and take it out of the bins. Sometimes, I wait at the recycling center and people who drive up to deposit their recycling often times have it bundled up in a bag or twine so it is easier for me to put in my car. They often give me a weird look like why does she want all of this paper.
What do I use the paper for? To suppress weeds in the garden. I never used the colored circulars, and it ends up back in the recycling pile. Newspaper is really good for weed suppression for about 2 years and then you need to rack back the mulch and reapply the paper.
When I put it down, I wet the paper so that it does not fly away while I am doing something else. Paper dries within a few hours if it is sunny so don’t think you can paper one day and mulch the next.
After both the cardboard and paper are down, I add grass. Again, I thought, no big deal. Everyone has grass. With new mulching lawn mowers, people leave the clippings on their grass to decompose. It is really good for the grass. So, where would I find grass? I was lucky because my neighbor has an old lawn mower and bags his grass. He throws at the end of his property in a pile. Decomposing grass is the best!
Unfortunately, I ran out of grass and there is where the aggravation set in. I would go to the recycling area and look every day to see if anyone dumped off their grass. Yes, I had to scoop it up by hand into my garbage cans. You could call around to local lawn services to see if any of their customers have their grass bagged. I did make those calls but no one called me back. Perhaps, catching the local lawn services while they cut grass might be an option as well.
As I would wait at the recycling center, I would ask everyone if they had grass. Most people asked me why I need grass since they just could not figure out why I would want it. I would explain that I was creating a mulched bed. Most had no idea what I was talking about and just went on their business and others asked me what that was. I needed a videotographer to film these interactions since some were priceless.
On gentleman was kind enought to bag his grass and leave them for me at the recycling center with my name on them! Talk about community cooperation!
By the way, as grass decomposses, it puts off alot of heat so be careful about using it near your plants as mulch.
Layer of Wood Chips
Here was my dilemma. What was I going to use to put on top of the grass so it would not blow away while it decomposed? I could not find an abundance of leaves to use. In retrospect, I should have stock pile leaves in the Fall to use as the last layer.
During my layering process, I heard the sounds of trees being chipped. The light bulb went on and I ran over to see what the tree company was chipping. I asked my neighbor if they spray their trees and she said no. The tree service was more than happy to give me the chipped up wood for free and dumped it on my driveway. I put a layer of tree chips on top of the grass. I am a little skeptical of how long the tree chips will take to decompose. A public works supervisor in my town told me that the heat of the grass will help them decompose.
Anyone have thought about the wood chips as a layer?
He suggested putting a layer of leaves on top of the chips in the Fall. I think I will also put a layer of grass on top of the wood chips in late September followed by the leaves to help speed up the decompositon of the wood chips.
Since grass is not the easy to come by, I might have to start stock piling it in the corner of my lawn for September. Decomposing grass is not the most pleasant smelling. Otherwise, I will have to find a lawn service who will give me grass.
Some of you might be thinking, how do you know if the grass has been sprayed? This is a good point. Since I am only making shrub and perennial beds, this does not matter to me. It would matter if I was making veggie beds. I don’t know if pesticides break down in the compost stage. Anyone know?
So, have any of you made beds out of mulched materials? How do you create new beds?