Hello again! In my previous post, I mentioned that I am creating a cutting garden. I’ve started several varieties of seeds inside: snapdragons, iceland poppies, celosia, sweet peas, and nasturtiums. I’ve also ordered several summer bulbs: ranunculus, dahlias, peonies, and phlox. I’m really excited to transform an unused area of our yard into a beautiful flower garden. While that post was about getting seeds started, this one is about how I’m preparing the area for planting.
Working as a master gardener through Washington State University, I’m lucky to be exposed to several methods of gardening. I’m finding that I’m drawn to a permaculture/polyculture approach, which basically teaches you to let nature do some of the work. Gardening is manual labor- there is no getting around it. It’s physical work! However, if we rely on some of the natural processes, it can actually relieve a little bit of that work. For example, how you build a new garden space. In previous gardens, such as my vegetable garden in Albany, I dug out sod to create my garden space. It was a lot of work, but it was worth doing in that case because it was a very small area of my yard. In the case of my new flower garden, I didn’t want to dig out all the existing sod and weeds. Instead, I decided to turn to one of my favorite gardening books, Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. This is an excellent book about gardening and challenges you to think of your “yard” as more of an ecosystem. In this book, the author explains how to create a new garden using a lasagna composting method. It’s called “lasagna” because you smother the existing grass and weeds with layered materials such as cardboard, burlap, and anything else that will biodegrade. Once you cover every inch of your space, you bring in layers of mulch and compost, and let nature take over. All the little microbes below will start to eat away at the dying weeds, sod, and rotting materials. Over time, it all becomes amazing compost. This is the method I employed to build out my new garden. Ideally, I would have smothered the grass back in the fall but I didn’t get around to it. Because I want to start my garden sooner, I decided to cheat a little and bring in a lot more compost to speed the process up. The garden soil I got will allow me to plant my flowers sooner and assuming I keep up on the weeding, the bottom layers will still be doing their thing!
Here are some photos of my space:
The before photo- our yard is not at all level so getting a lawn mower down to this space was not reasonable. Apparently, years ago, a previous owner used to have a putting green in this space. Ha! Probably had a full-time garden staff, too!
I decided to smother the entire area with coffee bags and cardboard. I hit up all the local coffee roasters for bags and finally got the entire space covered. Of course, I didn’t get a photo of that!
Then the exciting part- dirt delivery! It was exciting until I started shoveling and wheeling the dirt around our difficult terrain! Haha!
The exciting after photo! I’m now waiting on some nice weather so I can move some plants around and get my bulbs planted. I’m going to move ferns to the outside of the garden. My theme for my landscape has always been Pacific Northwest Cottage Style. The cutting garden will be a continuation of my overall landscape style with a heavy focus on annuals for cutting bouquets. I’m still going to incorporate native plants, herbs, and perennials so the overall landscape remains cohesive. Our yard has been a work in progress ever since we moved in but it’s coming together. I’m anxious to see it in a few months when the sun is out and flowers are in bloom!