Photo Friday: here and there, then and now

When we first moved here I was so exited about how green and lush everything is.  I was also excited to have so much room to plant in and couldn’t wait to get started.  HA!  The first time I tried to put the garden fork into the soil it bounced back and almost knocked me out!  We tried to use the Mantis to till out a garden spot and it just bounced along on the surface while the weeds and grass laughed at our folly…  So we went out and bought a BIG BOY Cub Cadet garden tiller.

I am afraid to use it. 

It is a seriously big and powerful machine.  When cranked up it sounds like a tractor and puffs huge blasts of air out of the front exhaust.  It reminds me of a bull getting ready to charge… I envision that the mighty beast will knock me to the ground,  sit on me, all the while huffing and snorting in victorious laughter.

If you like this and need one, you can click the picture to be taken to their site… (and NO, I am not being sponsored nor receiving any monetary compensation for this.)

For this reason Bob preps the areas I want to garden with the Cadet, and then I come in with the little Mantis to wage war on all the weeds.

Sometimes I get frustrated by the way, seemingly overnight,  the weeds come and take over my garden.  I think about my gardens in California and I get melancholy…  seems that with less water there was more control.  However, there was a cost too.    Water restrictions and the expense of watering the portions of the garden that needed it (my herbs and roses) made the price of gardening high!  Water rates were hiked 40% over a span of 4 years!!!  Hence we hired someone to design a native garden for us.  One that could live off of the average rainfall in Southern California.  We, of course, did all the work to save money!

It looked like this before…

Needless to say, this is not practical in an area that was desert before it was irrigated and overpopulated!

Enter Brian Swope from Tierra Seca Landscape Design who did some wonderful planning for us.    So, when we got done planting the yard looked like this!

Once established we never had to water it!  There are more pictures HERE

By the way, you can see more of his finished projects HERE!  He has since moved to the vicinity of San Francisco, if you live up there I strongly urge you to contact him.  You will not be disappointed!

~*~

And so it is, bit by bit, I have been trying to work a miracle.  Trying to turn all the weeds and wild grasses into gardens.  It is a slow and labor intensive process with nearly 6 times the area to cover.  Seems I start at one end, turn around to look back and…

More weeds!

Sigh.  I look for the day when the weeds have given up and the gardens have taken over.

In the meantime, I pick away at it…

Weeds and grass out!  Some new plantings in.

From back to front:  the sunflowers, tomatoes, peppers are done, but the bush beans are still waiting!

A neighbor came by and bulldozed the giant, grass-covered, red clay mountain behind the vegetable patch for us early this morning (red area in photo above)!  Now we will begin the process of sheet mulching to make it healthy, plantable soil!

With the exception of the rock drive, I have stuck to my plan of no chemical agents (Roundup).  I wonder if I will I ever gain control.

How do you conquer your garden nemeses?

NOTE:  Strictly speaking, if you sheet mulch you should not be rototilling.  However, with our hard-packed, concrete, red clay soil we feel the need to get things softened up before we turn 90.  Hence, we sheet mulched for two years, then rototilled, then planted.  The soil is now very friable, allows better drainage, and good deep root structure on the plants.  Over the winter months, we will sheet mulch again and then, hopefully, we will not need the rototill in the areas that have been worked over the three-year improvement time!

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7 thoughts on “Photo Friday: here and there, then and now

  1. sassafrasvalley says:

    what is sheet mulching? I am a landscape designer you know….. (bet you didnt know that, did you) I was not always a goose farmer. I was an orgainc landscaper and founded the Midwest Ecological Landscaping Association in Chgo. http://www.melaweb.org

    (yeah really……)

    This land here in Missouri is a nightmare after the Illinois prairie soils. I am so tired of raking rocks, then large gravel and then finally fine gravel out of my beds b4 planting!!! I rely upon landscape fabric topped with 4 inches of mulch to halt the weeds in the landscape beds and I use up the old paper feed bags in the veggie garden, I split them open and lay them down between plants to stop the rampant weeds! Til them under come fall.

    Am celebrating my first year of confining the chickens to a chicken tractor and OUT.OF.MY.BEDS! No more mulch scratched all over the sidewalks…. no more plants scratched out of the ground. All geese are in fenced fields, so no more goose poo on my walks and plants ripped out of the ground and thrown around for fun.

    Only the guineas get freedom.

    • pixilated2 says:

      Connie, I went reading and apparently sheet mulching is the same idea as the “lasagna method.” For me, the idea of sheet mulching is all the compostable materials from my chicken house and run, plus the bedding from the geese. I bring it out and dump it six to eight inches thick over the area I want to amend, wet it down and walk away. I do not try to plant in it until it is all broken down. The theory is that it mimics the natural soil layers. Specifically, proponents of the method state that there should be newspaper and/or cardboard underneath… but the subterranean termites here are a nightmare! They even eat my potatoes! So I don’t encourage them with wood pulp products! 😮

      I also have a proper compost pile that gets an occasional load of goose straw and I add the kitchen wastes to it for breakdown.

      And HEY! How awesome that you were/are an organic landscaper!

  2. Lindy says:

    Hi Lynda, Oh my! I have this job ahead of me. We have 5 acres of weeds on land that has not been tended to in many years. Unlike yours we have sand and more sand – we are 10 miles from Lake Michigan. Our land is covered in weeds and completely overrun with voles and their tunnels. My husband wants to have someone come in with a tractor – after the house is finished – and till the entire piece and then disc it. I have no idea what this means but he says it will get rid of the vole tunnels. We have years of work ahead of us and must hurry as time is quickly passing and we aren’t getting any younger. 😀

    • pixilated2 says:

      Lindy, we have voles, moles, mice, and little black shrews here. The moles and voles make life interesting in the garden, and dangerous in the lawns. I would think that my cats were not doing their job were it not for all the little bodies I have to clean up every morning… ew. I can’t understand where they all come from, but I can tell you they got worse when the fellow across from us started mowing down his back forty. I guess they needed new digs and we were it! I lock up the chicken and goose feed in metal trash cans with tight lids every night and they still come. I must assume it is for the spillage from the day.
      And yes, we are not getting any younger, are we? So we’d better be happy because the hard work we are making for ourselves is reminding us that we are still alive and kick’n! (Even when some days it feels as though the work is kick’n US!) 😉

  3. Deb W says:

    Hi All, don’t know if this could help or not, but here goes… We’ve got a fellow up here who’s been the expert on the CBC radio gardening call-in for 30(!) years – Ed Lawrence. Ed advocates using wetted newspaper -10 sheets thick- to suffocate weeds (yup, even poison ivy). He also says that growing castor bean plants around the perimeter will keep moles, voles, etc out of your garden. (They hate them for some reason and stay away.) These tips and a whole lot more are in his book called “Gardening Grief and Glory”. Some also on the CBC/Ontario Today webpage for free.

    We’ve done a kind of hybridisation of the paper layering with a compost mulch on top to augment the soil here, which is a clay loam mix but nowhere near as nasty as that red stuff of yours sounds ; ), but anyway it works like charm… Suffocates the bad stuff, easy to weed anything new that gets started, helps break up the soil by keeping moisture in and lets the earthworms do their thing! (Too bad about those termites though.)
    Sorry for not using everyone’s name here, but my computer’s on the fritz and I’m typing this on my phone screen… Arrrgh!

  4. An Embarrassment of Freedom says:

    Hi there from Ontario, Canada! I enjoyed reading about your life at the Farmlet! I grew up on a fifty acre mixed farming farm. When My parents bought the farm in the 1930;s my Dad used a team of horses to plow. During war time they had crews of POW’s to hoe sugar beets and my mom cooked big meals for them. Over the years they had a very wonderful but challenging life there. You will have many stories to share as well. Thanks for visiting my blog as well.

    • pixilated2 says:

      Hello, I am so glad you came to visit! Wow, I should think fifty acres would be challenging. I only have the one and some days it gets the better of me. Oh, and to be sure I will return to your blog… I love your writing! (I am a subscriber now BTW) 😉

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