May 222017
 

 

how to tackle the challenges of a less than perfect garden collage

continued from Part 1

No yard is perfect.  Overcoming the challenges can either be viewed in a positive light or as a overwhelming chore.  I am choosing to go the first route, viewing this as a time to grow and use my creative juices to find solutions and help the garden grow.

The first step I took was to address one of the biggest visual and immediate problems.  For me, this meant mowing the grass to help get the weeds under control and to get myself moving.  The Laws of Motion can also apply to our motivation when doing things in life.

An object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by another force.  -Newton’s First Law of Motion

The other force takes the look of our self-doubt, the feeling of being overwhelmed, freezing up by indecision, and so forth.  By doing something, anything, we have begun the motion to reach our goal.

#2 Form A Plan

While this step would ideally come first, something it is best to get moving and do something. 

Have you ever spent time making an awesome, color coordinated, shiny plan, only to then feel so exhausted by it you go take a nap? You never get around to actually doing the plan you spent so much time making?

Or how about researching, and researching, and researching to find the perfect whatever-it-is?  In the end you are so frozen by indecisiveness you give up.

So, we put into motion our goal with a first step which was obtainable and quick.  It was not perfect.  It was not necessarily researched or planned out.  What it was is quick and simple.  The other steps can come later.

We are now in motion.

The first time I mowed, it was nothing fancy or full of thought as to the pattern. I mowed and everything was shorter. It no longer looked like an unloved home. The end.

The second time, I put a bit more thought into it, mowing the other direction.  Not only would this help catch any missed places from the first time, but it would also help the grass keep from being blown onto the exact same spots in the yard each time.  By going a different way, I could also view the yard from a different angle and begin to gain a sense of how the yard worked.

I am not sure there is any great wisdom behind changing direction. I did find various dips and bumps the second time which did not stand out the first.  As for timing, I am thinking mowing parallel with  my house saves a few seconds, as all the major obstacles would be along a particular pass or two, rather than at the end of every row.

While mowing I began to form a plan to address various issues. I also contemplated how to use challenges to our advantage. It was all theoretical, nothing was actually put into action.   The end.

The third time I mowed, I tried to make a concerted effort to actually look closely at the plants making up the yard as I passed them.  Grass is not the only plant growing, and the others may give me an insight into what is going on below ground.
initial front bed planting

During these first three times, though, I was doing something to help the yard.  Others might think I was purely being lazy, but it was an active choice, one I knew would eventually help the lawn.  I left the clippings on the ground.  

Instead of bagging up the grass clippings or composting them, I let the mower blow them straight back onto the ground.  By putting back the organic matter I had just removed, the grass clippings will break down over time, returning nutrients to the soil.

They will also (hopefully) help keep weed seeds from reaching the soil and taking hold as quickly.

Once summer comes in full force, having a layer of organic matter on top of the soil will also help in shading the ground, helping keep moisture loss lower than it might otherwise.

This seemingly little step may not sound like much.  However, over time it will begin to add up.  Any organic material I can add to the lawn will only help improve the soil, and thereby the plants and animals living there.

Another step I plan to take for the next mowing is to raise my mower as high as it will go.  Not only will this allow the grass to have larger leaves by which to absorb energy from the sun, but it will also help continue to shade out any other smaller plants (i.e. weeds) which decide to try to grow.

 

May 172017
 

how to tackle the challenges of a less than perfect garden collage

Each garden is unique in its challenges and abilities.  That is part of the fun, and frustration, of gardening.

Add in to this the fact that each gardener is different – desiring different things from their garden, using it differently, and having different abilities and time with which to dedicate their skills.  This is where we often find ourselves growing or letting go.

With our new yard, I was looking forward to a younger yard, one where perhaps the need to water and increase soil nutrients would be the biggest worries.

I was wrong.

While the previous owner took great care of the inside of the house, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that the outdoors were not where a lot of time was spent.  If there was time spent there, it was not on landscaping or improving soil quality.

The first time  I mowed was about 3 weeks after it should have been done.  It actually needed mowed the week I had surgery, the week after we had just taken a family vacation … it was not happening.  I had assumed I would be up for the task after a week or so of recovery.

Wrong again.

In order to mow the new yard, I had to load our non-selfpropelled lawn mower into the back of my car and drive it over there.  Then I had to unload it and push it around the yard.

“Take it easy and let others do things for you,” said the doc.  In other words, no lifting or pushing.  I assumed with it being the beginning of the season, I could get away with a few weeks off.

Wrong again.

By the time I was able to get to the lawn, here is what the backyard looked like:

new yard initial

Not exactly a monoculture of grass.  I was thankful it had not reached what I dub the “hay-mowing stage”, where all the grass is a lush 3 feet tall and you may as well buy a goat.

The weeds were/are still abundant and growing at a wonderful rate.  The soil you can see will easily tell you that topsoil is sorely missing.  Certain parts of the yard are getting too much water, while other sections are not getting enough sun. Other parts are doing great in regards to sun and water, but also have some serious weeds (beyond the standard crabgrass, dandelions, etc.)

So much for being an easy, challenge-free yard to begin our gardening adventure at the new house.

wet shaded yard initial

How are we going to tackle these challenge and turn them into something which will be productive and an asset?  While I do not have all the answers right at this moment, I do know one thing – small steps add up to big changes.

With that in mind I have decided to do those small steps, focusing on places where I can initially make the biggest impact or where the issue is something which can be handled quickly.  These small, high impact steps will help keep me moving forward.

#1 Choose a place to start, something which will make the biggest impact

First up – regular mowing, blowing the grass clippings back on the yard, as well as beginning a late spring garden.

By starting here I can remove one of the largest visual challenges.  It may not be the toughest thing to fix, but it will help me start feeling like the end is not impossible.

Also, by mowing, I am keeping this aspect from becoming a larger issue as the weeks pass.

Looking at planting calendars from my state’s colleges, I noticed it was not too late to start some of the vegetables we like.  What I did not have time for was to build a raised bed.

While out shopping one day, I noticed stacks of potting soil next to the cash registers.  I picked up a bag (and later another one), took it home and planted seeds. (more details to come).  This is probably the smallest garden I have had in over a decade.  Not really an issues, as I am not looking to provide all of our vegetables for the year.  My goal was to have a few fresh things now without causing too much work.

In a few months I will look into creating a late summer/fall garden.

to be continued …