Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New Beds by KCB

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are proud to tell you that KCB rules as the 2008 Maine Master Gardener of the Year. And we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

Wouldn’t be great if we could have the sleep number bed for our garden beds? Simply push a button and the preferred comfort level would appear. Mattresses allow for our comfort and ultimate good health that is brought about by a good night’s sleep. A flower bed allows for the comfort and ultimate good health of the ornamentals and or/vegetable plants we want to enjoy via mouth or site.

Often when I’m improving the look of an existing landscape I subtly change the existing flower bed. A gentle curve, the addition of a few inches or feet often makes a considerable difference. Some of my clients have opted for less lawn, more ornamental plantings. Perhaps a vegetable patch or a kitchen garden to grow herbs. The thought of eliminating sod (grass) to allow for new plantings once intimidated the heck out of me. Not being fond of tilling a small patch of earth, I would dig by hand. The process took several weeks. No longer. It is as if I discovered the fountain of youth.

Recently the Skillin’s garden log offered an excellent instruction on creating a raised bed. I will not duplicate that. I’m talking about a simple garden bed all prepared for planting. Little effort, lots of results. It all stems on one major component….newspaper!

This magical elixir happens to arrive on the coat tails of the shrinking daily news. Gone are the days that you would need to lift weights before attempting to carry home the Sunday Paper. Not to fret, there are plenty of free newsy periodicals to get your hands on.

So, how do these inky pages create new beds? So easy, my friend.

I no longer recycle my papers in the usual way. I also ask clients to begin hording once they have completed the cross word or word game of the day. Glossy or heavily inked print can still be relegated to the recycle bin. Once I only utilized the black and white pages however I have incorporated colored print into my beds.

Step one, mark off the new bed. I’m not known for straight lines so a free form spray of lining spray paint works. A flexible garden hose is also useful. For a more crisp, formal and straight line use string tied to wooden stakes.

Cut through sod with a sharp flat end spade or half-moon edger. I use the spade. Make cuts approximately 4 inches deep at an angle pushing sod toward the inside of the bed. To keep weeds at bay and kill existing grass, lay newspaper strips or whole pages to cover the area that represents the new or expanded bed. I usually over lay 4-5 pages. Wet paper as you go to keep in place. For large areas you may have to work in sections. Top paper with a mixture of bagged loam and organic compost to a depth of 4 inches. Coast of Maine Penobscot blend and Jolly Gardener Top Soil are my bagged material of choice.

Once soil/compost blend is in place water again. Within a day or 2 you may begin to plant. You will be able to cut through newspaper to install any perennials, annuals, shrubs and even bulbs. Over time the newspaper will break down allowing for more plant material to be installed. The bonus is the earth worm activity that will be generated. Time after time I have been totally impressed and puzzled as to how these gardening beneficial beings suddenly appear where once there were none.

I have created countless beds this way. Gone are the days of toiling for hours hand digging clumps of sod or renting a rotatiller I admit, I haven’t used this technique for massive vegetable beds. I’m just pleased it has worked for what I have needed. And sometimes that is the best thing of all…………………

for Skillin's Greenhouses
June 3, 2009

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