Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lawn Overdue!

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 honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family. KCB can also be found at her awesome Finishing Touches website.

From my 3rd floor perch, I look out to Casco Bay. Okay, just wanted to remind myself why I moved back to a building that seems to sway as much as the waves when the wind erupts. March hasn’t even come in but the Lion and Roar has come to roost on the hill I call home.

Not all my gazes are outward; I look down upon some very clever plots of land. Once upon a grassy patch now are hardscapes for sitting and grilling, garden beds for color, interest, fragrance even eating. For the natural and playful need of the 4-legged inhabitants, grass enough. I’m not saying these back, side or front yards would accommodate a child’s play set, a self-contained dog park or longed after pool. Nevertheless, these city oases are more than adequate for their intended need. Not a city dweller? Suburban and rural folk alike can create a multiuse yard of their own.

We do more living out of doors than that of our parents yet most of our landscapes are not too distant cousins. Most expansive lawns are underutilized. With this realization does the pain of mowing and maintaining a lawn make you wish for Condo life? Why not compromise.

True, I do not include lawn maintenance as part of my services so why not utilize my talents more and theirs less. Financial gain aside, gardens will cost the homeowner less in the long run. Eliminating a lawn all together may only appeal to a certain few. David, a friend of mine, found this worked for him. (Check out David's garden blog at A Garden in Maine).The front of his house is a never ending surprise of color and interest from early spring through frost. What I am advocating is the suggestion of decreasing your lawn and increasing the utilitarian aspects of your outerscapes. Additionally, as referenced in my last post, more ecologically friendly.

As a do-it-yourselfer within a year I am sure you will agree. Less grass for mowing means less gas for the mower. Selling the riding for a small self-propelled may bring a small windfall.

One deck or patio may equate to too much togetherness. Others frolic in the pool and you long to sit out of doors in solitude. Do much more than drag the chair to another corner of your yard, have a cozy corner ready for your waiting.

Is it possible to capture romance for 2 while the teenagers are parading the patio during their pizza party? Yes, you may dine alfresco with friend or partner far enough away to converse in private and close enough to keep an eye on the gang. Create the mood and the space with a bistro table upon a few flat pavers or crushed stone. Add a chiminea or portable fire pit to morph ‘your spot’ to a place where after dinner coffee or stronger beverages are enjoyed when the nights begin to chill.

All the scenarios may be appealing; creating all these vignettes most likely is not practical, at least not at first. Over the next few months I hope to post instructions for expanded outdoor rooms. For those who appreciate my more frivolous aspect of life as a gardener, I could never give up on writing these.

There is a beginning for everything. So where and how? Assuming the bones are in place; flower and/or vegetable beds, a patio, deck or other hard and solid space for chilling, grilling and fun-filling! What you are about to create are the accessories added to a much loved outfit.

Whenever I anticipate changing lawn to bed, or transforming any part thereof, I begin by saving newspaper. (We talked about using newspaper as garden mulch a couple of years ago at the Skillin's Garden Log) Not the glossy or overly colored pages. So happens I only purchase the Sunday Paper which serves more than adequate. I get all my neighborhood news and activities from the local free publications. These are added to my pile. For bigger projects I may resort to purchasing wrapping paper used for moving. Only the largest projects had mandated this requirement. Think twice before you recycle, especially before you throw. A large plastic storage bin not only makes your collection neat but also adds ease when carrying it to your destination.

The next step(s) will require forethought. Define the purpose. Think back to when you were outside this past summer. Did you long for a shady nook to read? Was a napping spot between 2 trees important? While you worked at the kitchen sink did you think how much less like work it would seem if your view was a shock of colorful plantings instead of a burned lawn?

Check your journal for any notations such as “When kids are home from college wish John and I had our own outdoor spot” or “I’d love a hot tub but our deck/patio is already too crowded.” Perhaps “I would so much prefer deadheading and playing in the dirt to mowing a lawn only the dog uses.” Let this be the year you keep current flowering beds as they are. Chances are you just add to them just because you can. Oh, do not forsake them; just allow them to be part of a bigger and better picture.

The minimal snowfall this season is perfect for laying down the foundations. Choose a spot that you wish to de-grass. Lay 3-4 layers of newspaper to cover the area. Normally I dampen as I cover but this may not be possible during the frosty months. If you have extra bags of organic garden soil or compost stored, haul them to serve as paper weights. Your local family- owned garden center or nursery often have bags in back rooms. Call ahead to have them ready. Too complicated, extra stones or bricks will also serve. You have just gotten a head start on the season. How good does that feel?

Shortly after your first new space is created you too will think this was lawn over-due.

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
February 24, 2010

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