Information Number ten: Oh,
yes...this one runs rampant throughout gardening "expert"
media. Unbelievable as it seems or sounds, people who're supposed to
know better proclaim this insanity-destined-for-total-frustration-and-failure
nonsense all across the land of TV and printed gardening journalism, and
profit-motivated corporate advertising.
to believe that all we have to do to have a beautiful addition to our gardens
is, as printed above, just rototill a patch of lawn where you want
the new garden bed, add a little peatmoss and some miracle-working chemical
fertilizer and, presto!, our front yards will be the envy of all who
walk or drive by. If you've fallen for that line of stuff and nonsense, please
accept my deepest sympathy. Gardening, like life, is a learning process... but
this lesson, nearly beats all.
What's a right
way to begin a new garden bed in the middle of a lawn... or the middle of any
patch of actively growing lawn-like plants? First, consider:
majority of residential—and a great many public—lawns are little more than
a well-seasoned combination of a small percentage of legitimate turf grass mixed
with ample amounts of exquisitely invasive vacant-lot weeds with deep,
re-sprouting roots and far-reaching under- and over-ground stolons (runners).
Those roots and runners, when chopped into tiny pieces by tiller tines will, with unimaginable
speed, produce hundreds (if not thousands) of new weeds with a
dedicated goal and
destiny of returning the would-be garden patch to "lawn". Add to
that the presence of layers of very viable grass and weed seeds, and
the misadventure escalates into a disaster.
So, the obvious
solution—before anything else is done—is to first remove as many of
those roots, runners and seeds as is humanly possible. That's done by scalping
the marked-out plot with a mower set to its lowest cutting height and
collecting everything possible in the grass catcher (think carefully
about where you're planning to dump the collected chaff!).
Now, using a
sharpened spade (a square-edged one is best), slice at least 2" of the
surface of the now-scalped "lawn" and either toss it across the back
fence or use it to fill in bare spots or low areas. Watch carefully for
dandelion roots...and dig out as much of those as you can, leaving nothing
behind. Also dispatch any grubs and wireworms (but not earthworms) that
you find in the process.
gas up the rototiller! And don't forget to add ample quantities of sterilized
compost, some sand (if the soil is not clay), some lime if necessary, and whatever fertilizer you prefer.
Once the soil
is totally rejuvenated and the ingredients thoroughly mixed in, install your
plants. Finish it off with an attractive, weed-free, mulch of shredded bark or
leaves, or fresh, correctly made compost.
recommend reading: Soil Preparation—Doing
it Right the First Time!, and the Special
Report on Composting,
or Fred's book, Keys
to the Garden Gate