My front "lawn"
Let's talk about lawns. I hate lawns. I think they are boring, flat, and take too much maintenance and watering. I hate mowing the lawn. I hate edging the lawn. I hate watering the lawn, in fact I don't water the lawn so it dies and then I don't have to mow it. Lawns suck.
I have dug up most of the front lawn at my house, much to my neighbors' surprise and puzzlement. Slowly, but surely, all of the front lawn will be gone. I've dug it all the old fashioned way, with a shovel.
My front "lawn" is now a virtual jungle of sweet peas, blueberries, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, beans, hops, pumpkin, zucchini, acorn squash, pear trees, an apple tree, sunflowers, and lots of perennials. People walk by and ask, "Is that corn? And pumpkin?" They often stop and point to various parts of my yard, chatting with their friend about what I'm growing on my small city lot. I love it! As I walk around my beautiful town, I see front yard veggie gardens springing up everywhere. The Eat Local Movement is alive and thriving. And since pesticides are banned in my town, I know that these veggie gardens are pesticide-free, safe and healthy to eat. Now that my neighbors have seen what my "lawn" has become, they are enjoying the sweet pea bouquets and the thought of fresh corn to come!
A pumpkin basking in the summer sun in the front yard.
I've pondered the "magic" of fertilizer over the years I've been gardening, always mystified by the numbers, pretty packages, NPK, price, and advice from the sages. While the "blue stuff" seems so easy to use, my gut told me that this wasn't the way. How can something that color be good for my soil and my plants? I knew there was a better way, more in tune with Mother Nature, but it all seemed so complicated. I didn't know where to start and felt overwhelmed.
I've been using aged horse manure for the past 4 years. It's been great to keep the soil fluffy and more workable, but my plants seemed to need a little more out of life. I've used my own homemade compost in the veggie patch, but this year encountered a HUGE problem with forget-me-nots and tomato volunteers. Of course, this will not stop me from composting, I'll just be more careful in "cooking" it better. The organic fish compost I used this year has been by far the best for the plants, but it's really expensive and won't last all gardening season.
So, what's an organic girl to do? Enter "Gardening When it Counts", by Steve Solomon. He presents a formula for a "Complete Organic Fertilizer" which seemed fairly simple. I found all the ingredients at our local feed supply store, a short bike ride away, measured it out, mixed it up, and Bob's your uncle, it worked! My hops were looking a little sad but after the application of the COF, it perked right up. This is the first time I've tried this kind of fertilizer and it seems to make sense for organic gardening. I think Mother Nature would approve.
Here's the version of the COF mix I used:
4 parts of canola meal
1/4 part agricultural lime
1/4 part gypsum
1/2 part dolomite lime
1 part rock phosphate
I think I need to research the canola meal though, to make sure it's not genetically modified or I'll move to using kelp meal or guano. I'd love to hear from anyone else that uses this formula or variations of.
Next year I think I'll use a combination of horse manure, compost, fish compost, seaweed, COF. I want fluffy, happy, safe, and productive soil for my green lovelies! It's all about balance and long term care for the soil....
Ever wonder what 4 yards of fish compost looked like?
This year I finally "bucked-up" and ordered a (partial) dump truck load of fish compost. Yes, it was expensive, and yes, it was worth it. I did some research and found a local company that had OMRI certified fish compost, and they delivered.
Challenge #1: my back gate is about 3 inches too narrow for the dump truck to back in. Thus, too small tarp + gravel driveway = difficulty shovelling. I know I'll be picking gravel bits out from my garden beds for years to come.
Challenge #2: back injuries do not go well with shovelling anything. In September I was hit by a truck while riding my bike home from the local Farmer's Market. My jam survived, but my back is still recovering, thankfully I was wearing a helmet. As a result, this Spring I have had to "take it easy". Which means using a wheelbarrow more than ever and only shovelling for short stints in between stretching and massage and physio appointments. It's taken a LONG time to move this pile of compost.
Challenge #3: I work full time, which really gets in the way of my gardening!
The compost does a number of good things in the garden:
- smothers the weeds
- fertilizes the plants organically
- absorbs heat
- holds water
- makes going to the gym unnecessary
- looks good (if I do say so myself)
I don't think I'll get this much compost every year, it was a big job but my plants are already loving it. My irises and columbines are over 4 feet tall now. Next year I will go back to my friend who has horses, they make it fresh every day!
Chantel, self proclaimed gardening nerd, tomato propagator extrordinaire, compost queen and friend to worms. I'm the Irish Faerie of the garden, spreading organic compost on my urban plot with the wave of my shovel and the rumble of my wheelbarrow. Pottager is my style in the tangled garden. Food not lawn is my mantra as I tear up my front lawn in favor of blueberries, pears, pumpkins, corn, squash and beans. I water by rainbarrels when I can, I fertilize with the "good stuff", my dad's word for manure, and I only use people-powered machines - a shovel, a reel lawn mower, a rake, and loppers. I'm learning to embrace, with love, the buttercup invasion, slugs and the pooping neigborhood cats. I don't have a conventional garden, it lacks total organization and structure, but it's all organic, all fun, slightly ridiculous, and all mine! Come on over, I'd love to show you around!
Recent posts by Chantel
- Ingrid wrote, "I'm with you Chantel! I think lawns are boring too. I got rid of my front lawn... it took 3..." on Gimme Green!
- Jackie wrote, "Chantel, This is very cool, you should start an initiative at our job! I followed the facebook link. Great to..." on Gimme Green!
- gary wrote, "I LOVE it!! lol What a good job you have done. I have always wanted to do what you have..." on Gimme Green!