Laying the Foundation for the Garden

If you’re a logical person, you might think this post would be about the second step of installing a fence. Surprise! At this point in the process, I was getting antsy about smothering all the little seedlings and what was left of the grass after TillerMania 2018. Before I worked on anything else, I wanted to lay down some top quality smother.

For the removal of my lawn, I used a combination of two techniques:  digging it up (with the tiller), and smothering/composting.

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Who’s ready to get smothered?!

But wait! I realized, with smothering materials in hand, that I should proooobably lay out my paths first, since I’m planning on using mulch in the gardens and gravel along the paths. To separate the paths, I got about 160 feet of the cheapest edging, which is 4-inches tall and plastic. Unlike most of the easier-to-use edging out there, digging a trench is required.

Ugh. This project has had so much digging.

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*wipes hand across sweaty brow* One side of the path is done.

With the path laid out, I could finally get to smothering the lawn. I worked on one side of the yard first, then the other. Working alone on a big project like this, you really do have to divide it up into smaller portions to keep from getting totally overwhelmed.

Now, I know a lot of people use weed fabric under their gardens. I’ve never been a fan of weed fabric, though, because it’s expensive and blocks some bio-friendly processes. Earthworms may avoid the area, leading to compacted soil, and the fabric prevents mulch and other organic matter (i.e. dead leaves) from returning to the soil to decompose.

Astute readers may notice in my photos that I’ve used weed cloth in the non-plant areas – the dry creek bed and the paths. I needed something more durable in those places, and I wasn’t worried about having mulch decompose back into the soil since, ya know, those areas had rock.

One fact I had to accept when undertaking this project, though, is that I will be constantly battling grass and weeds, for at least the first year or several. In that regard, it didn’t really matter what I put down under the mulch, as long as it was thick enough to block sunlight.

Instead of weed fabric in the garden areas, I’ve experimented with layering thick brown contractor’s paper in my gardens (thanks, previous owners, for leaving a roll!). The trick is finding paper that’s thick enough to block the light and smother the weeds but will still break down within a few seasons.  Paper is also cheaper than weed cloth. This 3ft by 140ft roll is $11.98. A similar price ($12.98) nets you only 50 ft of weed cloth in the same width. If you’re doing a whole yard, the costs really starting to add up. I ended up using over 400 feet of paper to cover my yard, between overlapping edges and working with weird corners.

**Do not order “thick” kraft paper from places like Amazon. I did that and it was way too thin. Your paper should resemble the thickness of construction paper.”

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The process is super straight-forward:  roll out some paper, dump a few inches of mulch on the paper, repeat until your yard is covered. I buried the plastic edging 1-2 inches in the ground and piled up the mulch until it was level with the top.

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I used bricks to weigh down the paper while I ferried a bazillion bags of mulch to my front yard.

It’s been more than a week since I smothered the first half of my yard. So how well has this held up?

Ehhhhh.

Remember the italicized warning about thin kraft paper? That’s what I used on the first half of the yard. We had a day or two of heavy rain. I did a minor bit of tromping around the mulch. All too soon, the thin paper fell apart and little leaves of grass peeked through. At first, I thought it’d be manageable with selective grass killer (I hate using herbicides, but this seemed like the best option). But eventually, so much sprouted that I ended up raking back the mulch and replacing the paper with the thicker contractor’s paper.

But we should be good now.

I hope.

Up next, I’ll be installing the rails and pickets, all while a major music festival draws thousands of people to my neighborhood to gawk while I flail at lumber! Yahoo!

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< Step 3:  Installing a Fence: the First Step (also, tearing out bushes!)

Step 5:  Installing a Fence: Time to Get Railed >

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