Archive | June, 2015

Sheet Mulching Lawn #1

26 Jun
We mowed this lawn short and gave it a good, deep soak before we began the sheet mulch progress.

We mowed this lawn short and gave it a good, deep soak before we began the sheet mulch progress.

Our smallest and easiest to convert lawn is in the front of the house beside the driveway. It measures nearly 1000 square feet, has some lovely contours, a river rock face,  and backs up to some mature shrubs and conifers. It is clearly where we should begin, since it will not require any hardscape or permeable paths, other than a little track for the golf cart to go from driveway back to pump house and water tanks. Today we began prepping the site for planting at end of summer by sheet mulching.

Sheet mulching is a layered compost/mulch system that uses cardboard or newspapers as a barrier to help suffocate and decompose the lawn, without having to dig up the sod and haul it away, along with all the beneficial micro organisms that live in the top few inches of the soil. Compost and mulch are then layered on top of the weed barrier, mimicking the build up of leaves and debris on a forest floor. To plant trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals in the new planting medium, you simply cut holes in the mulch and cardboard. We plan to start planting in late August, when temps start to drop. The later the better, actually, and a lot of the mulch and cardboard will probably be decomposed by then,

Recycled cardboard creates a weed barrier and helps compost the lawn, preserving all of the micronutrients in the soil.

Recycled cardboard creates a weed barrier and helps compost the lawn, preserving all of the micro-organisms in the soil.

Nitrogen in mushroom compost helps cardboard break down.

Nitrogen in mushroom compost helps break down the carbon in the cardboard.

Wood chips cover cardboard and mushroom compost, about 5 inches deep in total.

Wood chips cover cardboard and mushroom compost, about 5 inches deep in total.

Sheet mulch ultimately creates a humus-rich soil where bacteria, fungi, and other micro-organisms can thrive and help make nutrients easily available to plants. The thick layer of mulch also discourages weeds and conserves moisture.

By the end of summer this converted lawn space will be composted and ready to plant with California natives and Mediterranean plants. Over the cooler months of fall, winter and spring, the plants will develop root systems that can endure our dry, hot summer weather with minimal irrigation, no maintenance, and no chemical fertilizers or herbicides which might run off into our creek and the aquifer that feeds our well.

And, by the way, even drought-tolerant plants need watering to get established, and a drip irrigation system is the most efficient way to deliver needed water. Fall planting is also advised to take advantage of cooler temperatures and the winter/spring rains.

If you are thinking about the SCVWD landscape rebate program, check out their irrigation hardware rebate offers, as well.

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Grass Gotta Go!

23 Jun

View from the pool...thirsty grass gotta go.

I learned of the Santa Clara Valley Water District Landscape Rebate Program last year and looked into the rules and requirements, but I didn’t proceed. Mainly because it seemed such a daunting task, given my limited knowledge of drought tolerant plants.

This year, when they extended the program, I visited a neighbor’s garden that had been converted from almost 9,000 square feet of lawn to California native plants. It looked nice enough, and when she showed me a copy of the check she received for $17,000 I became a believer. Money talks.

I did some more research, attended a public forum on the program and soon realized that not only would this incentive pay for the conversion, but there was clearly enough money built into the rebate that I could afford an expert to design the gardens. Limited knowledge problem solved.

Enter Deborah Cottingham, landscape designer, specializing in Native California and drought tolerant plants. Debbie has designed several “rebate ready” gardens and fully understands the program requirements. I visited her 2+ acre property a few weeks ago to get a first hand look at a mature native garden. It was dizzying!

A Hummingbird on Salvia clevelandii, Alpine Cleveland sage or Musk Sage from Las Pilitas Nursery

A Hummingbird on Salvia clevelandii, Alpine Cleveland sage or Musk Sage from Las Pilitas Nursery.

And so we have begun. Debbie has walked, measured and photographed two of my big lawns, and designed a beautiful, interesting, low maintenance, Water-wise Garden that will attract birds, butterflies and bees. I have begun to stockpile wood chips and hoard cardboard for sheet mulching (another blog), and I am familiarizing myself with all the plants she has chosen. Tomorrow I will submit my application to the Santa Clara Valley Water District, along with the landscape design, plant list and photos of the existing lawns. And wait. Until they approve. Until I get my Notice to Proceed. Or not. I am going to turn off the sprinklers and start digging tomorrow.

Hasta pronto!

Back to Blogging…New Topic

18 Jun

Oh  man! I have not posted a blog in 2 or more years.

When I was still WORKING…I used to break up my day by writing little stories and posting pictures about my LIFE. That included gardening, cooking, canning, preserving and travel in the motorhome. Now that I’ve retired, my LIFE has become taking care of the monster we’ve created with orchard, vegetable garden and chicken ranch.

These days it seems I mostly communicate via messaging, Facebook, and Instagram, and I rarely retreat to the back of the house where the big monitor and computer reside.

Tomorrow we are getting up at dark am to drive to the coast to get some laying hens. I’m also in the middle of converting 2 more lawns to native/drought resistant landscapes. I think I will share a bit of this. We are experiencing a severe drought here in California, and local water districts are offering some incentives to change. Even if they didn’t, I am learning a lot about a genre of plants that are much more interesting than green grass lawns.

Trying to recall how to add images and links to a blog. Let me know if you give a shit.