So here’s the thing about winter. It creates plenty of time to think up ways to add more plants to the garden. But the only way to do that is to dig out more grass. SSHHH…don’t tell my husband. Guys and their grass. I find it’s better for marital harmony if I dig a new bed while he’s at work rather than discuss it with him first and hear a litany of reasons why he needs that area. Especially since he’s prone to complaining about having to cut it in the first place! The way I see it, I’m doing him a giant favor while at the same time, assuaging my addiction. It’s a win-win.
You have three options for grass removal:
- Cover the area with cardboard and allow the grass and weeds to die, which takes far longer than I care to wait.
- Spray the heck out of it with turf killer. That’s definitely out.
- Till it, but I don’t own a tiller
- Remove it by hand. Bingo! The is my method of choice for its cost effectiveness and retention of most of the good bits and pieces.
Since I’m only working small spaces here, it’s a little less daunting doing this by hand than it would be if I had a whole front yard to rip up. I like to bite things off in small chunks so I bit off the sideyard on the east side of the house a few weeks ago using this by-hand soil removal method. Having a landscaper come in and shave it off with a turf remover would be another option, but I have a budget and if I hire someone, that’s less I have for plants to fill this space I’ve dreamed of all winter. More importantly, I’m saving precious topsoil and a whole lot of earthworms, although there were a few who died sacrificially by way of a very sharp hori-hori knife that later on, after I shot the how-to video, sliced into my thumb. It wasn’t pretty.
The whole point of this very tiresome work is to save what little topsoil I have. Our home was built almost 20 years ago on land that used to be farmed by a very prominent family from our area. When the builder bought the land, he scraped off what was probably some pretty good soil, sold it at a premium, then back-filled each new construction with Play-Doh. Then they polished each lot with about an inch of topsoil. And you know the old saying about polishing up a turd. It’s still a turd.
Given that I haven’t gardened in the sideyard much until now, almost 20 years after we bought the house, it’s had many years for the earthworms to tunnel in and poop (sorry for another poop reference here but to a gardener, it’s truly fascinating and a great soil amendment provided it’s the right kind) their little heads off. I’m happy that when I began pulling up grass, there were so many of them. Which is why I want to save this topsoil they’ve worked so hard to improve and retain as many microorganisms as possible that would otherwise take centuries to rebuild naturally. I don’t have that kind of time.
Since this area is washed in morning sun and afternoon shade, I hope to fill this small space with texture, interesting foliage colors and shapes, as well as plenty of hellebores. I’m so enamored with them for their ability to thrive in this ridiculous soil and their downward facing flowers for which I am more than happy to get down on my knees to look up into these shy beauties.
What’s your sideyard like?