Summer is cooking along and I’ve been mulling over my own garden. I moved into my new home last winter. Its a darling vintage bungalow on a corner lot in the Avenues. Pistache and Hackberry trees planted in the parkway strips grace the front yard with dappled shade. The back yard gets the most sun (great for the veggies) and has a shaded patio to keep me cool. The dirt is deep and fertile. And, the house came with a LOT of beautiful, green lawn. Such potential! I’m starting with the front yard: it has everything I need to create my own artsy-funky, highly visible native/edible demonstration garden.
First step: scare the neighbors. Nothing catches the attention of passersby quite so quickly as burying a thriving front lawn under six inches of wood chips. I had to stifle a chuckle when Pam, who walks her two pups by my house daily, summed up our post-burial conversation with a sigh of relief.
“Ohhhhhh . . . so you are going to put some plants in again.”
Yes, I am. The brown look is just a means toward the goal. The wood chips, and the sturdy layer of newspapers beneath them, are a low-tech way to kill lawn known as sheet mulching. Sheet mulching works in gardens that receive partial to full shade. In the fall, when the grass is composted, I’ll start rebuilding my yard. I’ll add fun stuff like a low fence to
define my space, an arbor over the front walk, a small patio of recycled concrete in the shadiest corner, and lots and lots of plants. The parkway strip will be all natives. The sunny side yard will have edibles like grapes and fruit trees. In the front yard, natives will reign again except for the sliver right up against the north side of the house where shade loving shrubs, survivors from my home’s previous life, will remain where they’ve been growing happily for years. Sometime next year, the neighbors will be smiling again.