Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
July, 2004
Regional Report

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Create a new bed in a hurry by sheet composting.

Organic Mechanics

Henry Tenenbaum's garden in San Mateo is a source of pride to me. We use the garden as a backdrop to demonstrate various gardening techniques on the local television show I produce called Henry's Garden. Garden experts from all over the country gather here to share their unique bits of information and knowledge. Recently, author Pam Peirce was on hand to illustrate the kinds of plants she has included in her new book, Wildly Successful Plants. Father Dom, of Father Dom's Duck Doo and Dr. Earth were both in the garden earlier this spring to demonstrate their products.

As Henry continually points out to me, a television garden is different from a home garden, and therein lies the rub. My idea of a garden is a place of refuge and solace, with beauty as an secondary benefit.
Henry and his wife Melanie are planning a big outdoor party that is coming up very soon. I want the garden to look as perfect as possible, especially since many of the guests had never been to Henry's garden before.

The fact that the show is called Henry's Garden might indicate that the garden is more lush and attractive than your average backyard. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's obvious to me that we are going to have to take some drastic measures to get the garden in shape before the party.

Innovative Solutions
The weedy patch under the play structure has been driving me crazy for months. The nut sedge growing there is totally out of control. No matter how many times have I pulled it out, dug it up or sprayed it with the organic vinegar solution, it comes right back. With the party looming, I have decided to simply cover that area with old carpet and put down a layer of fresh mulch. My plan is that it will look like a million bucks for very little effort and even less money! And with the nut sedge buried under the carpet, it shouldn't ever be a problem again. Should we decide to put raised beds in that area later on, all we have to do is scrape away the mulch, cut a hole in the carpet and plant.

I have used the same type of solution along the south side of the garden, near the house. The lawn in the back yard was a big square, not very appealing especially since it isn't in great shape. Oxalis, Bermuda, and moss run riot. To reduce the overall size of the lawn and to give the garden a more landscaped look, I used a technique called sheet mulching. I laid down thick pads of damp newspaper over the existing grass. Once I achieved the desired contour, I covered the paper with a 4- to 6-inch layer of mulch. I then dug through the sheet mulch to plant. The newspaper prevents the grass from growing through the mulch, but allows moisture and oxygen to reach down into the soil. I even got a segment from our labors for the show!

The garden looks much better, and hopefully the guests won't look too closely under the rug!

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