Apr 102015

Get the right tools for pruning your roses

by A. Non Y. Mous

A good friend sent this little gem to me.  I wanted to share it. Especially now that our governor, Jerry Brown, has declared war on lawns due to the extreme drought in California. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Then if you want to get rid of your lawn, we can talk about replacing it will low water use flowers and shrubs and some delicious edibles. I consult by skype and photos.

Of Lawns and God

GOD: St. Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there in the USA? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistles and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honeybees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.

ST. FRANCIS: It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers “weeds” and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

GOD: Grass? But it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It’s temperamental! Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it, sometimes twice a week.

GOD: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

ST. FRANCIS: No, sir — just the opposite. They pay to throw it away!

GOD: Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

ST. FRANCIS: Yes, sir.

GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

ST. FRANCIS: You aren’t going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It’s a natural circle of life.

ST. FRANCIS: You’d better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

GOD: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

GOD: And where do they get this mulch?

ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD: Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

ST. CATHERINE: “Dumb and Dumber,” Lord. It’s a real stupid movie about . . .

GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.  Source: Unknown

Edible landscaping

This was a lawn and now it’s not.

Apr 192012

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Blue Forget Me Nots

Weeds come in many disguises like this invasive Forget me Not

This always happens every Spring. I think I’m on top of the jobs I need to do in the garden, and then boom, I look out the window and the weeds have grown overnight like the bean in Jack and the Beanstalk. Although some of them actually look kind of pretty, like these Forget-me-Nots. This innocuous looking plant is actually an aggressive, invasive plant. Have you ever tried pulling out these “innocuous” plants when they’ve gone to seed? Their seeds stick to you like glue and it can take hours to get them off your clothes and socks.

In general we mean a plant is a weed when we don’t want it in the garden at all, or at least not where it has shown up.  Certain plants are always unwanted.  These are the category of pernicious weeds such as poison oak, creeping morning glory, bermuda grass and the plants that are harmful to you or impossible to get rid of. Let me  say right off the bat, that I never use chemical poisons. Weeds in my yard need to be removed by hand, digging them out, or by barriers to cover them and keep them from getting sunlight, or by spraying them with nontoxic potions, such as, Dr Earth Weed and Grass Herbicide or vinegar/soap/ solutions. (Use white vinegar: Add 2 tablespoons of dish soap to vinegar. Pour this mixture in a spray bottle. Spray your weeds!)

In his book, On Good Land: Autobiography of an Urban Farm, Michael Abelman wrote this great bit on weeds.  “When dealing with “weeds,” timing is especially critical.  Remember that “weeds” are merely plants out of place and that weed competition is primarily a problem in the early stages of crop development.

“Three things resolve weed competition easily: early cultivation, the right tool and attitude.  The goal is to never weed but to cultivate.  Cultivation aerates the soil around the plants, and cuts off or buries young tender weeds.  If you have to actually weed, your are too late and will have created far more work for yourself.”

Don’t be too late – start weeding now!

If you want to find some great tasting heirloom tomatoes, Burpee is having a sale. You can get them on special just through this site:$10 off orders of $40 or more with code AFFTOFF thru 4/23 at Burpee.com!


My favorite tools for cultivating weeds out of your garden:

Long handled hoe

Best use of time and energy - use this hoe early and often

The Hoe : This long handled, double edge weeder, lets you go back and forth for most efficient use.  When the weeds are young and the blade is sharp, you just put it lightly below the soil surface and it cuts them off cleanly, leaving them in the ground.  You don’t have to bend over and it is easy on the back.

Corona Clipper SH61000 Diamond Hoe

The Triangle Hoe: I use this hoe to go between plants that are close together, especially good in vegetable beds and flower beds. Like all other cutting tools, you should keep the blade sharp.

Truper 30002 Tru Tough 54-Inch Welded Warren Hoe, 4-3/4-Inch Head, Wood Handle

Long handled triangle hoe

Great for tight places: vegetables and flowers. The Triangle Hoe $22.99

Hori Hori Japanese Weeding Tool

The Hori Hori: This strong tool is useful for many tasks $27.95

Japanese Hori Hori Garden Landscaping Digging Tool With Stainless Steel Blade & Sheath

Hand Weeding: The Japanese Weeding Knife: Hori Hori Tool

I love this tool and use it all the time. It’s good for weeding, planting, and scarifying the soil. I have a confession, though. I put it down in the garden about 6 months ago and can’t find it. I know it’s there and am sure each day that it will turn up. I’m afraid I’ll have to get another one.  Is there a GPS tracking app for lost hand tools?

SPRAYS: Usually a last resort, sometimes we have to go there.  For particularly pernicious weeds like poison oak, bindweed and bermuda grass I use Dr Earth Weed and Grass Herbicide.  Ingredients include Citric Acid, Cinnamon Oil, Clove Oil, Soybean Oil, Rosemary Oil, Sesame Oil, and Thyme Oil. You can buy this from Organic Green Roots, which donates a portion of every sale to school gardens.

Safe weed spray

Sep 232011
A thick ground cover keeps the weeds out

Dragon's Blood Sedum makes a thick ground cover to keep weeds out (click to enlarge)

In this post I want to address the issue of weed barriers.  Most garden supply stores will sell rolls of weed cloth made from polyethylene. It may have holes to allow water and air through it, but it is not biodegradable and will not break down.  It will break up, however, leaving you with lots of torn pieces of useless plastic in your yard.  It keeps the weeds down for a short while, but soon, the mulch you’ve put down to cover it, will turn to soil and weed seeds will blow in and grow on top of the plastic.

(Two exceptions: Gardener’s Supply sells Biodegradeable Sheeting. icon Amazon sells a biodegradable paper mulch too. )

When planting an area that you don’t want weeds in, think of planting a ground cover that grows thickly and will make what we call a living mulch. The more your soil is covered the less trouble you’ll have with weeds. In the short period of time it takes for the plants to fill in, you will probably have to do some weeding by hand. Over time this will soon drop to almost zero weeding.

The plant in the photo at the top of the post, is a very low growing ground cover in the Sedum family.  It will grow thickly, need little care and prevent weeds from sprouting. Another type of ground cover is a low growing herbaceous shrub like the Ceonothus griseus, pictured below.  One plant can spread to 8 – 10 feet in diameter.  It needs little water, and grows to about 2′ high. You can see how dense it is.  No weed barrier, no weeds, just a very nice planting.

Ceanothus griseus - thick ground cover

This creeping Ceanothus grows quickly and thickly


The weed barriers that I like to use the most are cardboard, old sheets, towels and blankets and even old rugs. Most people are shocked when I tell them my paths are covered in old sheets.  These materials definitely keep the weeds from growing, but they are also biodegradable and will eventually go back into the soil. This means they don’t last forever, but they’re free, garden worthy and will improve your garden, not harm it.

Sheets and towels under path keep the weeds from growing

Path with chips, covering the weed barrier made of old sheets

In paths I peg the material down on the leveled path and then cover it with chips.You can see in the picture on the left that the casual path can look very nice with free chips that one can get from your local tree trimmer.

When deciding which weed barrier to use, always ask yourself what the long term effects will be. Which is the best for the garden, the planet, and your pocket book. In the case of old cotton sheets and chips, it’s a win – win situation for you and your edible landscape.


P.S. If you prefer to use custom made fabrics for your sheet mulching, Amazon and Gardeners Supply
icon sell some good products. Both of these links I’ve provided will take you directly to fabrics for sheet mulching.

Aug 302011

Easy compost bin (click to enlarge)

Let me tell you that composting is one of the greatest things you can do in the garden.  It’s the hidden treasure at your house.  First of all, the ingredients are FREE.  They are the scraps from your kitchen, the weeds you throw away, the prunings, scrapings and left overs from your garden.  Usually, people throw them in the garbage, put them in the green bin or worst of all, put them in PLASTIC Bags and then throw them away. Yikes!

Why would you throw away your greatest asset?  Because you didn’t realize that what looks like garbage will be turned into gold.  It’s easy to do and you’ll love the results.

Inside my compost bin

I’ve been using this compost bin for about 20 years.  I never turn it, water it, or futz with it.  I just throw those kitchen scraps inside it and cover them with some dry leaves, weeds or a little sawdust.  You need to pay little attention to what you put in the bin, because there needs to be a combination of wet and dry elements.  Too wet and it gets all mushy, too dry and it doesn’t break down.

Don’t put noxious things in the pile like bermuda grass, poison oak or ivy or noxious weed seed. Unless your compost gets very hot, it won’t kill these pesky plants.

It may take a little time to break down, but as I like to say, “Life composts”. Eventually everything organic breaks down.  It’s just a matter of time.

The indoor compost holder

This is the can I use in the kitchen to hold my food scraps until I put them outside. It looks good, holds several days worth of food and has NO odor or flies. With the foot pedal I have two hands free to scrape the bowls.  Nobody would even know you are hiding old food in the kitchen.

I call this guilt free living.  Have you ever looked in your refrigerator and found bags of old, rotten lettuce, or food in containers with blue green mold? Have you felt guilty about throwing away good food? Well, never again, because all that good stuff is going into the compost and then into your garden to feed your plants. Definitely a win-win situation.

There is more to learn about composting, but the most important thing to do is get started!


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