Expanding the Flower Beds
August 21, 2007
I managed to expand one of my flower beds by 4 feet over a period of three days this weekend, using the sheet mulching technique I mentioned earlier.
DAY 1 – ROCK REMOVAL
We pretty much took a whole day just to remove the existing rock wall, piling them up in the middle of the backyard. Some of these rocks were buried quite deep into the soil, perhaps as a form of weed barrier. This was all that was done on Day 1 – it was hard work.
DAY 2 – PREPARATION & EXECUTION
I started out the day removing packing tape from all the boxes I scrounged from my work. I had been stressing over where I was going to find enough newspapers in time for the start of this project that I completely forgot about the new shipment of computers we had received. This part was slow, fiddly and awkward.
Before I could even start envisioning my new beds, I had to move the arbour and flagstones and clear them out of the way. The arbour was only dug into the ground about a foot so it was really easy to get it out. Moving it as one whole structure was really difficult. I found a lot of ants under the flagstones.
This is about half the pile of flagstones that came out of the pathway. Some of them were really heavy.
We repositioned the arbour so that it was aligned to the house, roughly in the middle of the house and the fence. We kept walking back and forth with this thing, trying to get the right “feeling” of where it should be. Things went a lot quicker when I was told that it didn’t have to be perfect.
I hadn’t fully committed to any design for the new bed, I just knew that I wanted it to be wider so that I would have room to play around with height and depth. I brought out a long extension cord and played around with an evenly-wavy and oddly-wavy pathway. Nothing really looked right and after a while I decided on a straight line on the right and a curved line on the left side. I brought out the whipper snipper and cut the grass as low as I could get it. I then watered it heavily, making about two or three passes to get it good and soaked. We started laying down a thin layer of used coffee grinds.
That layer got watered and then it was time to lay down the cardboard.
I had a stash of newspapers that I used to fill out the sides and underneath where the cardboard had slits. After we laid down the cardboard, we dug in some edging. I took some landscaping fabric, cut it in half length-wise and used it to cram down into the edging that we had made. I had read that you could cut up plastic rug covers but I decided to use the landscaping fabric.
About halfway through the day I realized that I should get some black earth and peat moss as the leaf compost was too fine a particulate and needed some more body to help it retain moisture. I picked up 12 bags of black earth and one large bag of peat moss for $37.80 CDN.
The backyard looked terrible.
I watered the cardboard and started to spread the leaf compost. The paper leaf and yard waste bags that I had used to transport the compost from the facility started to fall apart. We ended up with a lot of compost on the garage floor. The beds were coming along nicely.
Next came the rocks and I folded the landscaping fabric onto the compost and laid the rocks on top. Hopefully this will reduce the amount of pesky grass and weeds that try to grow around it.
This was the end of Day 2. I had worked pretty steadily from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. It was looking good.
DAY 3 – FINISHING UP
The next day, after dragging myself out of bed, I started dumping the bags of black earth at regular intervals. There were big chunks that I had to break up.
After I spread that on top, I dumped shovelfuls of peat moss. This stuff was really fine and dusty.
I spread the peat most evenly and started to work the layers together with a garden rake, trying to fold the layers into each other to make a good mix. It was hard not to pull up the cardboard underneath so this part had to go slow.
We lined up the rest of the rocks along the edge and then stood back and looked at all our hard work. The beds are now 5.5 ft wide along the length of the side fence and also extend about five feet on the back fence. Here is the before shot:
And here is the after:
I now get to work on the beds beside the edge of the deck, along the side of the house and at the front of the house. I’m out of cardboard, used coffee grinds, peat moss and black earth and only have 3 bags left of leaf compost. The total cost for this project was $61.80 and countless hours of manual labour prior and during the project.