Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How do (should) I define sustainability in the garden? – Part II – My Own Gardening Practices

For the record and in the spirit of disclosure, here is what has happened in my own very tiny garden, beginning Autumn 2006. A flagstone patio replaced St. Augustine lawn in the front garden. The following year, raised beds for vegetable garden replaced Common Bermuda with Fescue sod lawn in the rear garden.

By Summer 2007 I eliminated all traces of turf grass or mown lawn, hiring a few strong guys with mattocks, shovels and my own plus one borrowed wheelbarrow. (Okay, for a year or so, maybe a few traces of turf remained. Have not seen any this season!) This was happily accomplished without using chemical herbicide. However, there were clearly sustainable trade-offs.

On a very small plot, there was no room to store decomposing sod, and I feared the dreaded Common Bermuda would survive to reseed and stolonize itself from its latent state. Therefore, swallowing hard, I hired a very large bin plus a couple of small truckloads and sent over 30 cubic yards of soil/sod to the landfill. Although it contained viable invasive Bermuda and St. Augustine grasses, and fossil fuel was burned in its transport, I consoled myself with the knowledge it was not chemically tainted. It was “clean” otherwise. I hope it was handled at the dump so it would not invade the surrounding hillside environment.

Trading off as “credit” against the transport fuel consumption, I am happy to report my garden has not engaged the use of any power tools in over two years. Under a canopy of Eucalypts, for fire-safety and tidiness, I use a leaf rake and push broom to minimize fuel build up from fallen leaves. This material goes into the city-provided green refuse barrel. (For health reasons, I am unable to handle all my own composting.)

To backfill lost soil and fill new, raised beds, I scavenged the neighborhood for available clean dirt. I also purchased decomposed granite to use as top-dressing/mulch in the front garden, and walkway paving in the rear garden. Latter is still work in progress. Gradually and carefully, over the past year, I dug a swale along the drip-line of citrus trees. My digging mantra is “it’s cheaper than joining a gym!” Excavated soil was used in the raised bed vegetable garden.

You can see the results of my garden redesign in photographs under Projects (San Miguel Street Residence and Woodland Hills Rear Garden) at


Barbara said...

Good for you! I hope to get there someday.

Barbara said...

Love your pictures too.

Janis said...

Barbara, thank you. I really lucked out with time to photograph right after a cool couple of days' early summer clean-up! When I figure out how to post photos onto my blog, I'll do the good, bad and ugly!
My guess is you've a lot more space to work! It is a journey, right?