Monday, March 29, 2010

Edging the Beds

Today, I spent some time edging my flower beds after work. I needed to edge them to keep the grass from taking over the beds and give the beds sharper definition. I edge the beds every year before I mulch them, so that the trenches will hold the mulch back from spilling into the yard.  I'm not a big fan of artificial or stone borders.  I like a nice, clean edge.

I had grass encroaching on my plants.  It was a 'joy' to reach into my rose bush and pull out the stray grass.  Thank goodness for garden gloves.

I also had grass growing into my beds.

Here's the trench that I made.

First, I make a trench along the edge of the bed.  I usually do this with a hand trowel. This year, I did it with my large spade, because I want some extra dirt to put into the raised beds that I am going to build in the hidden garden at the end of the alley. After I made the trenches, I patted the sides smooth to pack in the loose dirt clumps.  

Here's all the dirt that I collected for the raised beds.

After chopping the leaves, I spread them over the beds making sure to give the perennials a little leaf free space around their crown.  I also pressed the leaves into the trenches to give the edges a finished look.  The lawn still has some finely chopped leaves left and I raked them in as best as I could.  In a couple of weeks, the microherd of bacteria will have broken the chopped leaves down so that I can't see them.  These leaves will serve as fertilizer for the lawn.  If you want to know more about using leaves for compost for your lawn, here's a link to an excellent article about it in Fine Gardening.

Leaves and composted horse bedding have been staples as mulch and fertilizer in my flower beds for years.  This year, I am going to try them on my lawn.  When I moved into my house 5 1/2 years ago, I had terrible clay soil.  Now I have beautiful soil because of the chopped leaves and compost.  I hope that they will perform the same kind of magic for my lawn.  The best part of using leaves as fertilizer and compost is that they are free!

During this whole process, I had to chop the leaves to use as mulch.  I made a mistake last fall.  Usually, I chop up the leaves that fall from my oak tree and spread them over the beds.  This year, I waited too long and I was lucky to get the leaves onto the bed at all.  I didn't get around to chopping them up with the mower.  I just ran over the leaves in the grass once with the mower to pick them up off the grass and I spread them over the top of the whole leaves that had fallen on the garden.  I usually follow this step up by running over the beds with the mulcher function on the mower.  However, I didn't do it last fall.

Today, I raked the leaves out of the beds and ran over them a few times with the mulcher mower.  Then I ran over them again to pick them up so that I could spread them on the beds.  This option was not ideal.     During the raking, I damaged some of the smaller plants.  The chopped up leaves aren't as fine as they would have been had I done all this in the fall.  By spring, the chopped up leaves have really started to break down.  Overwintering whole, the leaves broke down some, but they are not as attractive as they would have been had the chopped up leaves gotten exposed to winter weather.  This fall, I will start earlier.

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