Posts Tagged ‘lawn’

How Should the Garden Grow?

Today’s title is a play on words. I have been thinking a lot about whether to expand our vegetable garden or not, and how best to deal with what is left of our little lawn.

I could expand the vegetable growing area to replace what is left of the lawn. I hesitate to do so however because it would mean much more work for far more vegetables than we could eat. Unless I want to spend all my time canning and garden-tending I am not sure expanding the vegetable garden makes sense.

Sometimes I get this bug in my head about it, thinking how great it would be to have more veggies growing. Then I think about the work involved and how it would prevent me from doing other things I’d like to do and the idea dies.

If I gardened the space I have more intensely I could increase yields as much as we could reasonably use. That then will be my goal for 2018 – to garden more intensely. I will use the space better and add a fall garden in the same space, or at least part of it.

It will be ultimately necessary to create an automated watering system to cover days when I cannot be here. That will allow us to travel a bit more without worry that all the veggies are drying up and dying.

Then what to do with the lawn, or what is left of it? We could create a few more flower beds but leave much of the lawn in its current form. That is feeling like the best plan at present.

I want to enjoy gardening and not have it turn into a chore. Achieving that balance is the challenge. It is a challenge I welcome. My problem is that I want to do too many things perhaps. I want to do more woodworking. I want to start making Shaker inspired furniture. I want to travel a bit more. Choices must be made.

I reflect that my parents had no difficulty tending a large garden because they rarely went anywhere. There were home all the time because they could not afford to travel much. I have spoken to avid gardeners who have large vegetable and flower gardens and they admit it demands a lot of time and attention daily from spring through fall. So the question I must answer is how much time do I want to devote to gardening?

Fortunately, I need not make that decision today. It will be something to think on over the next year.

Happy Gardening,
Dan Murphy


My Little Lawn Mower

I was amused recently to see a manual reel lawnmower on Facebook with an invitation to repost if you ever used one of them. The suggestion was these were antiques not used today. Au contraire, they are used today a lot and I’ve had one for a number of years.

There are a number of manufacturers. Mine is a Scotts. I’ve posted a photo of it here.IMG_0311

These mowers have a number of advantages. They cut the grass (when they are sharp) more cleanly than a power mower which tends to pull on the grass and chops it. This is better for the grass. Reel mowers are used on golf courses and baseball fields because they cut the grass better.

They are so quiet. I can cut the grass any time of the day or night without bothering the neighbors. (No, I do not cut the grass at night, but I suppose I could.) The reel mower makes a gentle snipping sound that is soothing.

Reel mowers create no pollution. No fumes.

Maintenance is easy. Once a year I sharpen the blades. I tighten nuts and inspect it for any problem. No gas, no spark plugs, no oil to drain and refill. No hazardous waste to dispose of. No carburetor to clean.

They are cheaper. You can get a good one for $120. They last forever which power mowers do not.

They require more effort, but that gives you exercise. They are much safer, you could not cut off your foot with one and since they only operate when you are pushing them they are very safe.

The do not throw rocks and other objects at supersonic speed like power mowers do.

There are some disadvantages. In the spring they do not cut that first wet and thick grass very well. It takes a lot of work. Sometimes I borrow a power mower for that first cutting if I have let it grow too long. But the rest of the season the reel mower is great.

There is no need to bag clippings. On the one hand this is a problem because composting really benefits from those green clippings. But since it returns the cut grass to the lawn it feeds the lawn and makes it healthier.

If your lawn is large (over 8000 square feet) the reel mower may not be practical. If your lawn is very bumpy it wont work well. I have a very small lawn and it is very flat so those are not problems.

I like my reel mower and as long as I have a small lawn I’d never go back to fume belching and noisy gas engines.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

The Garden in June

The weather has turned hot very quickly since summer has officially begun. We are seeing highs in the 90sF.

The past week has been a busy time for planting in the garden. I’ve added herbs to the herb garden area and to some containers. The green house is now empty for the first time since early spring. It is too hot in there now for things to do well.

The large garden box (D) is empty except for some marigolds planted around the edge. That box will remain fallow this year. It has never been fallow so needs a season of rest.

The law looks better than it ever has. I have learned that despite advice from the water conservation interests in this heat one must water the lawn at least every other day to keep it green and lush. It is a small lawn so I do not feel so badly about the water usage.

I hand water the vegetables, containers and herbs. I usually water containers daily in this heat and vegetables can usually do fine with water every other day or every third day.

Everything is doing well. The latest basil plants from the green house are a bit pale but are already deepening in color with more direct sun in the box.

We have been eating the Boston lettuce, it is still tender and very flavorful. You just cannot get that flavor from store bought produce.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Fall Lawn Repair

As we approach fall it is time to give our tiny lawn some attention. I’ve read advice on this from a great many sources over the years and most recently found an article on the OSU Extension Service website:

What I find rather fascinating is how all this advice differs. Some of it is the same. The Extension article repeats the often seen advice that one should never cut more than one third of the grass off at one time. I usually do not have a problem with that rule although the first cutting in spring can be a challenge.

Watering is where I see the most disagreement. I’ve read a number of times in the last few years that one should water less often but more deeply. The Extension article I just cited recommends one inch per week but spread out throughout the week. The author, Alec, Kowaleski does not tell us however how often to water. Is it one quarter inch of water four times a week, one third inch three times a week or something else? In another part of the article he suggests watering daily if it does not rain. Daily? Really? I’ve never heard that. So one seventh of an inch every day?

I long ago found that the one inch of water once a week is not sufficient for a healthy lawn in the heat of summer. I usually water about three times a week when the temperatures exceed 80F. I water twice per week under 80F. This summer’s extreme heat would have justified more than three times a week.

He also says to water less when it is raining. However the rain we have received lately has been a mere sputter – often less than what is measurable. Such light sprinkles hardly provide significant water to a lawn. It depends on how much water falls.

He suggests feeding the law four times a year: Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day and July 4. I follow a similar schedule and have for a long time.

Tomorrow is Labor Day so I shall cut the lawn and fertilize it. Later in the week I will add some seed to bulk it up a bit. One must water a bit more often when you re-seed.

It is also time to thatch the lawn and aerate it. Mine is so small I do not need a machine to do it, I just use a rake and a garden fork.

Fortunately my remaining lawn is very small. I have less than 300 square feet left. That makes lawn care and watering easier. If you have a large lawn letting it go dormant in the summer may be the only reasonable option given the high cost of municipal water.

Some weeds have also found their way into the lawn this summer and I need to go out and pull those out. I find I have to do that about three or four times a year as well.

By the way, the Extension Service website has lots of great information on it for gardening, lawn care, etc. Check it out.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Spring is in the air

Spring is certainly in the air. We here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, where my little garden is located, have enjoyed a rather mild winter and the warm weather of late has fooled flowers and buds to race forward. I hope Mother Nature does not punish them for their eagerness.

Today I cut the lawn first time with my new manual push reel mower. No gas motor. No electric motor. Just my human power. No gas. No oil. No noise. The sound of the spinning blades on the reel is pleasant and bothers no one. They cut the grass most effectively. I still use an electric string trimmer to edge the lawn, but the rest is my energy and is free.

I chose the Scotts 20 inch wide mower. It costs $129.99. It should last a very long time – it seems well built.

I also today made a wooden frame 12 inches x 38 inches and covered it with clear plastic. I then placed it in one of my raised beds to heat the soil so I can plant peas next weekend. To my surprise though the soil was at 50 degrees F today. Today was sunny but I was surprised still at the temperature.

Next Saturday my plan is to plant the peas and see what happens. I will keep the clear plastic frame on the ground over the peas to retain moisture and keep the soil warm until they sprout.

More about my garden design next time… until then happy gardening.