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Posts Tagged ‘landscape fabric’

Today we got all the beds that had been made on top of landcape fabric by another gardening biz  redone, and they will now be SO much easier to weed.  And better yet, after owner Susie saw our garden on tour last July, she said (as did quite a few people) that she wanted her back garden to look like ours.  I said that the little lawn island beds would have to be much larger.  They are now infinitely expandable (within the property lines) because of not having the nasty landscape fabric underneath and along the edges.

We had two more little circles to do on either side of an arbour leading to the beach path.  Here’s the edge of one with the awful fabric showing:

fabric edge

fabric edge

You can see some horsetail that has speared right through the fabric.  We only weed here intermittently so…

Below, the pile of nasty fabric that we removed two days ago:

horrid stuff

horrid stuff

fabric entwined with weed roots

fabric entwined with weed roots

The beds are going to be so much easier to weed now!

The old wildflower bed at the edge of the garden just has to be turned back into lawn, or if it is to be a flower bed again, someone (like Ed Strange and his able young crew) other than us will have to pull out the fabric underlay, which was placed so shallow that in some spots it has no soil left on top at all.

Wildflower seeds have no hope here!

Wildflower seeds have no hope here!

Years ago, when I returned to this job after my then-partner, Robert, recovered from a heart attack,  I remember being pretty amazed (not in a good way) the first time I dug into the wildflower bed to plant something.  I had even been the one to recommend the interim gardening business to continue making the beds that were wanted but that we could not do at that time.

Below: The two former fabric based beds as they were when we left the job two days ago when I had pooped out too much to even take an “after” photo:

north side of beach walk

north side of beach walk

south side of beach walk

south side of beach walk

I do feel these would look better if they were twice as wide, but now it will be easy to accomplish that (well, relatively easy) bit by bit with a half moon edger.  Why, that is how I poached a few inches over a couple of years from my neighbour’s parking strip in my Seattle garden!

We had arrived through a hailstorm with a yard of Soil Energy, started under clear skies, and as we were preparing the new areas for soil, the skies opened again.  I avoided the torrent by getting into the car, because at the beginning of a day’s work there is little worse than getting wet and then having every blast of cold wind hitting wet fabric.  (If I planned to work in the rain all day, I would wear rain pants, but oh how I prefer to not to because they are just uncomfortable!)

Below, as I sat in the car, off the clock, I could see the bright yellow of Allan’s raincoat as he continued to wrestle with those two circles of landscape fabric.

off the clock and on the clock

off the clock and on the clock

rain

rain

To the west, I could see just a bit of white in the sky, and with a fierce wind of over 20 mph, I hoped the clearer sky will get to us soon.  (In our work, the frequent cry of optimism during storms is “It’s light around the edges!”)

light around the edges

light around the edges

Before long, Allan also went off the clock and got into the car to look for something good in the lunch box.

into the lunch box

into the lunch box

storm breaktime treats

storm breaktime treats

By the way, Allan is the one who is organized enough to put the lunch together.  I used to subsist on, say, a cold baked potato or an unsliced apple.

The sun returned….and then the rain…and then the sun.  We worked through the next two squalls because by then we did not have the whole workday ahead of us.

The results:

north bed fluffed and replanted

north bed fluffed and replanted (showing one corner of even further north bed, weeded)

Below, a larger bed, further up toward the inn;  Robert and I made this one (perhaps in 2001) so it is bigger and did not have the fabric underneath.  The end closest in the photo was very sunken down over the years and looks much better filled with soil.  Allan picked out (with the heavy pick) several clumps of very weedy Lady’s Mantle.  Out it went.  Sometimes it is not worth it to salvage a plant that is too weedy, when a new plant can be purchased for $3.00!  And I hope for something more interesting here than Lady’s Mantle.

That Phormium, one of the last remnants of my Phormium Phase, does not look bad!

larger bed redone

larger bed redone

Below, the little, formerly landscape fabric based, beds by the arbour.  The honeysuckle on either side should do much better with a proper root run!  The beds follow the slope of the ground and are thus a bit wonky.  I might try to do something about that eventually (but it would require another load of soil).

two round beds

two “round” beds.  Oh to build up the right hand one!

If Robert had made the above two beds, they would have been level!  I wonder if people notice that as much as I do.  I hope they look beyond in anticipation of soon seeing the ocean.  We just did not have enough soil to change the level today.  The photo below shows how a big decorative rock had been replaced in the higher bed;  You can above that later we shifted it into the lower bed to at least give some illusion of height.  There is one more even bigger rock in the old wildflower patch that might help even more.

much better without the fabric

before moving the big rock; much better without the fabric

We did not even try to save the big weedy clumps of daisies that were in here, but just peeled a few clean starts off the side of the clumps.  (This is an intermittent job for us, not one we check on every week or so.)

We got some weeding done in the beds up by the inn, as well (in another chilly pelting squall), and it should not take long to finish that task.

Here is the view back, after dumping the last wheelbarrow load of weeds.

looking east

The little round building houses the hot tub.

Below:  Those two big windows are the inn’s living room, with a wonderful view.

looking east

looking east

a parting look at a nicely mulched bed!

a parting look at a nicely mulched bed! with room for new plants

Of course, after we gave up because of yet another squall, the sun came out and our parting view was of pretty weather, but my hands were simply too cold to weed anymore and it was a treat indeed to get home to a nice hot cuppa.

parting view

parting view with the pile o’vanquished fabric in the foreground

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I’ve already written about the problem with two large and two tiny garden beds at the Boreas that were created by another business.   I think the year when my then-partner Robert had a heart attack was when a different gardening business did a project that today, at last, eleven years later, Allan and I worked on fixing.

I realized we could no longer successfully weed the garden beds that Brand X business (who are no longer on the Peninsula) did by putting soil on top of, it turned out, a double layer of landscape fabric.  Over ten years of weeding since then, the soil layer over the fabric had become almost non existent.

I realized today that  the horrible fabric had to go.  The first try involved  cutting with shears, shears that may look wimpy but have done alright cutting fabric before.  But there was so much soil imbedded that shearing across did not work.

first try

first try

Then I tried shearing and hacking with the pick in sections.

better

better

You can see how weed roots are all adhered to the fabric.  Never, never, never put fabric under a garden bed.  It leads to terrible things.  Thick layers of newspaper would have broken down the lawn, although neither fabric nor newspaper will keep horsetail from spearing through.

Worse yet, it was in two layers!

why?

why?

Two layers with, after years of weeding, only about three inches of soil OR LESS on top.

While I peeled the fabric off the first bed (above), Allan went to get a load of Soil Energy from Peninsula Landscape Supply.   When he returned, he did the fabric removal from the last two thirds of the second bed.

pulling fabric out of second bed

pulling fabric out of second bed

Around this time, I went into a state of amnesia, and I am not kidding.  Not only do I not remember the next three hours, but I was shocked later to see that it was four PM.  Allan said I had been working the whole time, but I had sort of been hallucinating, too.  The hallucinations were all about the job but did not really make sense, and I have forgotten them now.  I blame a new OTC sleeping potion that I tried (and will never use again), but it was disturbing.  I’d call it a fugue state, but wikipedia informs me that that would have involved “unplanned travel or wandering, and is sometimes accompanied by the establishment of a new identity”, and Allan assured me I was there working away hard at replanting the salvaged plants, no doubt with the same increasingly grumpy personality as the rainy day wore on.  It seems he did not notice anything particularly different!  However, I have no memory of those three hours, and that is disturbing indeed, even though I could see the results of my work.  I looked at my watch when I thought Allan should go for a second load of mulch only to realize the supply yard would be closing in half an hour.

I hit the wall, hard, a bit after 4 PM and poor Allan had to clean up (in the drizzle).   I suppose we would clean up a job before going to the emergency room for amnesia.  It was scary only remembering pieces…and hallucinatory pieces at that…of the afternoon.  There are no “after” photos because the rain was pelting by then, and the job is not done.  We need another yard of soil energy for the end of the second bed, the two tiny round beds that remain to be done (they should be easy) and some light mulching elsewhere.

Thank goodness that the other garden beds were created either by me and former co-gardener Robert or by Boreas owners Susie and Bill and do not have the horrible fabric underlay.  They will be much easier to weed.  There is one former wildflower bed that does have fabric, but my friend who mows the lawn  ( has some strong young help and they will have to remove it if it needs to be done.  I think we should focus on the existing garden beds and let that former wildflower border return to lawn.

First me, then later Allan, went into a state of collapse at home.  I am up now but Allan is still down, and it makes me wonder again about gardening and aging.

I should perhaps have followed the example of my cats this past morning:

Smokey and Mary

Smokey and Mary

Theirs is the example I intend to follow tomorrow, when the forecast calls for a gale and much rain.

I have to ask myself again, are we getting too old for this?  I remember someone who once wanted to garden for a living, but when I offered to pass on to her a job weeding a difficult bed, she said “But I just want to do the pretty things!”  It would actually be possible for us at this point in our career to focus on doing the pretty things and just say no to jobs that are this hard, but then….who are we going to get to do the hard things?  I could not walk away from that landscape fabric nightmare for one more year because there was no way whatsoever for anything to thrive on a bed of one inch of soil on top of fabric.

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We can’t keep up with the requests for work, so sometimes we recommend other local gardeners to do a job, even at one of our regular places.  Today at one job we ran across two situations where the old adage applies:  If you want something done right, do it yourself.

We had recommended a tree pruner (most definitely not one of the local businesses that offers to TOP trees, a no no, as Plant Amnesty will tell you) to prune  a view blocking eucalyptus and shore pine.  Within a month, our client sadly informed us “The tree is dying.”  Of course, I felt responsible and we took a good look.  “I think it’s just dead stuff caught up in there!” I said.  Our dear client was skeptical.  Today we again looked up and still the dead twigs clung to the eucalyptus.  This time Allan went up on a ladder to test our theory that the twigs were not at all attached.

tidying the eucalyptus

tidying the eucalyptus

Sure enough, the dead twigs were not attached but needed to be pulled out.  The pruner must have run cutters over the tree and just let the dead stuff fall inside.  Client said that a mess of twigs had been falling out of both the euc. and the pine over the summer.  Allan also saw crossing branches up in there that he would have taken out except that now the talk is of totally cutting down the tree because of the ongoing expense of pruning it to keep the view.

a wheelbarrow full of twigs

Now, I just would not be comfortable leaving a mess like that.  It would be like doing a carpentry job for someone and leaving sawdust everywhere.  (Oh but wait, I’ve seen that done, as well.)  Once we got it all cleaned up, the job looked artistic again.

Except for the trail of lost tools that I tend to leave behind in gardens, I want to make sure that none of our clients ever have to clean up a mess after us.

The other other issue at the same job is an ongoing struggle with heavy duty landscape fabric under garden beds.  RIGHT under with only a couple of inches of soil on top.  Years ago, we were way too busy to make the new beds this client wanted so we passed the job on to some friends (who have since moved away).  Why in the world would they think this method would make an easily maintainable bed?  Not only that, but they had stacked, about three deep, smallish round river rock along the sides.  Stacked and placed the rocks VERY slowly.  When the client asked them why so slow they said the job was very Zen.  I don’t think our clients really want to pay for Zen moments.

At least we made the edge maintenance easier, finally, by making the edging just one rock deep so the whole little rock wall did not have to shifted and rebuilt for weeding.  But you can still see the underwear of the thinly concealed fabric…which one of these years I swear we are going to get rid of by either turning the beds into high raised berms or getting down in there with pick and shovel, removing all the plants, and pulling the darn fabric out.

fabric edge

the underwear showing!

I am sure the idea was to keep the weeds from coming through, but horsetail and beach grass puncture right through the fabric as if it were a thin sheet of paper.

horsetail spear

It would have been better to build the beds on thick layers of newspaper and ended up with lovely loose mulchy soil that weeds just slipped out of…instead of a stubborn layer of fabric in which the weed roots are now firmly enmeshed.

I do want to be able to delegate and turn down jobs and pass them on to others.  Especially when someone wants a result that we have no idea (or interest) in how to attain, like a green golf course style lawn.

And we know that if everyone firmly believed that the only way to get something done right is to do it yourself, we wouldn’t have any work at all.

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