Not all the world hates weeds. Sure, there are many gardeners scuffling around in the clogs, cursing those pesky dandelions (actually a highly medicinal plant) and that crabgrass blemishing their flower beds. They offer theories as to how to prevent them, when to get rid of them and, at the weakest and worst moments, may even spray a little agent orange, aka Roundup, to kill them dead, dead, dead.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, with a little effort and a good plan, weeds and gardeners can live in harmony. In fact, it’s not just weeds. It’s all those twigs and sticks that loiter round beneath trees. The mountains of leaves that spiral down in the autumn can join in as well. With the right mindset, that is a mindset of feeding your garden some premium organic fodder, all the yard work many have come to despise can actually be … exciting.
That’s right. I said it. I love weeding and raking. I get warm and fuzzy over fallen debris from my trees. I know that all of this stuff will make my garden a richer, more fertile space, and it is completely free. Instead of agonizing over the work I’m doing to keep the grass trimmed, through permaculture techniques, I’ve learned how to make my yard work for me.
Step 1: More Garden, Less Grass
The first and most exciting step of making your yard work for you is getting rid of the grass and making a garden (Here are ten reasons to do it!). This, however, doesn’t have to be the typical tilled-up rows we’ve come to associate with growing vegetables. Garden beds can be arranged like flowerbeds, or they can be beautiful herb spirals or funky designs. The idea is to use the space to grow food, which can be an alluring mix of colors and aromas as well. Then, rather than mowing the lawn so much, you get to harvest some food.
- The ultimate goal for maximizing your yard would be to have every square foot of it that isn’t a path be a garden bed. Then, there would be no lawn to mow, yet you’d be surrounded by plant life in the form of fresh organic food.
Step 2: Weed With a Purpose
I’ve come to love weeding because I know that all of the green material collected — all those weeds — will become nitrogen-rich mulch atop my beds. Spread thickly over the soil, the weeds I’ve pulled will then act as a weed blocker for the next crop trying to come up. They’ll also prevent the sun from drying out the soil. They’ll also feed the plants they’re surrounding. The same goes for raking up leaves! I love it because I know it’s going to help me grow some food.
Step 3: Use What You’ve Got — All of It
Every piece of organic matter, from fallen branches to grass clippings to your own kitchen waste, can suddenly be seen as a wondrous thing when building a compost heap. And, there is nothing plants like more than to spread out there roots in some compost and get to growing. Consequently, I enjoy tidying up the yard because I know my compost will grow, my food will benefit from said compost, and I’ll get to eat the result. That’s clean living!
- I actually “steal” from my neighbors, taking their grass clippings and lawn refuge, to fuel my productive yard. If you want to be really innovative, you could even work out a system where they pay for you to do so.
Step 4: Learn the Lay of the Land
Study your yard to figure out how it works. Which parts hold more water? Lettuces love moisture-rich soils. Which parts get more sun? Tomatoes love a lot of sun and little water, so they usually work well in high spots. If everything is flat, maybe you could add some texture. Install a frog pond to attract useful wildlife, aka the natural pesticide, and provide a reflective place to chill. Then, use the soil from it to create a nice garden mound somewhere. Utilizing all the different (or creating more) little micro-climates in a few square feet can be really interesting and a huge boost to productivity.
Once it’s started, it’s simply addictive. Your yard is no longer a sinkhole of wasted Saturday mornings behind a push mower. It no longer requires your money to buy the fossil fuels it takes to run that push mower. Once a good garden is in place, it will not only save you loads of money in maintenance fees, but it will also save you loads at the supermarket. And, that’s how to make your yard work for you.
Image source: Claire Gregory/Wikimedia
"Tomatoes love a lot of sun and little water, so they usually work well in high spots." Whoever wrote this, has not worked in a garden. Tomatoes in a hot summer day drink up to 4L of water, on a regular day 1-2L, so they need to be watered quite a lot.
Sorry, I live in Panama, where rainy season provides much too much water. I actually have to keep my tomatoes under shelter from April to October. In order to grow them outside in rainy season, I need very good drainage. Plus, the rain here is a deluge for maybe a week, so the irregularity of it is troublesome. I have spent a lot of time in the garden, but I\’m working with a different climate. Didn\’t consider that, so apologies, Bunny. Thanks for clearing up my blunder for those more likely to have similar weather to you. Cheers.