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Gardening for LazyBones Part Four

Gardening For Lazy Bones Only! Part four Part, the fourth

Guest Article by His Laziness Stravo Lukos

The phone’s ringing off the counter, the e-mails are coming in like rain, and now both my friends won’t speak to me. Okay, I give in— there’s an easier way to compost! Do as Helen Nearing did: Simply pile up your brush and clippings and let them rot a few years. Talk about slow cooking, you’ll have the best soil in town. Of course, you’d better live as long as Helen Nearing, too. What! Who’s Helen Nearing? You never heard of Helen and Scott Nearing, the grandparents of the back-to-the-land movement? Do your homework before you finish this article.



Let’s make up a scenario. You can alter it any way you wish. There’s no right or wrong garden, just easier and easiest. The lot I’m thinking of has a thin layer of loamy sand sitting on bedrock basalt. The owner literally had to blast a hole for the house foundation. Water sieves through the sand and drains along troughs in the bedrock. A few poplars and some ninebark, yarrow, and artemsia are growing here. Without constant fertilizing and watering, the only fruiting, edible plant that might grow in this semi-arid property is prickly pear cactus. There is roughly a half-acre of land, and the house faces the southwest, with the northeast exposure mainly covered in shade. The property is configured in a rough square with the house and attached garage in the center.

It’s summer. Carrie and Jason are a new couple who want to garden, despite the obstacles. First, they have the soil tested at the local conservation district office. The soil is rich in magnesium and phosphorous, but lacking in nitrogen, so they decide to amend the soil with composted bovung, checking carefully to make sure the cattle weren’t fed grain saturated in herbicides. Naturally, it is cheaper to buy bulk, so they shop around for a good deal on a full truckload (approximately nine cubic yards) of bovung. The truck driver is sufficiently bribed to make two drops at no extra charge: Half goes to the east side of the yard and half to the west. Now it’s time to break out the rakes and spread that good stuff, making sure to work some into the sandy topsoil.

This duo is wonderfully lazy, so they want to plant as little grass as possible. Most of the yard will be covered with native vegetation and ground cover. Because they don’t walk barefoot in the yard, they decide to broadcast the lot in Dutch White Clover. Before they do that, however, they plant numerous groups of Spring and Fall crocuses throughout the property, keeping in mind that Fall crocuses contain lethal toxins. Now they are ready to xeriscape. They choose Chokecherry and Sand cherry bushes for the areas that seem to hold the most moisture, and plant the rest of the western sector in spreading Junipers and Oregon grape, both the tall and creeping varieties. Then, they zone the rest of the property for the rest of the year. They watch where the shadows fall and chart this on a primitive bubble diagram. The diagram is large and shows the house as a rectangle surrounded by a big square (the yard). In this square are azimuth lines— a compass rose— and bubbles or circles labeled shady, moist, hot and dry, windy, still, and NG, native growth. Carrie also determines which areas will be used most (usually the back yard) and viewed the most (back for family, front for neighbors). A six-foot cedar fence, placed primarily for privacy, surrounds the entire back yard. There remains much landscaping to be done, but it is Fall, and the cold and rain limit productivity. It is time to fine-tune the diagram inside with a mug of mulled cider and a pipe full of an expensive oriental blend. (This is my fantasy. Smoking is allowed.) Hubby will spread the ashes on the clematises he just planted next to the front porch railing.

First, Jason suggests that the best route to follow for a veggie garden is raised-beds. He could build lovely boxes and Carrie could plant a prickly, live fence around the lot, probably barberries. The best area in such a sun-blasted climate is the east yard, so they carefully sketch a series of beds enclosed by hedges. A quick check on the Internet reveals the prevailing winds to be from the West and Southwest, with cold winter storms coming down from the North and Northeast.

They aren’t worried about winter winds, because, duh, who’s planting? The hedges and house will block most of the southwestern and western winds, but the afternoon sun would prove too hot for most veggies, especially the tubers and greens. The easiest solution would be to plant a few small to medium trees to block the brunt of the western sun, without obstructing the morning to noon sunlight. That would offer at least six hours of light without the oven treatment. A nice Bradford pear and a quick-growing sugar maple are agreed upon, and it is decided to pay the extra cost and buy eight to ten-foot trees. They will wait until late summer to purchase the plants, because the nurseries and garden-supply centers are trying to sell off inventory before autumn. Did I mention that this couple is cheap, too? Anyway, the soil is deeper on the east side, and with a few more inches of topsoil, it should support those trees nicely. Besides, a big crack opened in the basalt during blasting, and both trees will surely plumb this backfilled crevice for trapped water.

A few weeks have passed, and Jason’s completed six boxes like the ones mentioned previously. Christmas is around the corner, so Carrie goes online to shop for special deals on seeds. They have determined that they want to grow first crops of peas, radishes, spinach, endives, chard, and lettuce, one crop per box/bed. Each box is 450 square feet in area, so there will be plenty of fresh greens for the neighborhood. Most of these crops will grow in cold weather; in fact, they prefer it cold, so there isn’t a concern about insect pests. The summer crops, however, are a different story. I’ll tell you about their arrangement and defense plan in our next episode of, Carrie and Jason, the Lazy Gardeners!

By the way, look over those lists and drawings you’ve made. You’ll be adding some companions alongside your favorites. Don't worry; you'll have plenty of room.

Stravo Lukos has been gardening and landscaping since he was eight years old. "Every oldtime Greek and Italian had a garden. It was the 11th commandment." Now, 44 years later, he still is learning and experimenting in lazier, more efficient, less expensive ways to grow plants. He has a BA in English, with several courses in forestry and soon, a certificate in horticulture. His yard is a wildlife sanctuary, veggie gardens, and a fruit-nut-and-berry patch.

Other interests include hiking slowly, camping in luxury, teaching kids how to garden, reading in bed, road bicycling on level ground, hugging his dog, smoking cigars, and cuddling with his wife in front of the television. Life is good.

You can contact him at [email protected] ,but it'll take forever to receive a reply-- if he gets around to it.

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