Steele: Replace lawn with veggie garden

An exciting new trend has begun. People want to know what is in their food and to eat fresh, locally-grown produce.

When I was a child most people grew vegetables.

For 60 years my parents had a quarter acre vegetable garden, near the Kelowna hospital.

They hand cleared cottonwood trees and bush that grew on the abandoned tobacco field.

Soil was amended with shavings from Crawford’s Mill (Crawford Estates) and manure from my uncle’s farm (at the end of a dirt track, now Cook Road).

Gradually higher incomes and cheap food turned veggie gardening into a hobby rather than a necessity. People lost touch with how food grew. Much of it came from 1,500 miles away.

The wonderful flavours of produce picked ripe vanished from our meals.

Now, an exciting new trend has begun. People want to know what is in their food and to eat fresh, locally-grown produce.

Once again land is being cleared for food gardens but the clearing is so much easier than in my parent’s day. It generally consists of simply getting rid of some lawn.

I used a cheap and fast method found in Patricia Lanza’s book, ‘Lasagne Gardening,’ to make and plant a raised bed on top of lawn in one day.

Here are the main points:

• Choose a site in full sun (at least six hours, daily, during in the growing season)

• Make sure there are no noxious weeds such as field bindweed (morning glory weed)

• Stay well away from trees. Most have wide-reaching root systems that make a bee-line for good soil and extra moisture

• Cut grass as short as possible

• Soak ground and cover with an overlapping layer of wet cardboard (appliance boxes work well)

Begin with a layer of chunky material such as dead perennial vegetation from your gardens, straw or used animal bedding.

Add layers of green/wet/nitrogen materials such as compost, manure, grass clippings, kitchen waste and soil, alternated with brown/dry/carbon materials such as shredded leaves, and straw.

Soak each layer very well before adding the next. ‘Green’ layers can be two to four inches thick and ‘brown’ layers, double that.

To increase nutrients in the bed, supplements such as bone meal, wood ashes, and worm castings can be sprinkled over upper layers.

Keep repeating alternating layers until the bed is about two feet high ending with a layer of soil or compost.

Cover with black plastic and make slits for vegetable plants.

By next spring it will have rotted to exceptional garden soil.

Remove plastic, edge with boards and plant seeds or bedding plants.

For more ideas of how to get rid of lawn and what to replace it with, I invite you to attend my two-night ‘Introduction to the Seven Principles of Xeriscape’ class.

The class dates are Monday, April 7 and 14, or Wednesday, April 16 and 23.

Details and registration information are on the Classes page on  www.okanaganxeriscape.org.

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