Zilker Neighborhood Gardens

Commentary by a National Wildlife Steward who helps Zilker neighbors establish native plant gardens

Tag Archives: garden bed

TWO Habitat Talks on garden prep, design, & planning – Free 1/10/15

JANUARY 10 (2 Sessions)

(9:30-11am) Winter Garden Maintenance and Prepping the Garden for Spring
Learn how to assess shrubs and small trees for health and beauty and learn how to trim overgrown areas (and what to trim) as necessary to make way for spring blooms.
Instructor: Cathy Nordstrom, Sans Souci Gardens

(1-4pm) Design and Planning for a Successful Habitat Garden
Learn the basic elements of site assessment and how to transform a traditional “lawn-scape” into a haven for wildlife. If you have one, please bring a copy of the survey of your property to class.
Instructor: Marya Fowler, National Wildlife Federation

“Habitat Talks” happen at Discovery Hill Outdoor Learning Center located at the Science and Health Resource Center in Austin ISD. Discovery Hill is a National Wildlife Federation premier demonstration habitat that NWF funded and implemented in AISD in 2013.

For more information about the sequence of talks in 2014-2015, go to http://www.nwf.org/South-Central-Region/temp_event_AUS_HabitatTalks.aspx

Keyhole Gardening … Sustainable During Droughts

Wow, this article about Dr. Deb Tolman’s (Landscape Architect) keyhole gardening idea is amazing. She describes how to build a raised 6ft. diameter garden sustainably. The garden is built from found materials (rock, concrete, timber, even an old boat etc.) and filled with cardboard, newspaper, phone books, and some soil and compost. A 1 ft. diameter feeding tube in the middle allows you to add compost and water as needed. She adds about a gallon of water daily (you probably create that much excess rinsing vegetables or brushing your teeth) and some more during extreme heat (like last summer).

What’s more amazing is how much produce it produces! (veges and fruits!) A family of 10 can live off 3 keyhole gardens.

“It works well in places far drier than we are here on the edge of the Hill Country,” says Tolman, who discovered the technique five years ago. The sustainable gardening method was developed by a humanitarian aid organization in southern Africa, where resources are scarce and the climate unforgiving. There, three keyhole gardens can feed a family of 10 all year long, reports the BBC.

It’d be cool to see some of these gardens in Zilker. And added luxury is no more bending over for gardening! You can stand straight up as you harvest.




Update on Killing Grass with Newspaper

A while ago, I told you about the killing grass with newspaper and mulch method. At the beginning of March, I implemented this method in my front yard where I’m beginning to layout a semi-formal garden (more on that later). I put down the newspaper, wet it, and put several inches of mulch on top. This front yard has pretty good St. Augustine grass on it. Last weekend, I had to go through and dig out a few green grass blades that were getting through but overall, the method is working. Here’s a picture of the dead grass underneath the newspaper and mulch:

Dead grass under newspaper

So in about 5-6 weeks’ time, the grass is dying. I have not yet planted anything in the beds yet but if I wanted, I would just poke a hole through the newspaper and dig out the dead grass (which is easy to remove since it is dying) and plant a plant in it. Of course, you’ll need to do some consistent “grass weeding” until all the grass is dead and none is invading the area. To help with the grass invasion, we will be edging the bed with a sort of trench in the coming weeks. I’ll show some pictures of that soon.

One issue with this method is that it does not allow you to amend your soil. If you dig out all all the grass, you could amend the soil from the beginning. But digging is so difficult with established grass. If I wanted to amend the soil, I think I might kill the grass with the newspaper method by doing this method above. When I saw the grass was pretty much dead, I’d remove the mulch (use it in another area or put it on a tarp for use again). Then you could dig out the dead grass which is much easier to remove, amend the soil with lots of compost and other good things, plant your plants, and then put some of the mulch back on top!

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