Gardens hold more than dirt and plants. They hold power. They heal.

Gardens foster community and relationships and awaken the senses while they provide hope and teach patience and fortitude.

Gardens contribute to our quality of life whether we're working in them or sitting back and taking them in.

Here we will dig deep and expose what all gardens hold, teach and reveal.

Weed Barrier: A Weed's Best Friend

We all mean to do well for our gardens.  It can be hard to make the right choice when surrounded by so much hype from unnecessary products.  There is one product, however, that is very commonly pushed onto gardeners that is one of the worst things you can put down.  I’m talking about weed barrier, also known as landscape fabric.

Many of us have heard the supposed benefits about using the black plastic fabric and some of us might have it in our gardens.  Maybe you moved into a garden that had it in, or were convinced by a company of the usefulness.  My garden came lined with the fabric, and by the time I moved in, there was no mulch left, just an ugly expanse of black fabric with weeds growing straight through.

That’s the funny thing about weed barrier. It prevents weeds for about a year, but after that, they start popping up, as happy as ever. And they’re impossible to get at because they have a nice barrier separating you from their roots! 
Weed barrier also interrupts the natural flow of nutrients.  As plants drop leaves, and the mulch decomposes, those nutrients go straight back into the soil.  Weed barrier prevents this.  In many cases, the mulch decomposes enough that weeds start growing on top of the fabric, and eventually those roots will break through the fabric and into the soil underneath.
 It is very difficult to move your plants around once weed barrier is put down.  Also, perennials need space for their roots to grow and many companies don’t cut big enough holes for the plants to grow in.  I’ve rescued many a plant that had started growing half on top of the landscaping fabric and was struggling to reach soil and water.  The fabric also prevents water from getting down to the roots.  With this hot summer, our plants need every drop they can get. 
 Weed barrier is not the prettiest material.  No matter how much mulch you put on top of it, rain, foot traffic, wind and the slippery surface of the fabric will cause bare spots to be exposed.  The dark surface of the fabric will heat up faster than the soil and encourage the ground to dry up a little faster.
 Are you going for a lush full cottage garden?  Often those gardens rely on plants that reseed every year, and landscape fabric will prevent those seeds from sprouting and taking root.
Some people use weed barrier to kill off a section of lawn or weeds.  A good alternative is cardboard or black and white newspapers underneath a layer of mulch.  This does the trick of preventing light from reaching the weeds and when you’re ready to plant in it the next year, the papers will have decomposed nicely!
The weed barriers are made out of non-recyclable plastic and are not environmentally friendly.

With a little creativity, you will never need to use weed barrier and your plants will be much happier because of it.

These photos showcase one of our gardens and also demonstrate that even in difficult hilly and rocky areas weed barrier is not needed!  Some mulch and some weeding keeps this garden looking gorgeous all year round!


How Does Your Garden Grow?

by Heather Ford-Helgeson

Heather's Raised Garden - early June 2012
If you read my previous post, you'll know that I started my first vegetable garden this year; a raised bed pictured above. Though small, it is causing big changes. I absolutely love it. If I want some herbs, I go pick them. If I want a salad, I go pick from my variety of greens. Most of the tomato plants are next to the raised bed and I also planted some corn there. The chipmunks got almost all the corn but the tomato plants are thriving and if all goes well, my family will have a plethora of juicy ones from which to pick. Every morning I water and tend to my plants almost as lovingly as I do my two-year-old. There is no doubt I am hooked and I have already mapped out an area in my back yard of which I am going to dig up in the fall for next years LARGE vegetable garden adventure; Can. Hardly. Wait.

I am constantly on the look-out now for urban vegetable growers and I'm amazed by people's use of space. A young guy in my South Minneapolis neighborhood has turned his entire boulevard into a vegetable garden. A couple in the same area put a couple of raised beds in their side yard, mixing it in with their landscaping.  There's a woman around the corner from me who has turned her front-yard into one large food-producing garden and made it beautiful to-boot and a couple of blocks from me a family has turned all the land next to their garage into a huge garden. I have seen window boxes turned into herb gardens, planters used entirely for tomatoes, planters with mixed vegetables and flowers, wheel-barrows as raised beds, large tires filled with tomato and bean plants, and one of our long-time clients had HSG transplant a bunch of her perennials that were next to her pool and then turned the whole area into a vegetable garden. These are but a few examples of great ingenuity.

Are you tending to your own produce garden? Please tell us about it in the comment section below. We love to hear about what you're growing and how it's going. You can also ask us any questions you have on any of your gardening needs.

Great growing and we will write again soon.