Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Using the Lasagne Method to Create Perennial Beds

I’m a big fan of creating new plant borders using a layering technique that I first learned about when creating veggie gardens. Well, I’m discovering the same method can be applied to perennial borders.

Front Yard Design "Before"

Above: Front Garden “Before” makeover. (Sigh. I wish this was also a house makeover, but gardens are my specialty, not carpentry.)

Westcreek Farms soil

Above: 8 cubic yards of “organic garden veggie mix” soil from West Creek Farms in Glen Valley. Contains fish meal, ultra kelp, worm castings, alfalfa, composted fine bark, mushroom manure and sourced low silt sand.

My back hurts just looking at it.

designing with garden hose

Above: Getting the curves right using a garden hose. Indispensable trick. I wouldn’t know how to create a new bed without one.

Front garden corner bed

Above: Corner bed completed. The front edge of the border will be retained using recycled ties that we dug up from in front of the old bed running along the front of the house.

Using carboard to create new garden beds

Above: Instead of digging up the sod for the entire area, we simply removed the turf around the perimeter, and then lined the entire area with a combination of cardboard and newspaper. We dumped the soil on top of the cardboard, and voila – new garden bed minus all the extra digging.

This method is known as “lasagne gardening” because of the layers applied directly on top of the ground. The cardboard kills the grass underneath and will eventually rot down. You can plant directly into the bed right away. If planting bigger shrubs or trees, you might need to puncture the cardboard so you can get the proper planting depth. Otherwise, just plant your perennials straight into the new soil. Make sure you apply a good depth of soil on top of your barrier, as this acts as a light barrier preventing growth to the surface. I’d recommend a minimum of 8 inches of soil.

Front view "lasagne gardening"

Above: Front view of the “lasagne bed.”

cutting perimeter for new border

Above: Here you can see the outline of the right border before the cardboard is applied. The purpose for removing the sod is to create a buffer against weed growth in areas where the soil depth will be less than the optimal 8 inches.

If you were creating a veggie garden using raised boxes, you don’t need to dig out any sod. Simply apply your barrier (cardboard or newspaper) and add soil straight on top.

Creating beds using "lasagne method"

Above: Finished effect using the low-dig lasagne garden method. Complete with ginger cat acting as inspector.

I chose a design that would accentuate the diagonal line of the property. With the garden sandwiched between two linear driveways, I wanted to move the eye away from the hard edges of the asphalt. By adding a small covered porch and new front door, I’m hoping to eventually create a compelling focal point on the house so that the driveways become less conspicous. The curved lines of the borders will help move the eye where I want. To test my theory, scroll up and look at the “before” photo again and pay attention to where your eye goes.

Now with all the grunt work done, here comes the fun part…positioning and planting all the new perennials. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Calling All Fort Langley Gardeners

This spring and summer, I’m excited about the prospect of meeting and getting to know fellow Fort Langley gardeners and their gardens. You’ll be able to read about these avid plantspeople, (maybe even you), and enjoy photos of their gardens here on the Green Slate blog. But first, I need your help to get started:

"Single Pink" Eric Perkins Photography

Calling All Fort Langley Gardeners

Are you a gardener living in Fort Langley? Do you know a Fort Langley resident who loves gardening?  Or maybe you pass by a beautiful garden every day that you think others would appreciate too. I’m looking to showcase Fort Langley gardens and their owners in our upcoming spring and summer pages.  Get in touch and let us know who you’d like to see featured!

You can email me at abby@greenslatedotca.

A continuing thanks to Eric Perkins for the use of his photography in this blog post. You can view his portfolio here:

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Local Treasures on Fort Langley’s Fort-to-Fort Trail Lead to Universal Riches

A few days ago, I took a two hour walk along The Fort-to-Fort Trail, a historic walk that runs along the Fraser River from Fort Langley to Derby Reach. Although I only completed a section of the trail, I was rewarded with a rich sensory environment, complete with beautiful landscape and picturesque family farms that engendered feelings of delight, gratitude, and a deeper sense of connection to what makes my life meaningful.

"Path To?" Eric Perkins Photography

Above: While not a photo of The Fort-to-Fort Trail itself, Eric Perkin’s photo depicts the same sense of discovery I have while on my walk. There is something very compelling about a path in front of us whose destination we cannot see without embarking on a journey down it.

Free Range Eggs on Fort to Fort Trail

Above: Some stretches of the The Fort-to-Fort Trail run infront of residential property. Local free range eggs on offer!

Free Range Eggs Fort to Fort Trail

Above: Rustic Egg Hut. I love the chalkboard fridge on which are casually scrawled the prices: “$4 dozen.”

Egg cutout in wood door

I nearly miss this endearing detail: an egg-shaped cut-out in the door of the egg hut, covered with mesh screening.

I resist the temptation to follow the alluring, but private, double track as it winds up the hill and around a bend, where I imagine sits a charming farmhouse.

Grape hyacinths "Muscari armeniacum"

Above: Across the road from the egg hut, bright blue Grape Hyacinths “Muscari armenaicum” decorate my route along the Fort-to-Fort Trail. A terrific, easy-care bulb for naturalizing (spreading). Large clumps can be divided in June after flowering if needed. Muscari are good for woodland gardens, although they flower more prolifically if given a bit of sun.

Hanging Coloured Eggs

Above: Eggs become the theme of the day when I pass this dangling display of coloured eggs. This is my favourite property on Allard Crescent – “River Farm,” an organic farm complete with a circle garden, chickens, rolling fields with grazing for goats and room for modest rows of blueberries. And, to cap it all off, an outstanding vista of the Fraser River, which I am forced to imagine, as the view isn’t visible from the roadside.

Circle of Woodland Chairs

Above: On the same property, tucked in a corner under a huge Willow, I discover this gem. I’m not sure if the grouping of chairs ever gets used, but it doesn’t matter. Just the suggestion of a circle of kindred spirits gathering in a woodland setting makes my heart smile. I imagine the sounds of voices singing along to a single guitar, the flickering of candlelight in the twilight, the sharing of stories – timeless acts of myth-making – and most of all, laughter.

Fort Langley train station

Above: Heading for home, I round off my two hour walk with a stroll back past The Fort Langley Heritage CN Station, the official name for the Fort Langley train station. I can never walk by without imagining what it must have been like in the 1940’s, waiting on the platform for the 3:05 to Vancouver.

I feel privileged to live in a village with such a strong link to its past and an enduring sense of community. I’m not sure why, but this railway station and the reminder of what it once was, along with everything else I witness on my walk, help me keep my life in perspective, to not take things so personally. But more than that, they place me in the present moment, and I realize there are neighbours and friends living in Fort Langley, right now, who love me and care about me. It’s a seemingly contradictory confluence of thought. To be reminded of the personal and the universal in the same moment.

A perennial garden was planted at the station (not visible in this photo) to commemorate the garden originally started by Mrs. Simpson, the station master’s wife. The CN station, and its garden, help me to be grateful for the life I have, and to feel good about the small part I’m playing in the history of the universe. My gardens might never be honoured the way Mrs. Simpson’s are. And it doesn’t matter in the slightest. That’s not the point. The point, for me, is to experience the richness of a connection to something ancient and everlasting. To something bigger than myself that I’m also a part of. To community. To history. To the mystery of the universe.

I realize it’s impossible for any of us not to be integrally connected to the mystery of the universe. We are connected because we are here.

For historic photos of the Fort Langley CN station you can visit their website:

A continuing thanks to Eric Perkins for the use of his photography in this article. You can view his portfolio here:

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Interior Finishes for Cedar Greenhouse

Now that the exterior structure of my greenhouse is finished, I’m having some fun designing the interior.

Laying the brickwork

Above: I decided to lay a brick path down the centre of the greenhouse, with a planting strip on the south (left) and room for shelving on the north side.

Laying the brickwork

Above: Finished brickwork. Landscape fabric laid underneath the bricks and the shelving area will help to prevent weed growth.

Finished brickwork

Above: Final effect. With “Garden Buddha” presiding.

The best part about this project was the cost. Only $8.99 for a 30 foot roll of landscape fabric and I only used 24 feet. The bricks were free, salvaged from a house we previously rented, which was torn down after we left. It’s highly satisfying to finally be able to use them, and I think they lend the greenhouse a more permanent air.

Next up, shelving. Or, to use proper greenhouse terminology, staging.

To read the story of how the garden buddha mysteriously appeared in my greenhouse, click here.