Beginning a New Garden in Spring

Spring! The geese are heading north and you can smell that cold fresh moist earth in the air. The spring bulbs are beginning to break ground and there’s a whole new garden in the works here!

Crabtree Gardens for Standard Speaker

Our snow covering is just about gone. I was even a bit shocked to see some perennials greening up in the herb garden this morning.

Naturalized garden low maintenance gardening techniques Crabtree Gardens soapwort in early spring

Double soapwort (Saponaria officinalis ‘Rosea Plena) has new growth forming at the crown.

The ground is starting to thaw on the surface but it’s still rock hard beneath. It looked deceivingly warm out this morning because the sun was so bright. I made a decision that today would be the start day for the second step in developing a new garden space that is taking shape in our “yo.gar.den” meditation area.

yo.gar.den: a plot of sacred ground where organic plants and yogis are cultivated for the purpose of spreading universal LOVE.  Origin: Defined by Angela Preat-yoga instructor at The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens.

We sanctioned the yo.gar.den area around our shed to be used as a meditation garden and now it’s time to get moving with some planting areas.

yo.gar.den meditation garden Drums, PA Crabtree Gardens

Our shed is pictured here in summer 2014. Tall field area to left is where new the new planting area will be.

Garden shed transformation yo.gar.den Crabtree Gardens meditation garden

Original condition of shed in spring 2013. Standing inside is yoga instructor Angela Preat, owner of Yoga with Angela, LLC and developer of The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens.

This time of year is my “big work” season. I can’t take the heat or humidity and I would much rather dress in layers when it’s cold instead. Since the ground was still frozen, there was no mud. I usually start a big job in very early spring and then as it gets warmer, I’ll do easy tasks. The work started by moving a big pile of cardboard out of our garage that I had been stockpiling for sheet mulching the new planting area. The cardboard came from a much appreciated delivered donation of water heater boxes that were being discarded by our plumber and they were taking up room in our garage.

If you’ve been following along on the growth of our garden, you already know about my fondness for the sheet mulching technique. It may seem as if this is all that I do in the garden because I’m constantly promoting it by writing about it. This method allows me to start new planting areas without bringing in any heavy equipment, topsoil or labor.  I’m always working a few years ahead so the soil has time to prepare for the new plants it will receive when the area is ready. We are building our gardens organically over time which I’m hoping will start to set new trends among landscapers and garden professionals in our area. It’s a better choice for the environment.

If you would like know more about the sheet mulched gardens created here, visit a previous post about our tree trunk planter or you can check out my article Like Water Under the Bridge  written for

Naturalized garden low maintenance gardening techniques Crabtree Gardens sheet mulched area in early spring

Two years ago this area behind our Rondel started as field grass that was sheet mulched. In summer  of 2014 perennials were planted and straw was laid between them for mulch.

The new garden area that I began working on today was a large portion of unmown field which was mostly goldenrod, field grasses and blackberry canes. In early fall of 2014, ten 8′ lengths of rough cut 4×4’s were laid out designating the front border of the area that would be covered with sheet mulching. You can see how full it is in this next photo.

building a new garden right on top of blackberry canes and weedy areas Crabtree Gardens naturalized gardens

This photo shows a small portion of the 4×4’s that were laid out defining the new garden. The tall field and blackberry bushes can be seen. The woman modeling a new leather “KristyBag” handbag in the photo is Kristy Lash who is the handbag designer at The Kristy Bag by CG. (Crabtree Gardens handbag line.)

The thick, large cardboard pieces hold the blackberry canes down well enough to smother them. Every now and then when one finds it way up through,  I’ll take a shovel and dig it out then cover with more cardboard.

I wanted to show the very beginning of the process of this new garden because many people just can’t believe how well sheet mulching works on super-weedy areas. So I’m giving you more proof that it does. It is a slow process. It’s kind of a laid back way to start new gardens and most importantly, there are no chemicals used to harm environment.

I knocked down the unruly things that were still standing like the new blackberry canes and other thick dead stems by stepping on them near the crown. I’ve been testing knocking things over rather than cutting them because the sharp  stems poke through the cardboard and light gets in. It seems to be working. I also always used to mow everything short, but then when I thought about it, everything would eventually decay so I just left it where it was and saved the energy of mowing.

The heavy snow this winter had done a great job of knocking down the dead grasses and goldenrod so I took advantage of it now in its flattened stage, before any greening started. There aren’t any rabbit nests (that I saw yet) so it was a good time to cover the area. I am finding that sheet mulching is much easier when the field is dead and thick cardboard helps tremendously. It’s different with lawn grass, that’s quite easy to smother at anytime of year.

I simply laid the cardboard down and overlapped it across the entire area. This is just the beginning. I still have more area to cover! Naturalized garden low maintenance gardening techniques Crabtree Gardens sheet mulched area in early spring1

Heavy cardboard was laid on top of open field and weighed down with items until mulch could be applied at a later date. The wooden border laid out last summer is seen at right (that was step 1 ).

The wind was whipping up and taking the cardboard with it so I just used whatever I found that had weight. You will see some concrete blocks, containers that were left over winter, old wooden furniture and even some lightweight chairs that I turned over just to hold it down from blowing away.

There is a considerable snowfall amount predicted here in the next day, so this is the perfect time for getting a jump on this project. The snow will weigh down the cardboard and decomposition can begin just as soon as the microbial activity starts when the soil warms. Just as soon as our wood chip mountain begins to thaw out, I will start moving it over on top of the cardboard.

I’ll update as I make more progress at yo.gar.den. In the meanwhile, I will be figuring out what to do with about 50 large daffodil bulbs that were never planted in the fall. I just ran out of energy, what can I say. Rather than throw them out, I’m going to take my chances with them. I’ll let you know how in the next post.

It will be three quick months and Summer Solstice will be here!

Yo.gar.den goes to NYC June 2013 The Lil Yoga Barn at Crabtree Gardens Trend setting yoga studio outdoor yoga yoga in the gardens Drums PA

Our yo.gar.den shirts made an appearance on the streets of NYC in June for the Summer Solstice.


About crabtreegardens

I am a passionate decorator and the head gardener at Crabtree Gardens, LLC, which is a five acre naturalized garden located in Drums, PA. I advocate chemical-free, low maintenance gardening methods and working along with nature. I'm a freelance garden writer and member of GWA: The Association for Garden Communicators.
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2 Responses to Beginning a New Garden in Spring

  1. Ok, I am in love with the shed makeover!

  2. Thanks so much! We are pleased with how well paint and a few boards made it look!

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