Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Reclaiming the paths

Last May, I wrote about reclaiming a garden bed, one in full view of my kitchen windows. In that case, I pulled out the weeds, covered the bed with cardboard, and covered the cardboard with compost and topsoil. Then, I planted annuals in the newly reclaimed bed. A year has passed since then, and the bed is weedy again, so I think that particular bed might require an annual reclamation.

Yesterday, though, I took the same approach to reclaiming the paths of my community garden. I love my spot at the community garden, especially the half that I've been tending since 1996. (The other, newer half is, at the moment, a 20' x 40' bed of weeds that makes me cringe and sigh whenever I look at it.) At its best, my community garden plot can be wildly and abundantly beautiful:

At the same time, all that wildness and abundance means that it is overgrown and weedy and hard to navigate. The plus side of letting things like corn poppies run wild is that for a few weeks or a month every summer, I have a glorious show of flowers. The down side is that the garden grows more and more crowded as the flowers and weeds spread from beds to paths and back again.

Even though part of me hates to tame the abundance, I'm taking a harder line this year. I've been weeding rather furiously, considering all kinds of things to be weeds that I would have spared in years past--heliopsis, artemisia, creeping thyme. I am treating them as if they were the dreaded mint and tossing them in the compost pile without a second glance.

Yesterday, a lovely afternoon once the humidity blew away midday, I took another step towards my path reclamation. Looking at the photo above, you wouldn't know that my garden had beds in it or paths. But it does, and I want them back. I didn't photograph the first stage, which was all that industrious weeding.

But here is one path, mostly weeded. The bed with the garlic in it is to the left, and the bed where the corn poppies and larkspur have trespassed is on the right.

Doesn't look like much, huh?

But I'd brought to the garden with me some old cardboard boxes as well as a bag of newspapers originally meant for recycling and then repurposed, and I put them down where I wanted the path to be:

And then I made multiple trips to the pile of wood chips and covered the paper:

Voila--a path. I'm not sure I like the wood chips, especially. I will not like walking barefoot on them, for one thing. But I don't want to put anything like black plastic down, and I know that straw doesn't do much on paths where weeds are determined to tread. And there's no shortage of old newspapers at my house, and no shortage of wood chips in the pile at the community garden, so that seemed the most logical combination.

I have a lot of newspapering and wood-chipping ahead of me, not to mention some paths that still need to be seriously weeded. But I feel better for having started this particular project, and I'm hoping it will pay off later on. I love my garden less the more weeds there are in it, and I'm not ready to give it up, so the only real solution is to institute a much firmer weed policy. We'll see how long I can keep it up, but at the moment, I'm feeling cautiously optimistic. I'll report back when Project Pathway Reclamation is further along.

1 comment:

Joan Lambert Bailey said...

A great idea! We did this for the paths back in our garden in Michigan. Well, sort of. I put down thick, thick, thick layers of newspaper and then put wooden pallets over the top. It created a sort of raised bed effect, and allowed me to easily maneuver in the garden. The drawbacks were that I had to redo the paths each year and it lessened the growing space a bit. The pallets did offer some nice spots for beneficials to lurk, which was nice.

I would only suggest that you make sure the layers are incredibly thick. By the third year, I would put down almost a whole newspaper opened up. Can't wait to see what happens!