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Into the Garden: Pros could be more professional too

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Last week, I complained a bit. And I swore that was all the complaining I would do. I lied.

I was on a rant about homeowners abusing landscapers and other gardening professionals. Several friends commented and said that while they agree with the things I said about treating landscapers with respect, they believe there is another side to the coin.

"When I recently called a landscaper and asked for an estimate, he acted like I was asking for the moon," one friend said. "He couldn't give me anything in writing, and when I questioned what all he would do for me, he was offended.

"When I redid my kitchen last year, the kitchen designer and I worked together to find a plan that suited my needs and that was within my budget."

Another friend said she is always frustrated when she calls around at the beginning of the summer to find someone to do her weekly grass cutting and maintenance. She said she often has to leave multiple messages, and she's irritated when her calls are not returned. Also, since many lawn-care folks work out of their homes, the person answering the phone often isn't able to answer questions about the services available.

The moral of this story is that both sides are right -- and wrong. The key is for both sides to be professional and to be straightforward with their expectations.

Lasagna garden

Probably the most-asked question I get: "How do you do a lasagna garden?" I've written about this no-dig, no-till organic gardening method before. It results in rich soil with very little work. The word "lasagna" refers to the layers of organic material that "cook down" over time. It's also called sheet composting.

Fall is the perfect time to create a lasagna bed. There's lots of organic materials available as you do your fall yard and garden cleanup, and you can let it sit and break down all winter. Next spring, when it's time to plant, just dig down into the bed like you would with any other garden. Here's what you can use in your layers:

  • Grass clippings
  • Leaves
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea leaves and tea bags
  • Weeds (if they haven't gone to seed)
  • Manure
  • Compost
  • Seaweed
  • Shredded newspaper or junk mail
  • Pine needles
  • Spent blooms, trimmings from the garden
  • Peat moss
  • You must alternate layers of "browns" (fallen leaves, shredded newspaper, peat, pine needles) with layers of "greens" (vegetable scraps, garden trimmings, grass clippings). Brown layers should be twice as deep as green layers. At the end, you should have about two feet of "stuff." It will shrink quickly.

    This garden will have better water retention, less weeds, less need for fertilizer and great soil. And it's easy. What more could you want?

    Reach Sara Busse at sara.busse@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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