Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Plastic: The Scourge of My Front Yard

"Rose, do you have a plan?" Average asked, as I began aggressively yanking sheets up plastic up out of our front flower bed. No, I didn't. All I knew was that I didn't want plastic in my way anymore as I tried to plant my three new flowers, and I didn't want to see it poking up out of the ground, or pull chunks of it up as I was trying to weed, as I had been doing all afternoon. I can accept that plastic has many uses, but I don't want my garden to be one of them. Over time it loses its functionality as a weed deterrent, and slowly breaks down but never goes away. I have ranted about this before. By the end, I had filled half of our garbage can with plastic, unearthed a broken section of drainpipe for our gutters, and turned over all of the bark mulch (apparently barkamulch is not a real word) in the area next to our house so it looks like new again! Luckily I married a man who can make a plan, and he brought out a rake and a shovel and helped me move around the bark, so I didn't injure myself trying to pull up the plastic sheets. He also repaired the pipe. Thank you, husband!

We bought our house a little over two years ago, and according to our neighbor, the owners put plastic on all the beds that border our front lawn before covering them with bark chips, in an attempt to "beautify" the yard. The people didn't really know what they were doing, as evidenced by the fact that the geraniums that were lining the front walk the first time we looked at the house were dead by the time we closed and moved in. They planted them under the overhang then never watered.

If you want to eliminate weeds from your flower beds, there are many other options besides burying plastic in the ground, such as:
  • lay plastic down on a hot day and it will cook everything underneath. Remove it after a few days or weeks.
  • cover the area with newspapers, which will eventually compost
  • cover the area with leaves or straw, which will eventually compost
  • fill the area with plants that you want!
  • let the weeds live. Dandelions have many uses, and can be pretty if you look at them the right way. Read about the positive side of the dandelion here. (I do dig up dandelions myself.)
Plastic is a fascinating material. I heard parts of an interview on Fresh Air yesterday with a woman who wrote an entire novel about plastic. You can listen to the interview here. According to Susan Freinkel, author of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, it is both a blessing and a curse. She tried to go one day without touching plastic, and didn't make it any farther than the first moments of the day (her toilet seat is plastic) before realizing she'd be better off just recording a list of everything plastic that she DID touch. I am trying to use less plastic in my life, particularly in meal preparation and food storage, but it is pretty difficult to find alternatives at times. Plastic can be a very useful material, which saves lives, as the commercials say. It also leaches chemicals, and never goes away. The Pacific Gyre is a testament to that. I recommend that website if you want to learn more.

Enough complaining, though. Here are some flower photos from my front yard! It is finally spring!
One of the new flowers


One of the tulips I planted last year
This bush is by our front door. I bought it years ago and kept it potted until last year.

This is actually my neighbor's tree. So pretty!

Happy Earth Day on Friday!

3 comments:

  1. Great ideas! My spouse always wants to put plastic down, even if the vegetable garden, to keep out weeds. But I don't really know enough about gardening to suggest alternatives, so right now I just spend a lot of time weeding. Happy Earth Day!

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  2. Oh, by the way, in the fall we put down newspaper where the vegetable beds would be. 2-4 sheets thick, then covered with leaves and manure. When we went out to plant, it was already decomposed, but there were still quite a bit of weeds - I guess the seeds hiked their way in with the leaves and manure. We tilled them under so now we just wait to see how long the beds stay weed-free...

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  3. Weeds love disturbed soil, so after you till, the sooner you plant what you DO want to grow, the better, I think. We put down straw on our strawberry beds and leaves on all the others over the winter, and it did a great job of limiting weeds - so much better than last year!

    Ann - Good luck with your garden! I checked out your blog and it looks like you have a huge area and should gets lots of produce this year!

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