Looks Like A Garden


So far, my lazy method of garden-making seems to be working: covering the joint in four or five inches of compost without taking off the sod first.  But kids, don't try this at home.  The sod was already miserable in my sandy soil.  I'd never be so cavalier in a spot with healthy grass.

I planted a few dahlias yesterday shovel-deep and saw that the buried grass is already nearly dead.

But gardening never allows for complacency.  So far in this two week-old garden, I've lost pepper, basil, and watermelon seedings to cut worms.  A new problem for me.  In theory, after the seedlings get slightly bigger, their stems will be less delicious and less subject to a summary chomping off. 

I'll have to figure out how serious this problem really is, whether it's attached to my city compost, which I probably won't be using every year, and whether to dress every seedling in a collar next spring.  Of course, that doesn't work for things started from seed!


  1. I have my seedling predators (rolly pollies)here in the wilds. For single item things like squash, cucumber and melons I cut a hole in the bottom of a styrofoam cup, push it into the soil and seed inside the cup. Once the plants are big enough and hardened off to avoid the seedling eaters I slide the cup gently over the plant. This doesn’t work for row seeding of carrots, beets, parsnips and greens of course. Those get extra seeds and diatomaceous earth.

  2. I do what Christopher does, but with t.p. tubes — I cut them into thirds and plant inside those (it works great for things you start inside too, as it makes transplanting easier).

  3. you gotta be kidding…BURYING sod underneath BOUGHT compost? Don’t think that’s how the settlers did it

  4. Ed, you made me laugh. We’ll be much more primitive here come fall, when I will steal all of my neighbors’ maple leaves and grass clippings for my sheet mulch.

  5. Either you could try a chemical approach (eeks! Sevrin) or I think with cut worms there is a timing thing. If you can wait a handful of days and reseed, you might be home-free.

    I tried a no till approach over some supposed “grass” (layers of newspaper, wood chips, grass clippings, composted manure, anything organic), only to realize that the “lawn” was only “domesticated” quack grass.

  6. I have had really excellent results with sheet mulching, especially following the guidelines I read in Toby Hemenway’s book, “Gaia’s Garden”. I also had a partial failure once when I put the manure on top of the cardboard, then leaves and straw. It was still not composted by the following spring: too dry, I think. Probably best to have wet and dry in alternate layers. I hear different opinions about whether dirt needs to be a layer.

  7. I used city compost in a kitchen demo garden I planted at a business. I raked off the remainder of bark mulch 1st. I was going to till with my mini tiller but it wouldn’t start so I said screw it! I raked smooth and planted the seeds and veg seedlings. I had no weeds all last summer-WOW! But I had chicken wire around the two sides not bordered by the building to protect from rabbits.
    This year the bronze fennel has reseeded.

  8. Your problem might be attached to the city compost — we used to get free mulch at the landfill here, but stopped, because we would also get free plant pathogens (ever seen deer vomit? Gross!) and insect pests.

  9. When the cutworms ate my second seeding of pole beans last night–I didn’t even get a chance to notice them sprouting–I had a weak moment and threw down Slug Getta Plus. I feel bad, since it kills worms too. Too late now.

  10. I caught a black cutworm with interesting yellow markings chomping a basil sprout yesterday. Relocated him into my can o’ worms. Those buggers chomp fast! Gave it a small stem of basil w/ 4 or so leaves on the patio table to observe it & the entire thing was gone within 5 mins.

  11. I am thinking of going this route as I expand my perennial border. It is impossibly narrow and crowded because I 1) did not know what I was doing, and 2) digging up sod (and weeds) is hard! It is giving me lots of anxiety, as is the order of leaf mulch I just ordered from the county (oh what will it contain?). But I have got to stop paying for mulch at least (I do pay for compost because I cannot produce enough). Speaking of crabgrass, which I am sure is one of the components of my “lawn,” should I not bury if it is present, and dig instead?
    By the way, thanks for the update–I love seeing a new garden take shape!

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