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Lawn Gone for Style and Food

air date: April 6, 2013

Go for Lawn Gone with designer and author Pam Penick’s eye-catching, water-saving options. On tour, Meredith Thomas recycled scavenged materials to trade lawn for vegetable gardens. Daphne explains how to salvage a weedy lawn around trees for new gardens. Her Pick of the Week: Tatume squash, deliciously productive and almost immune to the dreaded squash vine borer.  Andrea DeLong-Amaya from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center extends wildflower season with summer bloomers.

Episode Segments

On Tour

Turn Lawn Into Food on a Budget with Meredith Thomas

When Meredith Thomas traded lawn for something her family could eat, she relied on scavenged materials to build her ever-producing vegetable beds. Putting discarded materials back into use, she builds trellises, beds, and even a hugelkultur with a keyhole concept addition. She doesn’t buy fertilizer. To nourish her plants, she simply tucks in plant waste or fish heads free from a local seafood store. She adds art to the garden, too, with simple finds that in in her creative hands, take on a lovely new purpose.
Music provided by Freejay MacLoud.

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Question of the Week

Banish Weeds

How can I deal with weeds in dead grass around my trees?

Thanks to Diane Salazar for this great question and picture! She tells us that the home was vacant over a year and a half before they purchased it, so the yard is really out of shape.

Well, the best place to start is the soil. If the landscape has not been irrigated since the house was vacated so long ago, the soil is going to be very compacted. So you should plan to rent the proper equipment, or hire someone to aerate.

Then, put the landscape back on a regular irrigation schedule. Even watering just once a month, if we aren’t getting any rain, will go a long way toward keeping your soil from drying out completely and shrinking in on itself. Compacted soil is like rock to a plant’s roots, so growth is really inhibited. But aeration will create nice little holes where irrigation water and oxygen can move into the soil more easily, helping to soften it up.

As for the weeds, keep pulling them, as you say you’ve already started, and use mulch around any established trees and shrubs, or any plants that you intend to keep.

Diane wanted to know about putting down newspaper under the mulch, and yes, that’s a great idea. Mulching alone does help to inhibit weed growth, but really only works if the weed seeds haven’t yet germinated. Once the seedling emerges, the plant usually has plenty of stored carbohydrates to push up through your mulch, reach the sun, and grow by leaps and bounds overnight. A layer of newspaper, one section or 6 to 10 pages will usually do the trick. The newspaper barrier is a little harder for weeds to push through, although not impossible. Be sure to moisten the newspaper before you put the mulch on top of it. If we get lucky and get a hard rain soon, your mulch will wash right off of the dry newspaper in a little avalanche. You can also use cardboard, too, but again, water it down before covering with compost and mulch.

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Plant of the Week

Tatume Squash

Tatume Squash

Thank you to garden blogger Caroline Homer for her picture and hands-on advice! Tatume squash is a prolific producer. It's a must-have for any vegetable gardener, especially if you're converting some lawn space and growing vegetables for the first time. It's easy to grow and will likely produce more fruit than you can possibly eat. Caroline tells us that she plants the first or second week of March. Tatume prefers to sprawl on the ground, rather than be trellised, so give it plenty of space: 6 to 8 feet on all sides. If you've ever grown squash, you've come face to face with the dreaded squash vine borer, which destroys squash plants in the blink of an eye. Although it's not immune to these insects, Tatume does tolerate the damage better than any other squash choice for Central Texas gardens. It also thrives in full sun, requiring very little supplemental irrigation: twice a week deep watering is usually sufficient to keep Tatume growing and blooming, and fruiting through early summer. If you find that you're getting more squash than you can handle, simply harvest some of the blooms to use in salads. Many vegetables benefit from fertilization throughout production season, but Tatume will perform just fine if only fertilized lightly at the time of planting. Caroline simply adds a little 8-2-4 at planting time. Tatume squash is an heirloom variety, so you may have to shop around to find seeds. Producer Linda note: I snagged some at a local nursery!

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