Saturday, August 31, 2013

Water-Less Garden, Mulch Madness in Southern California

Photo of a mulch pile.

I love that this blog exists.  Three and a half years after Mom's death, there is this collection of photos and writing existing purely to honor her.  It may be around forever, I don't know. One day at a time.

A little over a month ago I looked at my lawn, dying because the sprinkler system had broken, and I thought yet again about how little I want to have a lawn to water in the backyard.  It just seems like such a waste in San Diego to water lawns. (I have a small one in the front, surrounded by drought-tolerant plants.)

My friend Berta came over and we started pulling yard furniture into a circle on the dead grass.  We grabbed every potted plant we could find to put along a path that we outlined by laying down a curving hose to get the shape.  When we were done we had...old lawn furniture on a dying lawn.

My friend Berta said that she had asked a tree-trimming company for their trimmings and had used them to mulch her yard and cover the dead and the ugly.  The next morning I heard a tree-trimming crew and went out to the street to talk to the foreman.  Sure, he would give me a little bit of mulch later that afternoon.  He was sorry that he didn't have much to give me.  It was okay, I was grateful for any.

No tree trimmings appeared that afternoon.  In the morning I heard the truck emptying onto the driveway.  Pleased, I went out to greet the worker.  A mountain of mulch now filled my entire driveway, standing at least three-feet high.  He apologized for the amount, smiling.  It was okay, I said, I had a 19-year-old son. After all, it was free and seemed like a gift from above. Thanking him, I wondered what I was getting into.

Over a month later I have moved most of the mulch one wheelbarrow load at a time to cover all the area between the drought-tolerant plants in the front, and the entire dead lawn area in the back.  My theme song has been "High Hopes" -
"Once there was a little black ant,
thought he'd move a rubber tree plant,
everyone knows an ant can't,
move a rubber tree plant.
But he's got....High Hopes,
He's got...High Hopes.
He's got...High apple pie in the sky hopes."

And it goes  on.

I also covered all the weeds in my planter beds.  And I still have more mulch, which is lucky because weeds have already figured out how to grow through the thick mulch layer.  It turns out that rather than too much, I have just the right amount of mulch.

My goal after all the mulch is out of the driveway is to fill the path and seating area with decomposed granite, find cushions for the furniture and repaint it, and plant nicer plants than my beat up old succulents in the pots along the path.  I want to plant Buffalo Grass in a tiny patch next to it. It looks very much in transition. But in my mind I see the future, and through my crystal ball I envision a peaceful, drought-resistant backyard that feels a bit like a mountain glen in the back country.

I think my mom would have appreciated what I'm trying to do.  She certainly understood drought-tolerant landscaping and encouraged it with students and friends.  So I think if she were to see the mulch madness, she'd probably smile and nod.  But she wasn't one to give unwanted advice about the yard or anything, so I think she'd just watch the process unfold.

I miss her, but after three years it's less painful and feels more like she really is just always here. Especially when I'm working in the garden.

1 comment:

  1. In the early 1990s, I took a couple of classes from Betty Newton at the Foothills Adult School in El Cajon. I still have my notebooks and my copy of "Gardening Beautifully in Southern California." I enjoyed her classes very much and learned so much from her. She had a nice easy teaching style and her handouts and presentations were always so well done. Whenever I happen to be in a garden area or nursery, I can still rattle off (in my head) the names of so many plants I learned from her. Now that I'm in El Cajon again, our new house has many planting beds that need to be re-done. I will refer to my book again when planning what to plant. I enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you for sharing the memories about your Mom. I didn't know she had passed away. Take care! Sincerely, Deb Cramsie