Ever so often, I ask my gardening pals about sod removal. What are their favorite techniques. Should I try this? Should I try that? How about the lasagne method–that’s a thing, right? Is there an easier way than stripping sod and hauling it away? Etc. Ad nauseum. I do most sincerely apologize for being Patricia the Pest. But I need to know these things. I love knowledge. Plus we inherited a lot of lawn with Flamingo Park.

Of course, I have to admit to that the grass does have its appeal. It’s luscious in the springtime after plenty of free water from the rain gods. Pumpkin regularly demonstrates her approval.

Pumpkin loves lawn, which gives me pause.
Pumpkin thinks lawn is terrific.

And the big yard is a great place for running, chasing, and outsmarting your opponents.

Elliot and Pokey banking corners.
Elliot and Pokey traction testing.
Elliot and Pokey like the lawn too.
Hah, hah, can’t catch me.
Quick direction change is Pokey speciality.
Pokey changing direction on a dime.

But as appealing as it is, there’s so much of it, front and back. Surely a little more could be given over to gardening space. Or hardscape. Or a swimming pool. Hah, hah. I hadn’t considered a pool since I was a lot younger and thought one would be great. And then I went through a long period thinking a friendly next door neighbor with a pool would be a better solution; maintaining one is no doubt a pain. But after this past summer of hot damn weather, I started thinking it might be a good idea again. Of course, someone will have to break the news to Jabba, I don’t have the money with me.

Anyway, I recently saw a post on Nextdoor.com advertising free mulch. For me, that’s like hearing a starter pistol. Bargain hunting is in my bones. I inherited it from my mom, Josephine: she was an expert shopper, primarily of weekly grocery sales.

My mom, Josephine, having a rare moment to herself.
My mom, Josephine, having a rare moment to herself.

Josephine had a family of 8 to feed on my dad’s income from Oregon Steel Mills. Of course, that was in the olden days, during strong Unions and long before trickle down economics; it was actually possible to manage a family of eight on a single income. Still, poor sweetie Josephine was so robbed in not having Costco during those years. Or a microwave. Or a dishwasher. Or kids who were terribly helpful. Except me, of course. And I’m not lying. I was chief vacuuming operator, and I still am. My friends joke about my vacuum cleaner always being out. Once my neighbor Tami came home from a business trip to China, and upon seeing their vacuum resting in the living room told her wife, Missy, “You’ve been hanging out with Tricia too much.”

Hey, there's that vacuum now, along with one of the main contributing culprits.
Hey, there’s that vacuum now, along with one of the main contributing culprits.

Where was I? Oh yes, sod removal. So even though I’m torn about taking all of it out, for the kid and animal reasons, I have been reducing the footprint over the past year. And I think I can afford to take more. So when I saw the free mulch ad, it gave me the motivation to try out mulching as a means of eradicating lawn. I know people talk about using newspaper or cardboard as the first layer, but my experience with a giant load of compost suggested that might be an unnecessary step. (I suspect you’re thinking, well of course it would be gone with a huge pile like that. But we whittled it away, leaving only a few inches, and it still did the trick.)

Grass under the compost pile disappeared.
Grass under the compost pile disappeared.

Plus bothering with the cardboard layer seemed to be holding me up. Thusly, I did not.

Free Mulch posted on Nextdoor.com
The pile of actual Free Mulch as posted on Nextdoor.com

After a brief attempt to discourage me with the “but we’ve got no truck argument,” the men jumped on board. I’d have done it myself, but due to the pesky smashed-shoulder incident, I still can’t manage to lift that much weight. Dammit.

Men: but how are we going to get it without a truck.
Men: but how are we going to get it without a truck.

And see, it fits nicely, in the all-purpose rig.

Three trips and done. The men are such standbys.
Three trips and done. The men are such standbys.

Once we back home, it was on to the fun part. Mind you, I still didn’t have an exact plan. And still don’t.

Used tip and shove method since it was too heavy for me to lift.

The tip, roll, and shove method proved effective for distributing the mulch.

Let’s see. If I keep adding the gardens around the perimeter, will it be like pushing all the furniture against the walls. Oh pish, what’s the worst that could happen.

It was interesting to see how even a bit of funky mulch neatened up bed edges.

A couple feet wide and 3 or 4 inches deep felt right.
A couple feet wide and 3 or 4 inches deep felt right.

And I’d been kicking around the idea of adding a island bed, this location suggested by Vanessa Gardner-Nagel, and so gave that a whirl as well.

Definitely too small. Maybe a square would be better?
Definitely too small. Maybe a square would be better?

Or maybe the circle is just not big enough. I dumped additional mulch in the middle, and suddenly, it became the flying saucer from The Day the Earth Stood Still. (No! not the one with Keanu. The original perfect movie, with Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal. We watch it every year on January 1st with our friends Dennis and Kathy.

Dennis & Kathy's during a summer visit at their place.
Dennis & Kathy’s during a summer visit at their place.

We drink champagne and eat party mix and talk through the whole thing. Then we have a soup and salad dinner, but we’re generally stuffed by then.)

The Day the Earth Stood Still
The Day the Earth Stood Still

I saw this freshly minted bed on a neighbor’s hellstrip.

A newly minted perfect square bed on the hellstrip.
A newly minted perfect square bed on the hellstrip.

But they also added this amoeba shaped bed on the upper lawn. It’s good too, don’t you think?

An amoeba shaped bed is good too.
An amoeba shaped bed is good too.

And while we’re at it, here’s the bigger vibe. It’s a fun garden, but I haven’t managed to corner the gardner yet and get the scoop.

A garden in Concordia Neighborhood.
A garden in Concordia Neighborhood.

And so concludes the Saga of the Free Mulch Pile.

Meanwhile, if I haven’t entirely worn out my welcome, I’d love to hear about the methods you’ve used–and how you feel about their efficacy.

I keep you posted on my Flamingo Park shenanigans.

Cheers