New gardens have too much empty space to be lush the first year or two. Quick fill-the-space solutions are California Poppies and Nasturtiums. In the second picture, even in among Ferns and Rhododendrons, California Poppies are terrific! A pack or two of seeds, costing just a couple of dollars, can bring months of outrageous color. Poppies, cut back shortly after the first bloom, will flush out again and provide a second bloom. A word of warning: the deer leave the Poppies alone but nibble on the Nasturtiums.
In two days the job is done and what a huge, huge improvement over the ugly black plastic. When the black plastic was removed the weeds looked pretty dead. Some of the weeds had large tap roots and we weren't certain those tap roots were dead so the hog mat under the chips was necessary to complete the weed-kill job. My garden of 16 years on Saratoga Road never saw an herbicide, pesticide or chemical fertilizer. This garden on Grace Lane will never see one either. Mulching is my answer to weeds and soil improvement. Using the right plants and encouraging a well-balanced habitat handles the diseases and insects.
Even on this steep hill the chip mulch sticks to the hog mat. These chips are from Heggenes Arboreal Services and are very useful in improving soil and controlling weeds. In this instance, they are used over hog mat but I also use them over newspaper and cardboard for weed control. For a new garden, mulching like this is invaluable for creating new garden beds. Construction sites end up with both weeds and compacted soil. The mulch will solve both problems -- drowning out the weeds and getting the earthworms happily cultivating under the mulch. Using wood chips, rather than bark, saves money and recycles an otherwise unused byproduct of tree pruning. On Whidbey a load of chips (about 10 yards) is $50, or free if it's the public utility pruners creating them along the road right-of-ways. Fox's Tree Service is another invaluable source of chips. And, for tree work, both Jim Fox and Jason Heggenes are knowledgeable and delightful to work with.
This new roll of hog mat will be replacing the black plastic as a weed barrier for our hillside. Two very generous friends, Christine and Dianne, gave us the hog mat for a house warming gift. In Christine's restoration work she uses hog mat for controlling weeds prior to planting the native plant starts. The hog mat is textured enough to hold a top dressing of chips or bark mulch, thick enough to stop weeds, easy to tear a hole in for planting, and in a couple years will decompose.