Thursday, September 27, 2018


Last summer an enthusiastic volunteer pulled up the patch of native snowberry that was attempting to rule my typical Seattle front bank. He did a first-rate job: only a few shoots appeared last spring. This year's growth of native flowers on the area was more lush and beautiful than any season I can remember in nearly four decades.

The second year here, I decided not to risk mowing my toes while grooming the area, so I asked someone to skin the sod off the bank. It was hot, itchy, two-fisted work. The exposed soil was bare and bleak, so much so that I decided to imitate one of my beloved Clallam County road cuts, generally covered with native daisies, sword fern, foxglove, and salal. The design deliberately integrated the curbside view with other grassy banks in the immediate vicinity.

The first four years were not impressive, but I managed to keep the bank looking as if it had been groomed. Each fall I cut down the summer's growth, laid it flat, and covered it with ash leaves from the towering shade trees across the street. Year five saw the planting scheme become sustainable, and the demands for water diminish.

I can't say for certain that decayed snowberry roots have wrought a miracle of tilth on the bank, but I have a strong hunch that the soil is now richer than ever and eager to grab what rain and irrigation water falls on the slope. The hunch is based on the traditional Japanese gardening practice of planting and composting deep-rooted daikon on hard soil to break it up and condition it for further use -30-

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