Feeling Dirty

Last week I noticed the Omaha’s Waste Management pick up our trash as well as our 10+ bags of yard waste. I thought, well that is strange. If it happens again, I will contact the Waste Management office directly.

Tomorrow is trash day. And instead of being reactive, I decided to look into the matter prior to setting out the yard bags. I found out through a quick Google search that the City of Omaha made an executive decision to combine resident yard waste with trash.

Per the city’s solid waste contract, yard waste is required to be picked up separately and distributed to Omaha’s composting site. Yet, Mayor Jean Stothert disregarded the solid waste contract because some residents were complaining that their bags were taking too long to be picked up.

Stothert’s decision smells a little dirty to say the least. Beyond resident complaints triggering the decision to combine waste, she has also stated there is enough compost in reserve and it is not a real source of income for the city.

But, mind you, residents do not need to cut back on the amount of yard waste they send out to the landfills, but we should as citizens continue to keep the waste separate? I mean, why not just put it all in one, big black trash back and just turn our backs on the operational aspects of our city and the lack of respect for our environment?

Come on Omaha. Throw us a bone and at least change the policies of Wasteline. I mean, some of us out here really do store our used glass containers and bring them to a recycle center. At least give us that option with yard waste.

Additional resources to learn more about what is in store for yard waste this year: Omaha World Herald

Photo credit: The New Yorker

6 Safety Issues: To Garden or Landscape?

As gardeners, we spend an absurd amount of time observing, tending and fine-tuning our outdoor spaces in the attempt to recreate nature. As landscapers, we spend just as much time creating and maintaining monocultures: the manicured lawn, the clipped hedge row, the bed freshly mulched in spring.

Two distinct camps appear to surface. The homeowner who meticulously maintains the perimeter of their home with a sea of mulch and strategically spaced plants, versus the homeowner pursuing an ongoing, and at times messy, approach to plants as micro-nature.

My little patch of green space grows and is cultivated along an imaginary line where garden meets landscape and landscape meets garden. It is a space that does not seem to exist in the mindset of homeowners fixated in one camp or the other.

This fine line was established out of necessity.

We had to reestablish a safe garden, which falls more in the camp of a landscaper, but balanced by the gardener who refuses to compromise 38 years of organically built soils, vegetation and habitat.

I have found once safety is established, your garden naturally becomes a beautiful hybrid of garden and landscape. Water is directed away from structures and diverted into bioswales, tripping hazards are assessed and crumbling walls that cannot support the load are reformed or reinvented.

Today, I thought I would share some of the safety concerns of my yard with you. And while I might not work through them in list form, here are my top 6 safety concerns that when tackled will automatically enhance the aesthetic and functional appeal of my garden.

1. Electricity and water

This picture actually illustrates a two issues: a deteriorating wall, which is holding back the foundation of the house, and conduit with an electrical outlet box affixed to the wall. The wiring has frayed over time due to lack of proper installation with a connecting PVC elbow.  The electrical outlet was intended to plug-in a pump for a small pond directly below the wall. While the outlet is a GFCI, or ground fault protected, I still did not like the setup with small children and I have disconnected the electrical and removed the pond liner and back-filled the hole.

2. Improper slopes

This is a picture taken of the back of our house. In all fairness, this is not the starting point as I have already dug into this project. The sand base was settling with large flagstone pavers and the downspout was directed away from the house, but not far enough. And a log wall was containing the hosta bed running along the side. The water collection in this area is alarming. This may also be a contributing factor to the failure of the moss-laden timber wall with the improper electrical box illustrated above.

3. Crumbling walls

Crumbling field stone walls are common in the backyard. They pose an obvious problem of not being properly installed to hold the load, but they are also a little scary as a mother with a daredevil 3-year-old in toe. I have literally seen my son walk on and break 2 of these walls to date. Of course all he does is laugh, but it makes my heart skip a beat – or two.

I would also like to point out the attempted reinforcement of the timber wall. It would have been much better to just start over. Most of the walls have been reinforced in this manner and it is a short-term solution that will cause a lot of back pain for me!

4. Downspouts and drainage

The water runs off the property and while this, in and of itself, not a safety issue, the water running over the sidewalk created an extreme danger to the walkability during this past winter’s ice storms. I could not keep up with dangerous slick spots created by water being allowed to run over the sidewalks.

5. The dead

There are many trees on the property that are dead or dying, The large spruce in the front has a double leader with what has been preliminarily diagnosed as white pine weevil. My choices are: cut it down or cut out the dead and inject the tree yearly. I cannot top a tree. Therefore, this large specimen, and not a very pretty one, will come down.

6. Uneven walks

A flagstone path cuts through the hillsloped garden of our backyard. While this one will take the longest to address as it is not as critical as the others, the uneven walk causes our natural gate to be rhythmically choppy. In addition the top step is slipping out-of-place with yet another drainage issue and it has been the culprit of a few falls to date!

A large part of gardening is community building. When I am in my front working away it is very common for me to have three separate conversations with pedestrians, usually curious about the new neighbor and her addiction to the garden. Over time, It is much easier to explain to neighbors why so much activity is happening. For example, when people hear I want to take out the spruce in the front yard, it goes without saying, if you can back up your claim for the gardening camp of people who believe mother nature should not be disturbed while speaking systematically to the camp of landscape-oriented individuals with the facts, you will find acceptance by both.  And perhaps one day, acceptance will lead a new, communal camp of individuals who pull thoughts as well as feelings about their yards from both the landscape and garden ethos.

Thrifty Gardening

So what? You say you’re green, but what does that REALLY mean?

The idea of saying I was green to anyone a few years ago was enough to create sweaty palms, stammer and shirk any responsibility. My problem? I thought only BOLD people were green. In my mind, these were the people who were off the grid, grew all their produce and would never be caught dead with a pizza box in their garbage.

I only WANTED to be like those people. I did not have the grit to follow through. So, seriously, who was I to say I was green? Then, I would flop down on my bed like a three-year old having a tantrum and spout out, “What the hell is green anyway!” And who really cares?

It turns out that I care. I care every day that I make an inappropriate decision concerning the future welfare of the places and spaces our children will call home.

While my definition of green might not be the exact same as yours, and I might still eat pizza like I am a freshman in college, I can guarantee that I am mature enough to own the name Green Spot Garden. These are the years I will apologize for my hiccups and fix my epically incorrect landslides. But more importantly, I try to pause prior to silly destruction both on the land and on the wallet.

I wanted to shed some light on the idea of garden planning as a tool to save money. While most blogs out there have a very thoughtful ‘to do list’ broken down by week, month or season, I have always found lists and chores take the fun out of gardening. Before I know it, attempting to fit within set parameters in the garden begins to feel all too much like housework. I don’t know about you, but cleaning the toilets should not mentally compete with deadheading, even deadheading roses.

Beyond plant sharing, which I am a BIG advocate of, I believe in flipping the chores on their head and doing some pre-contemplative garden work all in the name of saving a little cash. Most of my examples also align with my ethos of keeping it green and the majority of what I will bring to you is what I have learned as I grow, such as simple guides for saving seeds. Others are not quite as expected, such as the details of an outdoor nest / couch.

But, the tip I have today is inspired by my sister asking for help with a plan for her front yard. Since she is my sister, I quickly composed an excel spreadsheet complete with a simple plant list and cost. I am almost embarrassed to say that I prescribed a NEED, not a want, for 500 (or more) drumstick allium bulbs. While economical gardening is an essential, there is still a designer in me. I mean, seriously, what is the point of a few bulbs scattered here or there? For high impact, plant them, and plant them tight!

But the best news of the day was when I discovered if she ordered the bulbs now, at online sites such as American Meadows, the bulb price would be drastically reduced.

Oh the joy of off-season shopping. It is kind of like buying winter coats for my kids in Spring, but not quite as exciting.  And when I delivered the news to my sister that she NEEDED 500 or maybe 600 allium bulbs, I felt good that I could soften the blow by saying, “And if you buy them now, you will save 50% of their retail price.”

Because seriously, one of my favorite plant pairings (yes, just like a sommelier selects wines to complement a main entrée) is the drumstick allium and the Pennsylvania sedge.

Happy shopping! I am headed into the online world of off-season bulb sales to beef up the scattered daffodils, and tulips of my yard.





20 Reasons you Might be a Green Gardener

Most people secure movers when they purchase a new house. You go the extra mile, rent a U-Haul cargo van, and take the garden with you.

I remember the day I received the text. We had just moved out of our house with the intent of purchasing a home in the woods. Sadly, the house did not appraise and we were stuck.

Particular is a soft word to choose when finding a home suitable for the inside needs of my husband and the outside needs of mine. So, we decided to rest our brains and ride out the winter months of 2016/2017 in a duplex.

With all items moved, and our backs sore, the last thing on my mind was saving my old garden. But, when texted by past neighbor that the garden was to be ripped out, I felt as though I had no choice! Right? So I rented a U-Haul cargo Van and spent two days ripping out all I could shove inside. Then, I drove away. Beyond winter setting in, we did not have land to our names and I had to travel 2 hours to my father’s farm to plant my salvaged garden.

Somewhere on the journey I finally realized I had lost my mind. Who does this? And who has a husband that says, sure Kim. Go move the plants and I will watch the kids. And to top it off, for those who do not know me, the kids are 3 and 5 years of age. I think that says it all.

So if any of you out there are as green (thrifty and environmentally aware) as I felt during this past winter trapped and laughing in a cargo van all in the name of plants, then perhaps you will enjoy Green Spot Garden. But just in case you need a little more introduction to see if we are a good fit, I have compiled a list for your review.

Happy reading. But most importantly, happy gardening!

Kimberly Kneifl, Green Spot Garden

20 Reasons You Might be a Green Gardener

  1. When you look forward to the end-of-season sales to purchase plants and you drag your child along for the ride.
  2. You save seeds and offer them to others in your neighborhood.
  3. You might be caught talking to your plants.
  4. Your neighbor catches you in your tree and worries about your safety. You respond by laughing and insist all is well.
  5. Your more outgoing neighbor refers to you as a source of entertainment when you are caught on the garage roof taking birds-eye-view pictures of your garden.
  6. Your heart might want to be in a country garden, but you know the city is safer for the garden hoarder you could so easily become.
  7. You garden with an organic spirit for the safety of your children, pets and nature.
  8. You rip out age-old roses because they do not adhere to your sense of simple, organic gardening.
  9. But, you can’t bring yourself to throw the roses away. So, you carefully cut out the rose borers and give them away to someone who will cherish their difficult beauty.
  10. You love roses in the botanical garden?
  11. You love the simplicity of sedges!
  12. You shy away from too many pots.
  13. You shy away from starting seeds inside.
  14. You let your children learn to love nature by discovery. So what if all the allium and daffodil flowers have to suffer?
  15. You repurpose items that others see as junk.
  16. You route your downspouts to simple rain gardens and bioswales.
  17. You can’t understand the difficulty of finding a contractor to bid on a pink poured concrete wall. I mean, pink pays the same as any other color, right?
  18. You spend WAY too much time on your garden. But, you would not have it any other way!
  19. You find beauty in every garden and in every season, but hell hath no fury when you decide to rip up the roses.
  20. You can’t stand gloves because you need to feel the soil. And you ice your hands down after a long day in the garden with a glass of whiskey.