May 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Ungarbled Non-Tech Volume 5: Get Out and ‘Garben’

The first summer, I attempted to learn how to garden and landscape. My garden was full of clover. I asked my landscaper, who answered, “Green is green, and the cost would be $2,000 plus to turn over.” That same summer, on the way to the Chabad House of Teaneck, I passed an older man who was tending to his garden. I said, “What a shame that your grass is dying.” He said, in an accent, “Not dead, growing Zoysia grass.” After Shabbat ended, I remembered the name and searched for it online, and the journey began.

So I found out about Zoysia grass. It’s a breed of grass that prevents weeds and clover, very green, and needs little to no watering. It’s widely used on golf courses since it’s low maintenance, but it turns a dead yellow for the winter months. It also grows aggressively, slowly overtaking the rest of the grass, so it’s not as popular as other types of grass.

I purchased Zoysia grass, which came in a dense sheet. I purchased a plugger, which I reviewed and tested in my past column, which I used to plant three-inch squares in the lawn quickly. After planting around the garden and watering well for three weeks, the grass grew and spread over the lawn. Five years later, I’m proud to say that my wonderful neighbor Jorge D. not only said my lawn looks great, but he even trusted me to water his lawn while he was away!

Last summer, I purchased raised beds, seeds and soil. After three weeks, the seeds began to sprout, which introduced me to the pests that munch on your lawn: aphids, leaf miners, white flies, etc. A quick squirt of Neem oil took care of most, but the squirrels kept getting in there. I purchased chicken wire and netting, but after Monarch butterflies started getting caught in the nets, I decided to take my chances. Better fight it out with the squirrels than hurt the Monarchs.

A solution came from my fantastic wife Rachi, who, for my 50th birthday, bought me a small greenhouse from Amazon. The greenhouse solved the pest problem, but kept too much heat in and didn’t let rain in.

Fast forward to this summer. I got rid of my raised vegetable bed and converted the side of my house to an area to grow lush flowers, shrubs and herbs that repel squirrels, like peppermint, sage and hot peppers. They kept the squirrels away and left enough room for flowers. It took me weeks of digging and planting to make it look presentable for my new neighbors.

My newest upgrade was a freestanding greenhouse purchased from Amazon that I used for the vegetable garden. This year I planted everything you would not find at your local grocer or farmers market: black tomatoes, Persian carrots, fingerling watermelon, chocolate colored peppers, white pumpkins and other exotic vegetables.

I watered all this using a built-in irrigation system and windows. During the spring, my backyard tree hadn’t grown. At the beginning of July, I moved the greenhouse to the sunny side of my backyard. Unfortunately, I missed some of the growing weeks, but everything caught up quickly. After the heat fully set in, the crops started to cook on the stems, so it took some maneuvering to find the proper placement, but nothing was cooking in the planters. Nothing. No fruit or vegetables, just munched on leaves.

I purchased 1,500 live ladybugs. They are pretty cute and unique in how they work, but do your research to make sure you only bring in local ladybugs. Otherwise, you can add an invasive species to your garden that nobody wants.

After the ladybugs didn’t solve the problem, I decided this was war. I cleared out the no yield greenhouse and replaced what was in the planters with new seedlings. I purchased a product that mimics pollinators and purchased Green Lacewings adults. They look like thin green flies. They pollinate and kill the same pests the ladybugs do. I had minimal success with the Lacewings.

As August begins, I have finally seen some yield on the vegetables. I purchased a grow lamp for the greenhouse. I have also limited the water to one minute a day. From the internet, I learned that one of the biggest mistakes can be to overwater your plants, and when I followed that advice, the plants began to grow.

My last birthday upgrade was an in-ground sprinkler system. I learned of a fantastic sprinkler wholesaler open to the public — Aquarius Supply in Hawthorne New Jersey. Be ready to wait in line, but I purchased a battery operated timer and learned how to use gravel to bury the system. I used my new reputable landscaper, who insisted on purchasing a filter that ensures the water does not go back into the home to possibly contaminate the drinking water. I also had some trial and error in terms of the aim for the sprinklers away from houses and cars.

I write two columns a year about needing to be more technical. For me, it’s my zen to be in the garden. Any garden enthusiast will tell you that you are never done with your garden. You’ll add solar lighting and move trees around. Buy mulch by the truckload. That is true for me.

Interestingly enough, I have found other engineers who love to garden. In our day jobs, our role is definitive. We have an issue. Eventually, we find a solution. Planting, you can do everything right and get nothing. Then you can drop a seed by accident and suddenly stuff starts growing. It’s a whole new interesting world for us, and I guess that’s why we do it.

Summer will be over before you know it. Make sure to get outside and enjoy it.


Shneur Garb is the CEO and founder of the Garb Cloud Consulting Group in Teaneck.

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