“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” – Alfred Austin
I have written before about my love of gardening but last year was a bust for me. The season started with too much rain and ended with no rain, two months of no rain. I fought the usual battles with birds, squirrels, rabbits and chipmunks but a new villain entered my little patch of dirt last year, voles.
As you may recall I lost my Rat Terrier, my homely little girl, my squirrel and chipmunk assassin in February of 2019. Since her passing my backyard has become party central for those grey tree rats. And for whatever reason my massive Rhodesian Ridgeback could care less about them. Hell, he thinks they are his friends.
So, after last year’s disaster I decided to create a new garden in my backyard one with more beds and with the underlying goal of eating-up some grass that I won’t have to cut. When I shared this “idea” with wife she immediately found an article, with pictures, in Southern Living about a garden utopia some engineer had created in his backyard. She said if you can make it look like this I will let you do it.
Now I know that sounds a little harsh, “I will let you do it” but I deeded over my half interest in “our” house to her 20 years ago so in-truth it is her backyard and I am merely a tenant she allows to live there. Nevertheless, I began my quest to build my own spin on a garden utopia in January and I think I have done a pretty good job.
By the first of February I had all the beds built, and a very cool fence and trellis created out of 150 tobacco sticks. I was ready for dirt. But there was a probably, rain. My “dirt guy” needed, at the very least one week of dry weather to run the dirt through a screener. It wasn’t happening. For the next six weeks it rained, hard, at least twice every week. My landlord, my wife, began asking when would garden utopia be finished? When would she begin seeing lettuce, and tomatoes in the ground? When would she not have to look at six empty 4 x 8 boxes in her backyard? I didn’t have an answer.
Finally, last Saturday, I found some available dirt and mushroom compost. Not from my “dirt guy” but a hardware store about 10 miles away from my house. I fired-up the old 1982 F-250 and drove as fast as I could, or as fast as an 1982 F-250 goes without a heater, A/C, radio and a clutch that slips and got in the dirt line to get as much as I could without blowing out my back tires. Seeing how little they had I knew I better take advantage of what they had now because there was no coming back later in the afternoon for more.
With every scoop, the 1982 F-250 inched a little lower to the ground. After four scoops, the kid on the front-end loader looked at me and said I don’t think she can take another. I checked the tires and the clearance and asked for one more. He shrugged at me and said okay.
When he dropped the fifth and final scoop in the bed of my old 1982 F-250 she made a groan like I had never heard her make. There was still a little round in the tires, but I knew it would be a long and very slow drive back home, but I had my dirt and garden utopia was back in business.
Over the next five hours I filled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow with a hundred pounds of dirt, rolled it up a ramp I built over three stairs in my landscape wall and dumped them in my beds. Fill, roll, dump, repeat. I knew that I would sleep well that night provided I could walk up the stairs to the bedroom I share and rent from my landlord and physically get myself in the bed.
It’s still early but I have put a few plants in the ground which was followed by three very cold nights. I always plant to early, but I can’t help it. One plant I can’t find is lettuce. Our Farmers Market always has loads of lettuce plants this time of year and they have none.
I asked the lady, the same lady I have been buying plants from for ten years why no lettuce. The only reason she could think of is the Coronavirus. She said she has seen a lot of parents and kids buying plants and she figured, since the kids are out of school and lettuce is easy to grow, that parents are creating little gardens to give kids something to do. I completely understand. I guess we all need to make sacrifices during this crisis. Mine will be lettuce.
I hope everyone is safe and healthy. These are very trying and stressful times, for some much worse than others. Do the best you can to minimize your stress and remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Keep an eye on both and take inventory of both every day. Working in the dirt gives me a break from all the troubles of world. You don’t need a garden utopia to enjoy the benefits. A couple of big pots, a bag of dirt and a few packs of seeds and you too can enjoy the miracles of growth that I marvel at every year. Peace.
“I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow.” – David Hobson