Monthly Archives: April 2015

In which I overcome idealism with some clay dirt and hard work

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For the last year or so, I’ve been discouraged and possibly even depressed over the state of a number of challenges in my life.  Part of it is, we have too many needs in this home and not enough resources to make them happen. One of the things that I don’t have that I miss terribly is a garden — a real garden. I live in the Phoenix area, and it takes a LOT of effort to get a garden going. In July, it will be three years since we moved to this house, from our previous house where I had an amazing, large-ish garden that was the source of joy, provision for our family, and exercise.

Last June, impatient for a garden, and trying to take matters into my own hands, I rented a sod cutter to remove the awful, frickin’ frackin’ Bermudagrass that grows in our clay “soil” to start my new, giant garden – about 21′ x 45′.  I had the garden plan all down on paper.  On that paper, and in my dreams, the garden was so lovely.  Well, my resources ran out: time, energy (I hurt my back badly), and money. And then, my idealism kicked in: “I want the garden that I want! A real garden! Big, with a real, Pinterest-worthy fence around it, with plumbed irrigation!” And since I couldn’t have that — that perfect plan — I pretty much gave up.

(I have 15-20 pots in which I grow quite a few veggies year ’round.  Currently, I have green onions, red bell pepper, red Swiss chard, tomatillo, asparagus, and a variety of herbs:  Italian parsley, thyme, basil, and rosemary.  But, to me, pots are not a real garden.)

It’s creeping up on a year since I gave up my grand plans.

I decided last week that I needed to abandon my idealism and just work with what was available to me, and scale down my expectations…

We have caliche clay – really compacted, sticky, hard dirt.  That picture at the top?  It has taken me seven days, working 90-120 minutes per day — to dig that much. The final size of this bed will be about 8′ x 12′. That is much more modest than my hopes… But, it’s SOMETHING.

All my efforts last summer didn’t actually remove the Bermudagrass.  It has grown back.  If you have to good fortune to be unfamiliar, it propagates by seed, by runners, and by roots (which are technically rhizomes). It is so invasive. I’m breaking up literally every cubic inch of dirt, about 8″ deep, removing as much Bermudagrass blades and roots as possible. When I have all the border blocks in and all the dirt worked, I’ll be adding: gypsum, soil sulfur, vermiculite, Ironite, homemade compost, composted steer manure, and some organic granular garden-start food. I have a fabulous planting calendar made by a local university ag program, and from that, bought all the seed I need for planting. I hope to have all the seed in the ground by Friday.

I also bought an Ein Shemer apple tree I’m really excited about. It is a variety developed in Israel, needs very few chill hours, and is an excellent eating and baking apple. (Apple Anna and Golden Dorset are the most common varieties grown here, but both are essentially a Golden Delicious, too soft for my preference and not a good baking apple.)

That’s it. That really is all I have to report. Seven days of work, and a changed outlook. Doesn’t sound like much, but the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step… Cliche, yes, but I’ve been clinging to that. I had been intimidated by the journey.

Now, I feel a billion times better for just DOING something, instead of being upset that my “ideal” isn’t happening.

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