Real Gardeners Make Dirt

When I was 10, a rainy day meant staying indoors with little to do.  At 15, I was worried my hair would frizz and boys wouldn’t like me.   Now, as an adult gardener, I just smile.  I can hear my plants drinking it all in.

We have actually had a mini-drought here in the mid-Atlantic.  There was no measurable rain for the first three weeks of April.  That’s not good news for the water table, the farmers, the gardeners and anyone who likes to eat.  No rain means no planting and no fresh veggies this summer.

Happily, we got about 2” in a 36 hour period from Sunday through Monday.  Today, we got another .75 inches.  I know this without listening to the weather because we have our own rain gauge.  Naturally.

flower boxes, compost pile

Compost piles hide behind planter boxes

The picture above shows one of the terraced boxes we have in the back.  Our slope is so steep, it is the only way I can garden in most of the yard.  Back against the fence are what my husband calls my little cow pies.  That’s where I make my compost.

The newest pile, the one we are currently adding fresh material to, is in the circular green thing.  They don’t sell that anymore, but they should.  Mine is about 25 years old.  You just lift it off when you are ready to start a new pile.  The sides have lots of air holes and you can toss the contents as you add grass, leaves and kitchen waste.

In the fall, I try to toss the piles that have been cooking during the summer.  I spread out anything that is fully decomposed and consolidate as much as I can.  Fall brings a big influx of dead leaves and I treat the piles like sour dough starter, adding partially decomposed layers to help the leaves start breaking down.

Each spring, I am usually able to top dress all over the garden and add good compost to anything I have in pots.  I feel smart and virtuous!  I can make earth.  How cool is that?

rebuilding grass garden

Remember that gorgeous ornamental grass garden I showed in my last gardening post?  Nature hasn’t been kind.  Towering evergreen trees began blocking the light and sending roots over to steal the nutrients.   The picture at the right shows you what it looks like now.  I have moved several of the straggly old grasses to homes along the back fence and added a row of thick curved wall stones as a front edge.

They will allow me to raise the level of the soil by about 4” along the front 4-5’ of the slope.  I have some small pieces of flagstone which I will use to mark the end of the lower section and the beginning of the upper section.    I hope to put mostly perennials here, with taller ones in the back to help hide my neighbor’s storage sheds.  At least they are white plastic and not rusty metal ones.  I try to look on the bright side.

I’ve dug about half the space, removing old tree roots and rocks.  The little rocks are filling the triangular spaces between the border stones.  Looks kind of cool and should keep those spaces from filling with weeds.

pebbles_and_shellsI try to keep all the smaller rocks I find whenever I am working the soil.  I throw them on a sloped area near the house that connects one part of the garden to another.  It was a potential washout spot but the rocks keep that from happening.  On trips to the ocean, I picked up shells and tossed them on top.  I think of the whole pile as ground art.

Work will keep me busy tomorrow and then more rain is promised for the weekend.  With luck, I might get out in the garden on Sunday, Monday for sure.  I have to harness all this enthusiasm while I have it!  I know it disappears as soon as the weather gets really hot.

Hope you are getting out in your garden.

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8 thoughts on “Real Gardeners Make Dirt

  1. I love the blog. You are a great writer, and I know that all of us who have taken your classes will enjoy learning a little more about you. My hobbies are quilting and gardening, so you know that I will enjoy the blog.

    • I have some raised beds where I grow peppers, tomatoes, and herbs. I have some perennials around the perimeter of our very small backyard and some pots with annuals. I would like to have a bigger yard, but my husband is not as excited about that idea as I am.

      • Big yards are hard to find unless you want to live in an older house. We’ve been here over 30 years and periodically, we look at houses, just because we like to do it. I started noticing more than 20 years ago that yards were the size of swimming pools. I asked a realtor and she said two income families don’t want to mow grass on the weekends.

        My husband knows I won’t move and leave my garden at this point. Too old to start over.

        I take it you have a fair amount of sun since you are growing veggies. Until recently, we didn’t have enough sun to do that.

  2. Yes, there is plenty of sun because we do not have any trees, except a dwarf apple tree, in the backyard. The house shades it late in the afternoon, but the plants are ready for relief from the Texas heat by that time of day.

  3. Are you in Southern Texas or up in the hill country where there is at least a chance of rain in summer? I am always astounded when I see the Texas temps on the weather map or hear my TX friends talk about things like the rear view mirror melting off the front window of their cars!

    • I am in North Texas, about 30 miles north of Dallas. There has been a drought the past couple of years, but we have had quite a bit of rain this spring. South Texas is much too hot for me. We moved here about 13 years ago from dry West Texas, and I still have trouble with the heat and humidity here in the summer.

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