Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Use What You Are Given
When we found this land twenty-two years ago, it seemed like the perfect place to retire. Near a river but well above it, floods were highly unlikely to reach us. Even with the aftermath of global warming we should then have beachfront property. Since the land had been farmed for many generations, we felt that gardens could be easily established here. Only after the land was ours did we try to insert a spading fork into the ground. Broken stones were everywhere so that it was impossible to turn a single spadeful of soil.
Our method of dealing with the mess that the last glacier left behind can be seen in the above photo. First, the plant growth needed to be removed. That in itself was no easy task. Undercutting the sod from the side with a maddock allowed clumps to be removed. These sod blocks were inverted and piled. After several years of composting, that topsoil became a vital ingredient in our planting beds. Of course the stones still needed to be removed.
This coarse screen with one square inch holes separates out the larger stones left behind after hand picking the big ones. What passes through the screen will serve as subsoil in a planting bed. Topsoil will be forced through a screen with one half inch square holes. If I am really feeling fussy, there is another screen with even smaller holes.
At this time the large waste stone is being used to bring the lawn up to grade at the west end of the house. When we first came here this type of stone was used to build the driveway in a manner similar to that used by the Romans. This area by the house remained unfinished because I did not want to bury the edge of the stone patio. If we are going to be able to use this feature, one must be able to simply make one step up to its surface.
Here one can see the other results of today's work. The foreground stone path was previously built using select waste stone. Dark hardwood bark mulch covers the finished planting soil. Our planting soil consists of equal parts of screened compost and screened material from the sod pile. Under that is the soil that passed through the inch square screen. At the very bottom of the hole is the yellowish dirt never enriched by rotting plant material.
Everything in this patch of ground found a useful location nearby. Nothing was thrown over the bank, The physical exertion necessary to move the raw material about has many positive benefits if it is carefully done. Given a few more days like today, we should reach the end of this planting bed. We will spend some of the next season planning how to plant this new ground. This will be a new experience for us since our habit has been to try and find a hole for all of the plants ordered in the dead of winter.