“I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ~ Thomas Edison
The school playground put a nice touch to the end of our summer today. A few other parents and their kids all met at the school playground for one last hoorah before school starts. Ginny and Angie were pumped to hang and play with their buddies, and moms and dads caught up for the first time since June. I plugged the PTA (of course) and we all shared funny kid stories.
One dad remembered me from the kindergarten field trip and knew that I was a dirt-digger (a/k/a/ soil-tender, gardener, wacko). He couldn’t wait to tell me about his veggie garden — a first for his family this summer.
We gardeners are a strange breed. We seek the attention of other gardeners, and whether we’re successful with puttering or efforts end in abysmal failure instead, none of it really matters. What we crave is a comrade-in-arms, another soul who understands and appreciates our weirdness, the ulterior motive being perhaps the score of some new growing tips. We are equal opportunity killers and growers.
This was apparently his first attempt at a veggie garden, and it produced less than expected results. His wife told me — correcting him — called it a downright disaster, even though he did everything right, as far as he could tell.
I high-fived him; he looked perplexed at my exuberance.
“That’s for your first attempt, which is the hardest. You’re now hopelessly hooked, and now it’s all downhill from here. Your ultimate success lies in the collective failures. This is just the first of many, and that’s okay.”
He was only somewhat encouraged.
I’ve failed a lot at gardening. I like to think of myself as the Thomas Edison of the Dirt World, back when it was all chemicals and tilling, success hit-or-miss. Only one sweet, tasty veggie was all that was I needed to repeat the cycle again the next season. However small the success, growing my own was reward enough, no matter how big the failure.
But why fail over and over and over? Nature surely hasn’t; She only makes things better it seems.
Recently, I’ve experimented with others’ successes, tweaking here and there to custom fit my situation. It’s cause for celebration when something works out right, and this season, Mother Nature has given me good cause to celebrate.
What I’ve not been doing is weeding, spraying or watering. It’s been hot. Insects are relentless. But it appears I now have the ecosystem in good balance, and balance reaps rewards. The food coming from the yard for a full six months straight now has been delectable and the yields unprecedented, with little work on my part.
So what is this secret, this magical concoction of gardening methods? The answer is easy: get out of the way of Mother Nature.
“Gardening is as nature does,” I told my friend, and I might have even said that in a Forest Gump-like fashion. I could see that he didn’t understand what I was talking about, so it was time to get a little dirty. Sometimes with live, working soil at least, seeing is believing.
Using my nails as a garden trowel, I dug down deep into the mulch. Nothing is done in the area where I stand save an added layer of mulch every year or so, you know, to keep the ground “soft and squishy” in case a child falls from the equipment.
“What you may see here is giant mulch pile, ” I said to him, continuing to dig deeper, “but what I see here is clean, alive, healthy earth. Stuff can grow here without my help.”
As if on cue, an earthworm began wiggling his back end at me. I pointed over at a lone sprig of Bermuda grass in the middle of an endless sea of mulch. I hissed and booed at it as well, for dramatic effect. (I’m not a fan of invasive Bermuda.)
“See? When the right and organic materials are provided in an organized and ritual [seasonal] manner — and we humans step out of the way — the underworld beings are allowed to do what they do best, what we consider to be the hard work.”
“Those are my people,” I finished, with a smile on my face.
A light bulb popped up over his head. I swear it was an Edison bulb and that it actually popped.
My current newest garden beds happened just two days before, fresh in my frontal cortex,
ripe for the picking spewed forth easily with just the right audience. Only an hour to build two brand new beds — expanding a garden by 32 sq ft of growing space — was all it took. Of course, several more hours were spent collecting the material needed, but I would have done that anyway. Instead of being bagged and put to the curb, however, a weed-free, chemical-free veggie garden was born instead.
Having run out of space in the original garden area — and with Bermuda grass now permanently calling it home — I plunked down a new garden in the middle of the openest, sunniest location of my yard, right on top of freshly mowed field grass (short roots, easily smothered). Layered in usual fashion, in two 4×4 squares:
- (2) loads of shrub cuttings from 150 feet of pittosporum, holly, and ligustrum
- (1) load of fresh compost (from my pile)
- (1) load of grass clippings (caught with mower bag)
- (2) loads of raked crepe myrtle leaves (they seem to think it’s fall)
- foam puzzle mats (for sun block-out)
- 10 bags of compost to weigh things down
Some seeds (currently cantaloupe) were sown outdoors and will be transferred – with soil, roots undisturbed – to the new beds. It’s called a lasagna bed because of its green-brown-compost-repeat layers. A few other seeds will be sown directly on the compost layer as well.
Heavy wheel barrows…pssh. Who’s for that? Leaves and clippings are lighter to haul than loads of dense soil, and they result in the same thing in the end. I never put compostable items to the curb; they all get recycled right in my own yard. It is nature’s way, with only a little “re-organizing” done by me.
For today, though, I entice one more discouraged gardener to give it another go. This time, perhaps he won’t put too much into it. Perhaps, he’ll get out of the way and adopt my way — the lazy way.
What’s your favorite “lazy” gardening technique?
How do you turn big chores into smaller ones?