Friday, April 12, 2013

Slow Gardening - New garden from sod: to rototill or not to rototill? That is the question.

It's raining. I look out the kitchen window and see raindrops,

forsythia, and daffodils. Spring!

And inside, boxes of new plantlets, just arrived and waiting ...

I wish I could post smell. The smell of dirt and earth and compost and living things is intense inside this box, just dip down your head and smell. Yum.

That box has lily bulbs and campanula plugs. This one, below, has more lily bulbs and bareroot ferns.

And I have a plan. To move the daylilies from this bed, behind the forsythia, which I dug up last year and proved to be too shady. So I take the daylilies out, put in some part shade plants like fern and  capanula and heaven'ts gate coreopsis ...

and put the daylilies in this garden, which gets sun all day long, but is not really, not quite, not yet a garden. Actually, it's YARD. Yard, with a husband who, last Sunday, in this shot, had just spent two hours with the shovel and rototiller conquering the sod. For which I am incredibly grateful, because I could absolutely not have dug that whole garden in a day without him and his tools.

But my tool of choice? The lowly hand cultivator rake. Don't laugh. Honestly. I'm sincere. (By the way, my mother gave me this hand rake many, many years ago and I carted it around through life in more apartments with no garden than I'd like to admit, till now. It has a green pad around the handle, which I used not to like, because it catches the dirt. But it also saves the hand from blisters. Thanks mom!)

Here's a close up of the garden. That part in the foreground, all nice, broken up dirt -- I did that with the hand rake (after there was a good hour of work with spade and rototiller, true, but still, an hour with rototiller and two hours with hand rake, that's the key). The part beyond, all clumpy sod, that's the part that has so far only been dug with a spade and rototiller. That does not a garden make.

Here you go, another shot of American Gothic proportions. On the right, the work with hand rake. On the left, the work with rototiller.

Now I'm sure they make a much bigger machine that will chew up that sod. No doubt about it. But to be honest, I prefer getting down in the dirt with my hands and my little hand rake and pounding on the clumps of dirt. Close enough to see the worms and pull them out before they get chopped in two or three. Pull them out gently and put them behind, in the good new dirt, to help the garden. Work on the sod to loosen the best topsoil at the root, where the worms and light and roots and grass clippings have grown it into good soil. Knock the soil out of the roots and keep it where it lives.

So I don't know if there's a name for it, but I would say it's something like slow gardening. And I know I'm half joking, but I am also, in fact, wholly serious. Better use of an hour, by far, to sit in peace, sorting dirt from sod and worm. It's good work, slow work.

1 comment:

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