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April 10, 2006

The Garden Of Eatin' ... Day 1: How Green Is Your Valley?

My little house in the Valley has two backyards. There is the normal back yard that stretches off the patio about seven feet deep, with some grass and a couple of trees and an overgrown geranium bush in the corner. At the back of this backyard is a giant hedge that reaches over nine feet tall and spreads out about twelve feet wide, and behind this hedge lies what I fondly call The Back 40. It is the back-backyard.

I have no idea what kind of loopy person back in 1942 decided it would be a great idea to grow a hedge in the middle of the yard, separating it into two. Ellen and her husband Larry suggested it may have been a way for the original homowners to disguise "untidy" yard things, or maybe laundry, or both. But apparently 1940s-era loopy found its 2000-era perfect match, because I love the hedge divider. It gives me a secret garden in the Back 40, plus provides a much cozier atmosphere in the front-backyard.

Before I decided to embark upon my new path of Growing Square Fruit, my back-backyard was a vast empty wasteland of nothingness. The soil is hard and mostly clay and I shut off the Back 40 sprinklers some time back in December, so the few weeds shriveled up or wandered off to someone else's better-maintained Real Yard. The goal here was to kill off the weeds and remaining straggly grass so it would be easier to dig up come planting time. I planned to create two raised beds (shallow, but still raised), fill them with dirt and let the magic begin.

On Saturday, I began my Great Gardening Adventure by heading to the Back 40 to size up potential placement for the raised beds.

It was not the same back backyard. It was suddenly a lush den of weed iniquity, full of wildlife and mayhem, if by "wildlife and mayhem" you mean one blue jay and all the ants in the known universe.

garden-april8-back40.jpg

garden-april8-bluejay.jpg

Clearly I needed a hoe for this job, so of course I went to Wal-Mart in Panorama City. (heh) (Oh, I love you, Ghetto Mart de Wal!) While I was there pimpin' for hoes, I also picked up a packet of okra seeds and some extra starter medium. I'm starting most of my plants from seed because I am a glutton for punishment, and also because seeds. Fun to grow!

Next stop, Home Depot on a Saturday for raised bed materials. Home Depot. On a Saturday afternoon. Not even a hoe can help me. Luckily, as I wandered around the lumber area looking like a lost puppy in platform flip-flops, I met Lumber Man, possibly the most patient guy on the planet, who took pity on me and listened patiently as I described my great gardening ideas.

I should interject here that I had no actual building plans, sketches, measurements or details for my raised garden beds. My dream of a square watermelon patch was self-sustaining; dreamers like me can't be bothered with little details like "how long is this thing" and also "what is it made of."

Me: You know, I just want a box thing. To hold dirt, which I have been told to call "soil" and in this dirtsoil I'm going to plant a garden.

Lumber Man: Do you know about how big you want it to be?

Me: Oh, you know. Big-ish?

Lumber Man: Like ten feet? Twelve feet?

Me: You're cute. I'm going to make a square watermelon.

Lumber Man: ...? Why?

Me: Because I feel it might be my true calling.

Lumber Man: Well, maybe five feet by five feet then.


Wise Lumber Man suggested I buy supplies to build one box, just in case I needed to "adjust measurements" or perhaps "discovered I do not know shit about building anything." (He did not say it so much as, perhaps, it was implied when he asked "Do you have any tools for building this?" and I replied, "Tools schmoolz!")

I purchased my supplies and went home, determined to have a nice glass of cabernet and build The Beginning Of The Greatest Ant Hill Ever Made. In just a few quick ... hours, I created the masterpiece:

garden-april8-box1.jpg


garden-april8-box2.jpg

garden-april8-box3.jpg


So, in conclusion, the Great Watermelon Patch has the following:

• One garden box sitting on the patio, bereft of dirtsoil.
• One package of okra seeds germinating away in a Jiffy greenhouse.
• One hoe, still unpimped.
• One Back 40, full of weeds.
• One OCD blue jay.
• One bazillion ants.

Excellent beginning! Gardening is fun. Especially when it involves wine and power tools!

Posted by laurie at April 10, 2006 9:56 AM