Week 1 – A Not-so Fertile Crescent

 

I grab the neighbors shovel and begin digging into the old garden plot to turn the soil.  I prefer using this method over tilling.  There is less disruption of the soil’s micro-organisms and any disruption is one of honesty.  You can see and feel what you’re doing to the soil, which I believe this raw confrontation with the soil is grounds for deeper connection with it.

The shovel goes in with some ease, but as I turn the hardened clumps of dirt and sod,  I find it’s not really soil at all.  The color is a burnt reddish-brown and extremely compact.  I walk around the yard’s entirety and find the same color and consistency all over. Not to mention, hundreds of ant hills both large and small.  It was as if the ant’s version of DC and all her many suburbs existed right here in my very own backyard.  An “ant metropolis” if you will.  I’m puzzled by the state of the “soil,” if you can even call it that.  It was all too reminiscent of the landscape I saw in Moab, Utah – in the desert, mind you.  So, what is a desertous landscape doing right here in what’s supposed to be considered a lush region of the US?

My friend, Noah, a “jack of many trades”, who is known for his adventurous spirit, enthusiasm, and dance skills –  Most importantly, he has a lot of experience and knowledge in carpentry and building.  He has even built his own mobile yurt in less than a year.  He comes to visit and gives me the 411 on my “soil” situation.

Apparently, its common practice when building subdivisions such as my suburban neighborhood, for developers to take all the top soil from the foundations and sell it.  Taking the few feet of topsoil, leaves behind what is known as the subsoil layer, which is almost useless to grow anything in and is very hard to work with (as I was finding out.)

Now, my house was built in the late 1980’s. Here I am, almost 25 years later and not even a centimeter of top soil exists yet.  This gives you an idea of how long it takes to make top soil after it has been stripped down to the subsoil layers and then spread with some kind of grass seed to grow over it.  Giving off the appearance of growth, yet leaving behind the desert-like quality.

Not to worry though folks, if you need soil you can go to any  Home Depot, Walmart Garden Center or hardware stores , etc and buy back the very soil that you would’ve had on your land anyway and build some raised beds to put this newly purchased soil into;).  A fellow neighbor and long time organic gardner, who has done just this due to the state of his subsoil, told me it is now a law in Va that developing companies must leave 1/4 of the top soil layer behind.  This might be considered a resolution, but 1/4 of top soil is still not enough. But yes, I agree it is better than nothing, but wouldn’t it be nice for once to not have to say this? I can’t help but wonder, when we will stop accepting a lesser quality or value and call it good enough.

So after many hours of labor and only a small amount of ground turned, I decide to plant the areas I’ve carved out and prepped for planting with carrots, tomatoes, eggplant, watermelon, zuccinni, peppers, spinach, basil and some tomato and squash transplants I harvested from the top of the compost.  I added a small layer of compost into these areas just to give a boost, but we’ll see what happens.  The ground is very hard and these seedlings will need to use a lot of strength and energy to push through the sediment that only gets harder with each watering.  As for the transplants, we’ll see if they survive at all…

I don’t believe in luck , but I do believe in Love, and if there is anything that will help these seedlings pull through, it’ll be just that.  So, Good Love and godspeed little ones…

 


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