I am humbled. To all the gardeners out there, you rock. I’m not talking about the casual, “plant a daisy or two, weekend gardeners”, although I’m sure you rock in other ways. I’m talking about those of you who take on the fight of reclaiming land from the wild, the eternal battle of beating back the poisonous, the invasive, and the just plain ugly. Damn. It’s tough. Or, as Agent K would say (Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black), It’s “double-tough”.
New House; New Yard
I’ve been in my new house a year now. The house is a modest 2400 sf, give or take a foot. The lot, however, is ginormous by normal neighborhood standards. There are about 2.5 acres. Clearly, I’m not trying to reclaim all 2.5 acres, at least not right away. I am, however, hell-bent on having a civilized looking yard around the house and on the street. That’s not much to tackle, is it?
Uhm. Yes. It IS a lot to tackle. Turning even a tiny patch of wild Texas land into something civilized is a lot of work. I learned my lesson; lessons to be exact.
Gardening: Lessons Learned
“What did you learn?” you ask. Well:
- Hiring someone to put in your lawn is worth it if you need more than 3 pallets of sod. We installed 1 pallet ourselves. Then we hired someone to put in the other 11.
- Yes, in central Texas any lawn will need to be watered. It doesn’t rain nearly enough to keep any lawn grass alive. No matter if they tell you it’s “miracle grass”.
- Putting in a sprinkler system is mandatory (see #1). Putting in a sprinkler system in BEFORE you lay the sod is preferable. Otherwise, you end up with a Frankenyard.
- When you build a house, make sure you monitor how and where the builder disposes of excess materials, ie: rock/brick, framing lumber, concrete, stucco, etc.
- Digging a hole and burying the lumber creates a sinkhole a year later after the lumber rots away. One can break one’s ankle if one isn’t careful. (fortunately, it was just a sprang).
- Pouring it on the ground and putting soil over it makes gardening a pain in the ass – if not impossible. Hacking through 4 inches of concrete in order to plant a red yucca was a feat of herculean effort. (Who did that? This girl!)
- Stones that don’t fit, aren’t the right color, or are otherwise unusable shouldn’t be thrown in the yard and covered with soil. I am FOREVER digging up stones (some the size of a meatloaf!). Trying to use a shovel can be harrowing.
- Starting with a completely untamed land, you will NEVER get rid of weeds completely unless you use total grass-killer, a la Roundup. I don’t want to use it widely. Therefore, I have to be ok with “OK”.
- Poison ivy and poison oak suck. I can recognize poison ivy, I think. I don’t think I can recognize poison oak, but I’m not sure. Both of these situations make for a dangerous gardening experience when you have a shit-ton of grapevines to get rid of – which, btw, look a little like poison ivy… or is that poison oak. Oh, and, you’ll never, EVER get rid of the grapevines.
- Don’t buy more plants than you can get in the ground in one day. For me, I’ve decided that the number is 4. First, it takes longer than you think to get a plant in the ground properly. First, you might have to be hacking through cement (see 4.a. above) or digging up hunks of Paloma Chop sandstone. You WILL have native vegetation – poisonous and otherwise – to clear out. You’ll also have to add some real soil to the sand they call soil here. All of this takes time. If you buy more than 4 plants, you’ll have to keep the rest of the plants alive (in 100+ degree weather).
- Weeding is therapeutic. I actually enjoy weeding, up until the point when my hands cramp and feel as if they’re going to fall off. I can even open jars and bottles by myself after a couple of hours and a couple of Advil.
- The miracle of the SPF 50+ cool shirt! Love, LOVE them!! Beats having to slather on the sunscreen only to be caked with all the dirt that it collects. Sunscreen on the face and neck is still mandatory but combined with a cute hat you’ll keep your “I can’t believe you’re over 60!” skin looking good a bit longer.
I could go on, but I’ll save it for another post – and I’m sure you get the drift. I learn something every time I work in the yard. Please share your tips with me. I’d like to learn my lessons the smart way from now on – by listening to others who have gone before.
Gardening ain’t for sissies.