There used to be a vegetable garden in our yard.
The neighbors remember it: according to them, Mr. Bundy used to grow "the very best tomatoes".
I had my first clue it was something special when I was planting our peach tree. Usually when I put a shovel into the ground at a new house, I find thick sticky blue clay under an inch or two of topsoil. But when I jumped on the shovel over in that corner, it sank all the way in and brought back the kind of rich crumbly black loam gardeners work all their careers to foster in their planting beds.
"Ben," I said, "someone had a very good garden here." We found out about the special tomatoes afterward, but I wasn't surprised to hear what the neighbors said. There's at least a solid foot of good soil before it's starts getting a little more clay-ey, but even the clay is pretty mixed with good soil for another six or seven inches. That's a lot of good dirt, plenty for growing even deep-rooted vegetables like carrots or potatoes.
It was hard to see the garden, though, because ground vine has taken advantage of the beautiful soil and completely covered it before the grass could even get a foothold. You can see the depression if you know to look for it, but at first glance it looked like the most disreputable part of the yard, not one that might just be the most valuable. We had dandelions the size of small bushes and the honey bees were having a field day on various other wildflowers growing in what we realized was about a 12' x 8' garden plot. (As a side note, I am also happy to report we must have a thriving honeybee hive somewhere in the very near vicinity.) It didn't look like a beautiful vegetable patch: it looked like a weed trap. And it is. Because fertile soil grows everything, not just vegetables.
Meanwhile, Dad Turner has been working for years to get tomatoes to grow in a small garden patch on the back of the family room. There are a lot of big trees back there and nothing was getting much sunlight, which has sort of put a damper on his efforts. He's been serious about the endeavor in spite of the difficulties, even keeping a large compost bin we donate all our vegetable peelings to, but it does get a little discouraging to have plants only produce half what they're supposed to because of something you can't help. I hadn't intended to grow any vegetables this year because I figured I'd be spending the bulk of my outside time on getting the current landscaping under control (we have a hedge that's as much thistle as hedge and there was a thriving tree nursery in what was supposed to be the front and side landscaping beds). But after that intoxicating shovelful of soil, I couldn't quite imagine not giving at least a tomato plant or two a try. I've never had such an opportunity handed to me before: getting anything fruitful to grow in the soil of our other houses took a serious amount of time, effort, and alteration. On the spur of the moment, I suggested to Dad that maybe we could put all the vegetables he was planning on growing into our garden patch this year, since there's certainly plenty of sun. He said, "Really??!!"
But then, of course, there was the matter of making the garden a garden again. It has plenty of sunlight and good soil, sure...but boy oh boy...the weed problem was no small barrier!
So this week I had to finally face up to what I'd really proposed to do and get rid of all the interlopers taking up our tomato space. I've spent several hours on it over the past few days and am happy to report that I'm slowly reclaiming it, though I now have a pile of weeds the size of a small mountain that will need to be disposed of somehow. I discovered a patch of onions that must've been a volunteer crop, a half ton of ground vine (seriously, it's going to fill at least two garbage cans and they might be too heavy for me to lift), old plant stakes, coaxial cable ends, newspaper, the aforementioned giant dandelions, thistles, grass, three-inch-long millipedes, and approximately four thousand June beetle grubs.
Yup, it's fertile soil all right. Now we'll just have to see if we can get a useful crop out of it.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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