Tough Plantings

Tough Plantings

In consideration of location for a tiny garden, I considered hours of daily sunlight, availability of supplemental moisture via garden hose, lack of interference with horse activities and interactions, needs and preferences of our esteemed canine, and necessary traffic areas for guests, deliveries, and our own motor vehicle excursions, including the need of an area for parking and maneuvering the horse trailer.

Regrettably, availability of deep, fertile topsoil was one of the small sacrifices. The only such areas on our little estate here are either surrounded by trees on at least three sides or else right in the middle of prime lawn space.

And so it was that yesterday found me prepping the small area conveniently contained within the side circle drive we created for parking and reorienting the horse trailer. It’s actually quite perfect as a garden spot except for one small drawback: the whole area used to be a parking lot.

For several years this place was a bed and breakfast and is actually quite the setting for such a thing: ready access to main highway, lovely shade trees and accenting evergreens, two-and-a-half story house sitting right near the top of the hill.

Over the years, natural forces deposited a thin layer of soil over the three inches of well-packed gravel that formed the parking area for the convenience of overnight, retreat, and breakfast buffet guests. An assortment of grasses and weeds created a facade of green. But, underneath that facade, that densely packed layer of crushed limestone lay quiet and unrepentant, waiting for just such a day as yesterday.

The day before, Randa and I bought two dozen tomato and pepper plants at Fleek’s Nursery/Greenhouse, conveniently located next door to our place. We needed two dozen holes for planting them. At our place in Arkansas City, I’d just take a garden trowel and dig the holes in what seemed like a foot or more of good topsoil. Take about thirty minutes for the whole deal.

Yesterday’s project involved a heavy iron “spud bar” (a seven-foot forged steel rod with a long, flat, tapered end for busting rocks) and post hole digger. Use the post hole digger to clear off the thin layer of dirt, then use the spud bar to bust through and loosen up the layer of hard-packed gravel, then use the digger again to cut down a foot or more into the clay subsoil below. (Apparently, they’d cleared off all the topsoil in grading for the parking lot.)

Including rest breaks, it took about six hours to set out those two dozen plants. That included hauling over a mix of sand, soil and composted horse manure and shoveling a generous amount of that into each hole. I fertilized each plant carefully, watered generously and set in metal tomato cages around all of the tomato plants.

I’m not sure how this experiment is going to turn out. It might be a colossal failure, a grim daily reminder of the futility of defying natural circumstances. It has certainly been a lot more work than I’ve ever put into planting a garden before. I’m fairly sure it’s going to take more watering than customary, even if we have regular rains.

But I also know this: it’s not going to take very many home-grown tomatoes to convince me it was worth every effort. I think that’s why the ancient writers urged us that while we are laboring and enduring our way through the efforts and obstacles of this life, it is good to keep ourselves focused on the ultimate rewards.

H. Arnett


About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Ark City, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-nine years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-eight grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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