One of the last lines in the movie A Single Man are by the character George:
A few times in my life I’ve had moments of absolute clarity, when for a few brief seconds the silence drowns out the noise and I can feel rather than think, and things seem so sharp and the world seems so fresh. I can never make these moments last. I cling to them, but like everything, they fade. I have lived my life on these moments. They pull me back to the present, and I realize that everything is exactly the way it was meant to be.
I share those exact sentiments and they often translate to my gardening life.
Such was the moment when I came to understand that clay soil could not be effectively amended, at least not in large quantities. And as Indiana gardeners know, heavy clay soil can wear you down to the point of ‘throwing in the trowel.’ For a solid year I pondered the over-the-fence advice of gardeners and landscapers alike, each with their own proven method for dealing with clay soil. I listened, and researched– pouring myself over notes from my Master Gardner course and yet I remained stuck, as if planted in concrete. Their simple remedies, which ranged from incorporating additives such gypsum or topsoil, to “do nothing and wait it out.” All seemed doable, but felt instinctively wrong. Why did I remain so firm in my skepticism? I’d witnessed plants decline. Wished my shovel would magically turn into a jackhammer. I’d even seen the concrete-like surface refuse the Mantis, and in spots where it would take, it simply rickashayed off the many rocks or become tangled in tree roots. Only then did it occur to me that perhaps I was best qualified to make the decision on how to proceed. After all, it was me who had any actual experience with the soil.
And suddenly it hit me. An idea I’m sure I had suppressed long ago in hopes of substituting with a more academic solution– remove the bad soil. My moment of absolute clarity. And so began my extreme intervention. The intent? To remove at least 12 inches of the untillable soil and replace it with a mixture of top soil and organic matter.
This would not be an easy task. The area in question was quite large. I created the diagram below to record my measurements and calculate how much fill I would need to replace the bad soil. It also served as a guideline for the excavator I was about to hire. The slide show below documents the details of this saga.
Click arrows over photos to run slide show.
I now consider this my most significant gardening project to date. The expense and effort have been worth it. Already, the plants are thriving more than they have in the past two years. And when it rains, or I turn on a sprinkler (which is more the case these days), I sleep well knowing that those precious drops are being absorbed deeply, that the plants are benefiting from their new environment. And I now look forward to gardening again- and that’s what it’s all about.
So I close this post with another memorable quote from George.
If one is not enjoying one’s present, there isn’t a great deal to suggest that the future should be any better.