Sunday, April 10, 2011

Earth Box Gardens

The street on which we live (not to be confused with the far more lyrical “street where you live) is smack in the middle of a Senior’s Only Retirement Community.  At least that’s what the original sales brochure says.  My wife took it with her to the first Saturday Community Pancake Breakfast where there were actually a fair number of genuine seniors.  That’s the joke, you see.  Seniors in this community (the brochure said no children allowed – hey, don’t go wagging your politically correct head at me – for at least three reasons:
A.    It was 1962, after all – such things were not politically incorrect in those lofty days of yore
2.   The only time I’ve ever actually been politically correct was completely by mistake
Q.  I’m old and easily confused)
are outnumbered by a huge number by young couples with children.  Dogs.  Cats.  And at least one runaway parakeet called Owen.  It makes for interesting conversation around the maple syrup.
Another thing about this community is the preponderance of pea-stone yards.  No, seriously.  Back in the 60’s when this development was built the developers had this mad idea that it would be a great selling point to sink 8 inches of limestone into the ground, compact it, cover it with a relatively thin film of asphalt and cover the lot with pea-stones.  “There won’t be any grass to mow, you know.”  I’m sure that was the selling point.  They left out the part that it would bloody well double the heat index on the property by reflecting the sun and its produced heat back at the house in ways grass can only dream about, but hey – it made up for the whole ‘Seniors Only’ bit, right?
Ah, but that’s not the whole story, is it?  Not only have the eco-terrorists determined that all that lime is not good for the environment or the aquifer, thereby eliminating its continued practice in new developments, they won’t let you dig it out either for the same reasons, and even if you could, it is extremely cost prohibitive. 
See, typically when you build, you go through the process of surveying.  Once you work out all those annoying little technical bits, hire an architect, submit the plans to the planning commission, hire an contractor and so on, generally in our area you dig trenches for footers, pour them, pour a slab, and get on about building your house.  Once everything is finished, the landscapers come in, grade it all and lay sod.  No basements because we’re too close to the Gulf of Mexico and the aforementioned aquifer.
To sod a pea-stone yard, you have to undo all the pea-stone, asphalt and limestone – and risk screwing up the drinking water tables, the underground channels the gators use to sneak into your pond at night and eat small animals and children left out snogging in the moonlight, and creating massive sinkholes that swallow your neighbor’s patio barbeque.
Which leads me to the real reason for this.  We have one of those yards.  We want tomatoes and an herb garden.  You can’t exactly peel back the asphalt and toss in some Miracle Grow like you could with sod, so you use absurdly expensive things called Earth Boxes – a 36”X18”X18” trough with built in water measuring platform and mulch bonnets and plant your garden there.  And it works splendidly – until the dog digs out your tomatoes.  So you buy fencing to keep the dog out and it works splendidly – until the dog pulls the fencing out, digs up your tomatoes, and just because you put her through so much trouble, snaps the plants as well.  So you yell at the dog when you catch her in the act, and you even follow her out into the yard and stand by the box with your arms folded to demonstrate your displeasure with her.  And she promptly ignores you and starts in after the other plant.  A crisp, gentle yet firm reminder on her backside with the flat end of my bamboo back scratcher, coupled with what I’m certain she understood to mean, “Now doggy, that was so naughty-naughty-poo of you!” and she set several canine land speed records diving through both doggie doors to get back within the safe confines of her doggie bed, from which she did not move until after dinner and I had finished the dishes and departed the kitchen where her dinner was awaiting her.
We’ll see if putting the boxes on top of the stumps that were once diseased grapefruit trees in the back yard keeps the mutt out of the garden, or if we’ll have to install gated fencing to preserve the remaining tomatoes and my precious herbs.
I think the neighbors would frown on planting the dog in the pet cemetery.  She’s still alive, and all.  For now.
Happy Trails.
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