I have a hate-hate relationship with gardening. Wait! Did I say love-hate? No, I see I was right the first time.
I spent half an hour every day last week (scrupulously supervised by my dog Titus) digging two holes through gravel in the side yard on the alley, to plant a peach and a nectarine tree. It gets sun all day. But it’s 2 inches of gravel over clay soil that hasn’t been watered except from the sky since it washed down from the Rockies 300 million years ago.
Titus and Farmer Bob say: You cannot dump too much lime on clay soil. About one ton per square foot is right. Softens that soil right up.
Day 1: Cleared gravel, bent over with a shovel. Swung and poked that shovel to chip little saucer-shaped indentations into clay and dumped beaucoup de lime in and watered it. Over and over. Fill up those little holes with water.
Day 2: I could sort of get the tip of the shovel blade in there, if I stood on it. But there’s gravel — big pieces of gravel, 1 to 2 inches across — way down into the clay. The solution? More lime. More water. Back and forth, back and forth, watering lime, wiggling the shovel.
Day 3: Finally I can sort of dig, a little bit, and slop rocks and that heavy, limey clay soil out of there. Dig down. Expand the hole. Curse a bit. Curse again. Keep filling holes with water — secure in the knowledge that that water ain’t going anywhere but down, a little bit, and out, a little bit, where my peach trees will want it.
Day 4: Fuck these rocks. What you wanna do is, stick the shovel sidewise at a 45-degree angle into the clay at the top or a side of the hole. That way you expand the hole, a little bit, and the rocks on top fall down into the hole, from which you can remove them with the shovel. The hole is supposed to be twice the size of the pots in which the trees is resting. OK, are resting: Who can speak of grammar at a time like this? Dump more lime in and around the holes. Pour in more water. Dump lime around the holes to make it easier to expand the (expletives deleted) tomorrow.
Day 5: Hah! Take that, Universe! Dug one of them holes deep as a mother’s pucker. Expanded it to just about right. Second hole being difficult, I assaulted it with more lime and water. Had to dismiss Titus from his duties, for repeated refusal to follow orders.
By tomorrow, Friday, both holes might be ready for Clay Buster soil mixed with Mushroom Mulch.
To my 4 Faithful Readers (and 3 unfaithful ones): I know, I know. I’m excited too. But please try to keep calm. Remember, calm rearranged spells clam.
Day 6: Sunk, or sank, the trees into their holes and scraped the clayey, dug-up limey soil into circles around the trees and patted it down, so when I water the little … (Bob: Children have access to this) darlings … when I water the trees, the water will go where it’s supposed to — down to the roots.
(Three days pass. Mr. Kahn emerges from the bath, towel wrapped around his nether limbs. He sits and indites a letter to his loved ones: “Whoo. Thank god that’s almost done. As the late, great Jimmie Wichapa, all of 18 years old, told me after his first workout the year he won state: ‘Kahn, I’m getting too old for this shit.’”)