Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Playing (Not) In the Mud

Although I did a lot of gardening in upstate NY following my college years, after I moved to Houston, I did not stick a shovel into the (so-called) soil until I had lived here about 15 years. Total shock. The shovel would barely go in, and lifting it was quite the feat because there was no dirt as I knew it, only clay. Now I have been here some 36 years and I am still grumbling about such digs.
 
 
Here is some sticky clay I dug up yesterday. We are re-landscaping the yard around our brand new garage. The builders were here January through March. Since then, we have had the building painted and bit by bit, are fixing up the yard.
 
 
First of all, we had to remove a lot of construction rubble. Trying to flatten the dirt is torture. There are bits of concrete and occasional chunks of sandy clay, as well as the dark brown oh-so-sticky clay. I find myself wondering if anyone has ever processed the Houston clay into the real thing one could use to make pottery. Don't know.... In college I learned how to throw pots and have a vague memory of my Ceramics teacher, William Klock,  taking us on a clay dig field trip. I have never returned to ceramic-making, but oh, how I loved working on the potter's wheel. Perhaps one day I'll get back to it, but I have been saying that for way too many decades.... 
 


I finally planted some azaleas in one area alongside the garage. I dug two of the biggest holes I have ever dug and supplemented the soil with sand, mushroom compost and bagged soil. Honestly, what with the heat and the intermittent heavy rains, it felt like that small project took a few weeks. There is lots more work to do around the hose area and I need to redo some flagstones. I can only take the heat for an hour or two at a time, plus there is always a massive cleanup of shoes and tools. Grumble, grumble....

 
Here is another shot of the garage. We put in a border of egg stones around two sides of the building out to the drip line, hopefully thus avoiding nicking the paint with the lawn trimmer. Before putting down the rocks, there was lots more digging in the clay. As you can see, some of the garage is painted white, the rest a shade of aquamarine. Weird, I know, but we love that color and those three bright walls are only visible from the yard. (We also have the back of the house painted aquamarine, so there is some continuity there. Flowers growing behind the house look great against the vibrant paint color.)
  
 
And meanwhile, in the far eastern corner of the yard, the figs thrive! Hopefully we will get at least a few before the birds attack them. When the remaining landscape work is done, I plan never to dig into the clay again. From now on, container gardening is the way to go!