Friday, April 26, 2013

Gardening and the afterlife.

I will preface this by saying that I'm sorry, but anyone who lays down non-biodegradable stuff in their flowerbeds, be it landscape fabric or rubber mulch or whatever, is hereby barred from whatever pleasant afterlife there may be. You forfeit your ticket, sir or madam. Off the bus with you, and don't let me catch your kind around here again! *shakes begrimed fist*

So. We have a front flowerbed by our walk that shows that at one point, previous owners of the house tried to do something to it. It's got edging and once had bushes and part of it is (badly) covered in rock but hasn't been maintained cause there are weeds growing through it. I tried last year to do something with the bigger part of it, but all I managed to do was get rid of the tall unsightly weeds, allowing short unsightly weeds to grow instead. This is not a significant improvement. I had thought I'd mulch and plant things, only to discover that the previous owners laid down landscape fabric and then mulch on top of it. This sounds like a good plan short term, and it is -- except that mulch degrades into topsoil for weeds to grow in. You stop mulching, you get a nice shallow weed bed that you can't dig into.

Now, landscape fabric doesn't degrade. It doesn't let things grow through it, either, unless these things are very insistent. The only way to remove landscape fabric is to dig it up. Yes, that's right. Remove the new topsoil and weeds and pull it off/out of the ground. This year, I set out to dig up the short weeds and figured, hey, while I'm here, I should get rid of this landscape fabric. We can put down some cardboard as a barrier (which degrades), then put down some mulch -- voila, attractive garden area with very little upkeep, especially as there are some rocks in the "garden" already for visual interest.

Last week I started weeding along the border of the house and discovered, hey, no fabric here! I can dig down at least five inches. Now granted, those five inches are full of woody tree roots, but that's not a huge surprise given the number of trees in the area. Maybe, I think, I was mistaken about the amount of fabric in the garden! Buoyed by this happy thought, I got rid of the weeds next to the foundation in front of the porch and thought, well, I'll start out another couple of feet and head back across the flowerbed again and see what happens. What happened was that I suddenly couldn't get more than three inches down, if that, and what I did get was full of roots, like way more than by the house.

I started wandering over to where I could see some fabric sticking up from the ground and started pulling on it. Amazingly, close to the surface, it comes right up AND it tears fairly easily but not so easily you can't pull it. So far, so good, because a couple of those rocks (which I'm pretty sure are on top of landscape fabric) are not moving. When I try to dig up the dirt on top of the fabric, though, and move it, I get nothing. I can, however, push up on it as a large mass with my hand. That's right. The root pack is so tight and so deep that I can lift it en masse and tug on it with my hand. AAAAAAAAGH.

Now, on the one hand, the roots themselves are somewhat delicate and mostly belonging to plants no longer living, so they're brittle. They're too tough altogether for a shovel to get through them, though. This means sliding my hand under the roots, because they haven't grown into the fabric, and pulling them up to move them off the fabric. This is both easier than what I was trying to do before and exhausting all at the same time. I got maybe a square foot of fabric unearthed, in part because I didn't come to this discovery earlier, but partly because being bent over for that long and unable to kneel on the ground because I don't know where the damn fabric stops and I want to have room to work makes me a bit dizzy after a while. It's like a parking space and a half of ground I have to remove the stuff from in 18 inch strips and then still figure out what I'm doing with the damn spot, which is also shaded and wet all the time.

This, dear readers, is why there is no nirvana for these people. In the name of posterity, consider what non-biodegradable choices do to the people who come after you -- and someone will always come after you. Meanwhile, I'll be over here digging up an entire flowerbed by hand. *shudder*