My house was built on a coral reef

For those of you who don’t know a lot about SoFla (South Florida. No, no one actually calls it SoFla like SoCal, but I’ll probably be typing it a lot and I’m just too lazy to say South Florida each time and Miami isn’t quite accurate) before reading any further you should be aware of a few things. SoFla is basically a coral reef, covered with sand, a bit of top soil and a land fill all the way out west to where the Everglades begins (farther and farther west each year, but that’s a rant for a different time, probably Earth Day). The beaches here aren’t the white sandy beaches of the west coast. Our beaches are made up of crumbled coral and sea shells.

Why is any of this important to what I’m about to say? Well, because the eastern part of SoFla is not exactly rich in top soil. My backyard is coated with a thin veneer of “grass” (read: weeds and clover) because that is all that will grow in the sand that passes for dirt around here.

I knew this when I began my gardening project, to be sure. I started out my herbs in pots surrounded by a chicken wire fence to keep predators (read: neighborhood cats) off of them. The plan was to till the soil and mix it with a combination of peat moss and potting soil (thanks to ByrningBunny for the ratio suggestion) to prepare it for the eventual transfer of my potted herbs to the ground.

So, this past weekend, since my mother (aka Nonna) and my step father (aka Duck Duck) had taken MJ I decided it was the prime opportunity to begin tilling the soil. I even borrowed tiller from Duck² for the job, however it never even got out of the garage. Saturday afternoon, after my Kung Fu demo (a story for another time) I changed into some gardening gear and got to work.

Before I go any further, I must laugh to myself over what my “gardening gear” entailed. While I’m certainly no Martha Stewart… (hell, I don’t know, who’s the Martha Stewart of the gardening world?) I’ve seen my fair share of pictures in gardening magazines. Usually the photos are of a woman in a pair of long khaki pants, a button up shirt (for who knows what reason, white) and a large floppy hat. Not so for CableGirl. I put on my “best” pair of cut off (and I do mean literally. I’ve never understood the idea of spending extra money to buy clothing pre-worn or cut) jeans, my Key West Poker Run Bike Week shirt, and a pair of Doc Martins, no floppy hat (I hate hats) and hit the dirt. Literally.

Knowing that my back yard has an overabundance of rocks that reside in it I thought it in the best interest of myself and D²’s tiller to test the consistency of my garden patch with a good old shovel before attempting anything more drastic. Good call, CG.

Shovel? We don’t need no stinking shovels! Nope. What I needed was a pickax and since that wasn’t readily available I grabbed the next best thing: a crowbar. Don’t you always garden with your crowbar?

I spent the next few hours slaving away in the Miami sun (wait, Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat, right. Gotcha.) forming some rather impressive blisters on my hands (through the work gloves, mind you) wielding my makeshift pickax to break through the hard packed dirt and rock. Somewhere around 4pm, with the temperature nearing 88 or so, I discovered a LARGE piece of coral.

When I say large I mean this most sincerely. With trusty crowbar in hand I delved down at least 4 feet to try to find the bottom edge of this huge rock. I found no bottom. What I did find, however, was a much larger and flatter piece of coral. Oh well. Leave it for now and work on the rest of the plot.

I moved on after many discussions with myself about how I should never try to conceal dead bodies in my back yard. No, it’s not common practice for me, but still good advice.

I had a similar difficulty with the next spot I tried to till, only this piece was larger still. I came to an immediate conclusion: the far back corner of my yard is apparently the top edge of a relatively old and barely submerged reef head. Not so fafr far fetched if you look at a map and do a little background reading. And, well, as an academic I rarely do anything without first doing background reading.

Could I just scrap my garden project and move it to another corner of my yard? Yes and no. See, herbs really like full sun and my back yard tends to look like something out of an Amazonian rain forest, it is fully covered with naturally growing (not manicured) native SoFla plants. In other words, it’s a bit wild. Do I mind chopping through the occasional root to make room for planting new flora? yes, but not too much. Will I cut down lush trees and bushes to suit my needs? Not on your life. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The world needs more trees, not fewer. If I didn’t have this issue I would have gotten rid of that awful mango tree ages ago. I hate mango trees, but that, again, is a rant for another time.

At around 5 pm I came in from my mostly fruitless adventure, partially because I was disappointed but mostly because the SoFla state bird had come out in full force and I had at least a dozen bites swelling up on my legs alone.

I decided to rethink my options. Could I give up? Well, I suppose it would be possible for a person to give in and just keep the herbs potted, but not for me. I don’t back down from a challenge easily. After a brief consultation with D² I determined that the solution my dilemma is to build up, not down. At my next available opportunity I will have to go back to the hardware store and get some large planks of wood, preferably rail road ties, to border the plot. I can then stack them up high enough to get a 6 or so inch depth to the plot and fill it in with moss, sand and soil.

I will run through my Wicked Garden and no I won’t burn it down (see yesterday’s post if that comment confuses you), but it will take me a mite longer than originally expected.

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~ by CableGirl on Tuesday, February 26, 2008.

13 Responses to “My house was built on a coral reef”

  1. I totally commend you for even trying this project. Me and gardening do not mix! I pay my kids to pull the weeds!

  2. You can’t just kick the soil to pieces with the Doc Martins? This post had me on the floor, although I’m sorry for your pain.

  3. What a bummer that must have been. Good luck on the alternate phase of the operation.

  4. You gardened in your Doc Martins? Oh how I love you!

    But we need to talk about your aversion to hats…

  5. The image of you as described is exactly what I look like when gardening (except the Docs. I don’t own Docs anymore after my high school pair wore out a couple years ago. And probably I’m fatter.)

    Your coral reef = my slabs of sedimentary rock. Stupid rocks. Also, Hometown is in the basin of an ancient river bed so it’s mostly sand and ants. Stupid sand (river sand is disgusting). Stupid ants.

    Also, I’m looking forward to figuring out what kind of nice trees I can put in my yard this summer since I cut down all the trees in my yard last year (they were all diseased in their own special way).

    But my really exciting spring project this year is building my waste food compost and my worm paper compost. SOOOOOO excited!

  6. My parents lived in the Panhandle, and the only way to grow certain plants (not native to the climate) was to build planting beds and fill them with topsoil mixed with peat moss to lighten it up. Somebody has got to sell dirt by the yard up there. Classic old but great book as reference is Square Foot Gardening (used to be a show on PBS). I’m planning on using planting beds this year myself.

  7. Yeah, I was going to suggest an above-ground garden. That’s what I’m going to have to do here, since being the desert there’s…nothing. lol

  8. All of your posts leave me wanting all the stories for other times. Have you consider having a week of stories that were to be told another time?

  9. Amy – trust me, when MJ is old enough I’ll be paying her to do the weeding too. lol.

    Jen in MI – not even with the steel toes.

    SMID – Docs are about the only boots I own… and just because you have a highly bizarre hat infatuation…. 😉

    Thalia’s Child – I’ve thought about doing a compost pile, but even with all the neighborhood cats hanging out at my house I’m worried about attracting rats, or worse yet, roaches.

    Pixel Pi – thanks for the book suggestion. I will certainly look for it next time I’m in the library.

    Heather – you? Garden? lmfao! Sorry, I just don’t see it. You hate both sweat and dirt. how will that work out for you? :p

    Lilacspecs – Yes, I noticed that I keep saying things are stories for another time. Perhaps I will do what you suggest. Either that or I’ll ask for a vote. Which story do you want me to tell for next week’s FlashBack Friday?

  10. The whole reading of this post I was just screaming in my mind: BUILD GROW BOXES!! BUILD GROW BOXES!!
    Of course, the screaming didn’t get in the way of me thoroughly enjoying the exceptional description of your very apt self beating away and unforgiving earth. (sea?) But, yeah, coming from a desert gardener, the best thing you can do for yourself is build some grow boxes. Pick axe be damned. You’ll be swimming in mint and lemon grass soon!

  11. beating away AT unforgiving earth was supposed to be the phrase. And since you are asking, I want to hear about the mango tree. I have personal, deep and hateful feelings about Bouganvilla bushes, so I want to know all about your relationship (ill fated) with the mango tree…

    checking now for typos before I submit comment.

  12. shit. I think it’s Bouganvillea.
    I am quitting now.

  13. I am a Fl girl, too. Along the central west coast and we have basically beach sand. I find container gardening one the the only ways to keep my plants alive. Not only can you control the soil, but move the plants around into the correct sunlight as needed.

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