Confessions of a Lazy Gardener

Working Hard at Not Working

Story and Photos by Alice H. Dunn

After a long, cold Idaho winter, I like to dig in the dirt. The fresh air and exercise feel good. However, when I first started gardening, I quickly realized that I was lazy.

The good thing about this is that it inspired me to devise easier ways to grow plants. At first I raised a few flowers, but my husband groused, “We can’t eat flowers.”

Too lazy to even think about a half-acre vegetable garden, I considered planting vegetables among the flowers. Then I had a better idea: turn that little corner of the back lawn that gobbled up water but nobody uses into a vegetable garden.

Being lazy, I hoodwinked neighborhood kids into helping remove the sod. We filled in where the sod had been with topsoil and well-rotted manure. After my husband tilled them in, our Idaho bench soil was still too heavy with clay, so he added sawdust. Had the soil been boggy, he would have added sand, but we knew that clay plus sand equals concrete.

Our tiller gave off nasty fumes, was hard to start, required costly maintenance, left furrows that required lots of raking, and my husband never seemed to find time to ply the heavy beast. After several springs of waiting on the tilling before I could plant, I heard a professional gardener say that although tilling breaks up the top few inches of soil evenly and finely, its vibrations pound the deeper soil into a hardpan that resists root formation and impedes water absorption. Inspired—and tired of waiting—I got out my shovel and found spading less onerous than nagging. And the shovel did dig much deeper than tilling—as deeply as my foot could push it into the ground.

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