Thursday, May 14, 2009

Between a Rock and ... Another Rock

In New Hampshire, we take rocks for granted. The glaciers scoured off all the topsoil 10,000 years ago, and ever since then, rocks have dominated the Granite State. While the landcover of New Hampshire has changed from 15% forested a century ago to 85% forested today, the rocks remain a very solid part of the landscape.

You can't dig a pit, a trench, or even a small hole with a trowel without turning over a rocky fragment. Actually, digging is not required - just shuffle around the lawn in bare feet and I can guarantee that you strike it rich in rocks.

What this means for new gardeners like me is that it takes a LONG time to dig a new garden bed. Anyone can anticipate that digging a garden bed involves using a shovel. Even Michelle Obama used a shovel for her kitchen garden photo op in March 2009, and the schoolkids who helped out got shovel-shaped cookies and apple cider (check out a detailed WSJ blog post with photo)

However, the excavation that is required when digging a garden bed in New Hampshire is more suited to hydraulic tools and a large lumberjack-looking fellow with a crowbar. Unfortunately, neither of those happened to be on hand when I was digging beds this past month. This is why it took me an hour and half and all of my good humor to dig a 6.5-ft-long, 1-ft-wide, 18-in-deep trench for 5 scraggly asparagus crowns. Even though asparagus is the best green thing since Kermit the Frog, I'm in no hurry to dig another trench any time soon.

I may have underanticipated the rockwork involved in digging a garden, but I try not to take the granite for granted. Rocks are excellent for building stone walls, lining garden beds, throwing to a certain yellow Lab, and also creating alpine and Zen gardens. Just look at the fruits of excavation now attractively arranged in our rock garden!

The tags make the rock garden plants stand out more.

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