***Alternate Title for this Post: How To Overuse "Quotations"***
When we first seen our house back in February, I was already starting to plan the vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers, etc. that I would be growing in our garden. Never mind that my "green thumb" is less "green" and more "black"; like the "bubonic-plague-I-kill-everything-I-touch, black". But I was undaunted and bought seeds of a whopping 43 different varieties of plants. Two reasons: 1) I'm indefatigably optimistic and 2) that way I could see what would do well in our soil and what would not.
After we moved in, the first thing we did was begin to pick up some of the bits of junk that was left in the yard by the previous owner. Our yard is extremely overgrown, we're talking at least 5 years, and in some places longer, with little to no yard maintenance. The problem with that is, we would clean out all the visible garbage, turn over some dirt, and then find more garbage. And it seems to be that way through most of the yard: a layer of garbage, a layer of earth, a layer of garbage, a layer of earth, etc.
You may not know this about me but two things give me the heebie--jeebies: garbage and poop. I refuse to clean up or pick up those two things. Dogs got into the trash and spread it all over? Too bad I'm not cleaning it up. Dog crap all over the yard? Not cleaning that up either. That could be why we don't have a dog.....hmmm........ But I digress. I'm also ridiculously stubborn and I want a garden so I WILL BE cleaning up the garbage out of the front yard (as I find it at least. Just when you think you got the last of it.....) We decided we needed some heavy machinery to dig up our yard, so we can get a better idea of what we're working with.
Then Dave got laid off. Exactly 3 days after we moved into our house. And while he is working now, it is only temporary. That means we don't have the cash to rent some heavy duty man toy with which to dig around our yard.
So we went to plan "B", what we commonly refer to in our house as the "contingency plan". The contingency plan consisted of us finding at least some part of our yard that wasn't riddled with garbage and debris, taking a shovel and turning the dirt, a.k.a: tilling the dirt, for our garden ourselves. Sounds complicated, I know, but that's just the kind of people we are.
The first shovel-full into the remarkably garbage-free area, came back with a TING!- "must have hit a rock", I say to Dave.
We try again. TING! And again. TING! And again. TING!
Finally I dig a few of the big rocks out with my hands (and I mean BIG, 9-10 in. in diameter) and we're thinking this is a fluke. Surely, all of our soil CAN'T be THIS ROCKY. But it turns out it can be and it is! And not just rocky, the dirt that surrounds the rocks, is almost entirely clay.
Now I'm no Ciscoe Morris but I'm pretty sure that rocky clay does not make the ideal soil in which to plant a garden. The next step would be to plant a garden using raised beds and purchased soil to go into said raised beds. Again for two reasons, this is not an option: 1) like I said before, finances are tight 2) we just purchased 7.93 forested acres, we shouldn't need to buy dirt.
So we're scratching the garden this year, although I do have some potted herbs that are doing quite well. (I'm as surprised as you). Instead we are just going to try and "fix" the soil we have, so that it can be plant-worthy by next spring.
Contingency Plan #2: we bought two baby pigs last month. Using a movable fence (they're called "pig panels") we set up a temporary pen for them to live in. They "process" the area by eating the existing grasses, digging up the roots and rocks, turning the dirt over and all the while leaving manure to further help the soil. I periodically go in with a wheel barrow and gather the rocks they have rooted up. We're using them as "gravel" for our semi-muddy driveway.
When all the greenery is exhausted in one area we move them to another to start the whole process again. Plus, in the newly turned dirt I'm planting a summer ground cover of common vetch and rye cereal. They're used to keep weeds from growing in your fresh dirt and as "green manure". Meaning that, instead of harvesting the plants, you just till them into your garden dirt and they improve your soil.