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The Slipshod Gardener 3: The Devil's 1/3 Acre

Updated on January 21, 2013
This was not my mound but this is of a similar size. My mound was not this rich, black, debris-free soil but clay filled with chunks of asphalt.
This was not my mound but this is of a similar size. My mound was not this rich, black, debris-free soil but clay filled with chunks of asphalt. | Source

I live on developed land. It was developed by dumping construction debris, with a little dirt intermingled, into a bottomland. Now that I know how hard it is to garden earth filled with chunks of asphalt and concrete and the occasional spark plug or strip of siding, I suppose I should be glad that the original visionaries only chose to fill in half of the third of an acre, leaving the rest of it swampy forest.

What I can’t develop any appreciation for is the way they shaped the 1/6 acre I regularly inhabit. The front of the house sits in a dip that resembles a shallow pond after a heavy rain. I’ve seen worse but my situation is nothing to admire.

My initial effort to mitigate this situation was to call the city and ask them to make me a ditch so at least runoff from the road was diverted. The road department was very obliging. My beau was present while they were carving out the ditch and, frugal salvager that he is, couldn’t stand seeing what appeared on the surface to be perfectly good dirt being carted off in a dump truck when it could be used to fill in my dipped yard.

I was not immediately sold on the idea of having it dumped in the yard. Call it intuition. I just felt there was something unfortunate hidden in this bargain. But I caved and the mound was born, one dump truck load of mostly clay that packed itself as it slid from the bed. What I should have done was have my beau sign a contract stating that every day he had off he would dedicate to dispersing the mound until it was evenly spread. But I failed to do that. Instead my relationship with my pick ax was about to begin.

I quickly learned three things: the apparently good soil was full of fist-sized chunks of rock and asphalt, a shovel was nearly useless against it, and a pick ax is a powerful instrument of destruction. So I hacked and raked periodically as time, energy, and outdoor temperatures allowed. By the following spring it was about half the size and I redoubled my efforts.

The Zen of Gardening Mishaps

The mound was becoming flatter but it was still a mound. I was not going to be able to eliminate it before the heat of another summer settled in. At that point, I got into the Zen of the mound. It would have to be part of the landscape but what would be its character?

In an inspiration of questionable value, I decided to hollow out its middle and plant a pond liner in it. My beau indulged me in this. He bought the pre-formed liner and set to digging a hole to fit it, making great strides in a short time until he hit a broad, tilted slab of asphalt that would not yield to any hand-wielded tool. The hole was very nearly the depth needed, so we reversed the process. After setting in the pond liner, we filled dirt nearly up to the rim and topped it off with mulch. The trial of the mound had ended and the adventure of the pond had begun.

To avoid my folly, consider these guides:

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