Rocking the Walls: How I Made My Peace with Colorado Dirt | Blogs
I love when nature meets me halfway.
Alright, 70/30. Plant it and forget about it, that’s my motto. Or at least it was.
In West Virginia, Washington and New York, minimal effort was enough. An impromptu toss of seeds on random soil on a random spring day, and in six weeks I was a gardener.
When I moved into my home on the west side of Colorado Springs in 2013, the rows and rows of rock-lined flower beds called to me with visions of a healthy, imaginary future: me growing my own fruits and vegetables. , lining up outside in a long skirt with a wicker flower-picking basket to grab breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Colorado soil is a tough cookie, however, and it likes to fight dirty. I had never met a floor that I honestly, really hated, and which, honestly, seemed to really hate me in return.
My lavender flourished for one season, and only one season. Ditto for the thyme, hollyhocks, tomato, pear tree (planted by the previous owner), two of the four hop plants and pretty much everything I planted in the big bed out front, at except two columbines and all weed seeds that were purchased. the. The soil was a serene, angry place, an upside down plant semematism that turned perennials into annuals, no matter how much fertilizer, root ball fungus, or soil “modification” was.
I knew my enemy, and his name was clay. Clay soil = no drainage = root rot = plant death. I thought I could negotiate with clay. I was wrong. It had to go.
Soil content will vary depending on where you live and where you look, but in many parts of Colorado it is heavy clay, with very little organic matter that allows for good growth. In my yard, dig a big hole, fill it with water, and you have a pool for a day. Squeeze a handful of mud and leave in the sun for a few hours, you have a sculpture.
My soil may not be good for non-weed plantations, but what I didn’t realize until a few months ago is that it’s great for something else .
(Ancestral Puebloans say: “Duh” and also “See: Mesa Verde.”)
The construction of mud bricks and mud mortar dates back to at least the 10th century BC and was used to build the structures of the ancient city of Jericho. From Ireland to Anatolia there are still ancient dwellings built or cemented with mud.
If Colorado soil wasn’t a good home for my plants, I would use it to build an ivory tower that was.
I had a bunch of good rocks and a mountain of pieces of concrete (aka city dweller) from a remodeled basement. So, on a sunny day in mid-spring, I scooped out a few scoop balls of the cleanest, redder dirt and added water until the texture looked like flour. oats. It looked exactly like the commercial mortar I had used a few years ago to point out a false brick wall inside the house. I then used the mud mixture to mortar a wobbly, dry edge of rocks and concrete, just to see how strong the joints would be.
After an afternoon of baking in the sun, the wall was solid. No wobbling whatsoever. I added another row of rocks and pieces of concrete, then another, until I had a tower that was 2 feet high.
Mud mortar isn’t the strongest – and mine didn’t have any added “connective tissue” like grass or horsehair – so for the top row of rocks I added a little of cement mix for added strength.
I filled the empty space inside the tower with good soil, topsoil, and topsoil. The two baby pumpkins that reside there now appear to be thriving, but that’s how it all looked right before he started to die. I’ll have to get back to you on that.
And in case all this farm-to-table stuff doesn’t work out, I now have a new hobby – one that will stand the test of time, as a garden wall, xeriscape feature and, I bet , a whole lot more.
I’ve always wanted a garage …