My father’s hands wore blisters. Blisters that should have been mine; and would have been mine if I had been better at slicing the earth with the shovel. There’s a knack to tearing up sod; once you hit that sweet spot that just grazes the roots, you can easily lift the sod up in sheets. I kept digging too deep, breaking up the grass in clumps, or just missing the roots and leaving rivets in the grass where my garden soil should have been appearing.
At 69, my father is in good health; but his right knee was causing great pain from arthritis. One knee has already been replaced, and a hip too. He couldn’t help but intervene at my own clumsiness with the shovel, taking it from my hand and doing it himself. Kindly scraping off the top of the sod, leaving the soil intact.
While the act of breaking ground and sowing seed sends me to the kitchen to pour a celebratory tall glass of cold root beer, my father sees the act of gardening for what it truly is: more work. He grew up in an era where growing your own food was a matter of survival. Everyone grew what they ate, or they didn’t eat. Gardens require weeding. When he left home, he hoped he had washed the soil off his hands for good, preferring to pick his strawberries from the supermarket, where every trace of soil has been erased with the intermittent showers from the produce sprayers.
Now he finds himself some 50 years later, shovel in hand, blisters forming, doing the backbreaking work of helping his daughter create her own garden. And she, to his bafflement, seems to be enjoying herself. His body reminded him fairly quickly, in winces, of why he should just put the shovel down, and walk away. Surely, there must be a golf course around here somewhere. Buoyed by my enthusiasm, and his unrelenting urge to get the job done right, he continued his work until the bed was finished.
Watching his pain, I decided, right then, to cut the size of my garden by two thirds. “That’s enough dad. That’s the perfect size.”
I was more than thrilled to learn there is an easier way to start a garden on sod. Here’s the no-dig way to start a garden on sod. This year, my garden will increase in size by two thirds.