There is one garden chore I have been itching to do ever since we moved to Mt. Faith. It’s a massive undertaking and requires a much better and younger body than either of us have at this point in life. But – T.M. doesn’t call me a bulldog for nothing. And I am happy to report that we are one fourth of the way as of this afternoon. But I am definitely needing to lie down soon.

I know it is deemed tidy and attractive in some circles to place black plastic and rocks around the perimeter of the house and there may even be a certain advantage by supplying  a proper drainage surface for the rain to pelt upon. And I would hope that I am not offending Angie and John who did so many wonderful things here and to whom we are eternally grateful. But – the rocks have got to go. And trust me – not easily.

Just to be sure of my obsession, I checked with a local Master Gardener, Bev Johnson, who is known in Otter Tail County for her knowledge and ability to “tell it like it is.”

Bev says, and I quote, “The movement to rock mulch started in the 1950s and 60s and, unfortunately continues to this day. Rock mulch on top of black plastic (and here she quotes landscaper, Don Engebretson) ‘is horticultural homicide or maybe it should be planticide. Even though holes are cut in the plastic to stick the plants in, the holes are too small for the plant to get either enough water or oxygen for proper growth. This lack actually kills off the essential microbial activity needed, resulting in a nearly dead environment for anything planted in such conditions.’”  Bev goes on to say – “The plants attempt to send out roots but the soil has no food for them. Then to really put the cap on the planticide, the sun heats the rock raising the soil temperatures near the surface to abnormal levels killing any roots that may have sprouted there.”

EEK. This is probably why the hydrangea, when uncovered, was not sending roots down into the soil, but rather spiraling just below the plastic and, as I imagined, gasping for air.

When I went through the Master Gardener program in California, one of the main lessons concerned the fact that plants need oxygen as much as people do. And that is another reason, we were instructed, not to ever water TOO much because, what happens if a person stays submerged under water? They drown because of a lack of oxygen. Same with plants.

Quoting Don Engebretson again, Bev says that his solution to correcting the “rock problem” involves renting a 10 yard roll off dumpster with an end gate that swings open and while you’re at it – “rent a few football players.”

The good news is that we also felt we needed something of a path leading from the driveway and parking area to the front door. Most of our friends pop right into the kitchen by way of the back, and that’s lovely. But it seemed a good idea to also offer a way, a guide, a welcoming towards the new front entry porch with our Velkommen sign and brass hanging bell. So – the rock provided the perfect material and only needed to be moved just a bit and not, at least on this side of the house, up a ramp and into a dumpster, football players aside. When I get around to the south – well, school should be out for the summer by then.








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