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After hours of labor, the ground awaits seeding. I can hardly believe it. But see for yourself.
On the left is the untouched soil. On the right is the same land but freed of weeds, tilled into softness, and mixed with organic soil. To further make the land hospitable for cultivation, I pummeled it with a cultivator (as seen in photo). This process helped to remove rocks and mulch and to even out the ground.
After a few more days of cultivation, the ground is ready to accept herbs that will survive the upcoming winter chill: cilantro, sage, and fennel. There is a chance that the cilantro may not survive the frost but the other two are hardy herbs that should make it. That is, if the sage and cilantro seeds are not gorged by birds first. I have re-planted the fennel from seedlings bought from a gardening store. After some internet research and some time spent at the local hardware store, I have a strategy that I hope will work in protecting the seeds from birds: an iron edging border to which bird-repeller mesh can be attached.
There is another possible predator. As much as I love the neighborhood cats, I fear they will be interested in feeding on my herbs. The bird-repellent net is probably not sufficient to deter them since it is made of ultra thin plastic that they can easily paw through. I will replace the plastic nets with chicken wire once the seeds start showing signs of life to the extent that a cat’s curiosity might be piqued.
For now, the cilantro and herbs have started to germinate. The fennel is surviving and showing minor signs of growth. I expect to see more viable results of my labor in a few weeks.
As the ground crumbles below my feet, I feel the thrill of possibilities. Stepping off the tiller, I admire the effectiveness of this simple gardening tool. Then, giddily, I plunge the tiller right back into the soil and repeat. As an urbanite with zero gardening experience, the possibility of coaxing this hard dry soil into producing crop is very exciting.
When I first saw this house in Santa Rosa, the abundance of outdoor space was overwhelming. I was living in a 824 square foot apartment in San Francisco with no outdoor area. All the herbs that I enthusiastically (and illegally) planted on the fire-escape struggled to survive. The only real growth that happened out there was that of a pigeon family that made a nest in one of the flowerpots.
This house is my chance to redeem myself, to prove that I can nurture a plant. I am preparing the grounds to create an herbal garden, starting with cilantro and sage and maybe some other herbs. Before I could start tilling, I had to pull out all the weeds in the ground. I bought an impressive tool which grabs onto the roots and removes them in one easy sweep. I get goosebumps looking at all the fancy gardening tools online and in the store and learning how they can be useful in my project. So, instead of worrying about the extra expenditure, I was happy to purchase a shovel to help clear the ground for weeding the plants with tougher roots.
In addition to learning about gardening tools, I am learning about materials that increase soil’s organic properties. My mom and I have something new to talk about on the phone and we are connecting on a passion that we did not know we shared. And, I am excavating writing material from this new project.
The work gives me an unexpected sense of fulfillment. The crop of cilantro and sage will wake up my senses with their fragrance and nourish my body with a rich cocktail of nutrients. For now, the route there is nourishing my spirit.