The Accidental Gardener:  The Shape of Things at Bob’s Little Acre

Yesterday, while I was trying to sell ads in The Dade Planet, I ran into a business owner who didn't know who I was but who told me the only reason she used to read a certain Local Print Newspaper Which Shall Not Be Named was to read this whacko column some crazy woman wrote about her garden. I was tickled pink (even though she didn't buy an ad) and remembered I hadn't been posting these retro Bob's Little Acres for a while. So here's an Acre from its early days which I republish here with love and apologies to my old friend Paula, whose house is very tidy these days, and with hope my new friend Trisha is reading The Planet!

“If you study the logistics and heuristics of the mystics, you will find that their minds rarely move in a line.”

This is a Brian Eno line I frequently use to justify the not-so-straight lines of my garden rows, and to show off the fact that I know what “heuristics” means, and how to spell it..

Straight lines in the vegetable garden serve a purpose. If you plant beets in a row, what comes up, if it’s inside the row, is not guaranteed to be a beet but is more likely to be than anything that is not. It’s not great odds but as good as you get in this racket

But I’m not a straight-line kind of person. I set out from point A with every intention to travel to point B, but somehow the road always turns to dirt and I end up in Alabama.

In any case, the straight lines in my garden tend to morph into something else, not only because of my imperfect grasp of geometry but because of my puppy, Roosevelt, the Holy Terrier, who enjoys nothing more than tumbling through the garden with a stake in her mouth, twine around her legs and evil in her heart. So rows are constantly restaked and beets stray from the straight and narrow through no fault of their own.

Fortunately, straight rows are not the only options available to the gardener. You can grow plants in patches and raised beds or even use them to create crop circles to signal to aliens in outer space. This is a free country.

My friend Paula once had a garden shaped like a kayak. Or two, rather. She had a pair of kayaks in dry dock in her back yard. They hadn’t moved for so long, their best chance for hitting the water again was global warming melting the polar caps and providing Marietta, Georgia, an outlet to the sea.

But Paula found that her lawn ornaments had a horticultural use: They had killed the grass underneath them, so she moved them and planted peppers and tomatoes in her new, ready-made plots, repositioning the boats where she wanted more arable farmland.

This accidental approach to garden design is one to which I am also addicted. I use jellyrolls of spoiled hay for mulch, and when a bale is used up it leaves behind it a black circle of beautiful compost in which I can never resist planting something.

This is why I have circles of plants everywhere, not necessarily positioned with aesthetics in mind but where the hay bale stopped rolling when it fell off the truck. Thus I have a circle of breathtaking gladiolas at the bottom of the hill where it would take the FBI to find them.

I’m not arguing in favor of circles. They just happened, and if they mean something to aliens observing us from space I don’t know what it is but I hope it’s something along the lines of Send Cash or Bring Beer. If I used square hay bales instead of round, my garden would look like a quilt and I suppose I’d be just as happy though I can’t speak for the aliens.

I hope these people don't mind my taking a pic of their house. I drive

by it often and always admire their circular flowerbeds.

But somewhere I read that it is flowerbeds laid out by the Golden Mean, or Golden Ratio, that are most pleasing to the eye. I looked the Golden Mean up and it is: 1.61803399. In case you don’t know what that means, I also learned that the whole should be to the larger part as the larger part is to the smaller part.

Do what? I think it would be easier just to borrow one of Paula’s kayaks.

The Golden Mean must be something along the same lines as Feng Shui, another concept I have never grasped. Paula’s big on it, though.

Paula adores buying furniture but she can’t bear to throw any away, so when she gets new things she just puts them in front of the old ones. No one has seen her actual floor for seven years, though there are trails from room to room through stacks of books and magazines and other things in piles, so you can navigate if you know what you’re doing though I wouldn’t try it in the dark.

Anyway, in one corner of the dining room, where there was a molecule of clear space on a sideboard, Paula put a little indoor fountain, and she explained to me it gave the room Feng Shui. Personally, the tinkling just stimulated my bladder.

So maybe I’m not an aesthetic concept kind of person any more than a straight-line person. In fact, the more I work at it, the more random my garden seems to get. A space alien observing Bob’s Little Acre with its patches and circles and eccentric rows would have to conclude it developed more through chance evolution than intelligent design.

Sometimes it puzzles me just as much as I’m sure it would the space alien. Oh, not just how those gladiolas got to the bottom of the hill but how I came to be gardening this particular little acre on this particular dirt road. Not by a straight line, I can tell you.

Maybe it’s just where I landed when I fell off the truck.

I like rectangular gardens, too, and I stopped yesterday to get a pic

of these people's perfectly symmetrical tomato bed. If you read the

intro, you'll know I was supposed to be selling ads

(Robin Ford Wallace lives in Deerhead Cove, where she plays quietly in the dirt, disturbing no one.

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