Giotto (c. 1267-1367) demonstrated his artistic skill by drawing a perfect circle without the aid of a pair of compasses. Upon learning this story from my sister when much younger, I did idle away some time trying to do the same, and then overlaying a compass-drawn circle on my pathetic efforts. The results convinced me that there was no reason to persist with such endeavour. I consoled myself with my ability with regard to straight lines.
Although I seldom feel the need to do so, I gather that cutting a piece of fabric in a long straight line is not something everyone can do. I can. This was useful in the days I used to make my own duvet covers, and that time I worked in the laundry about eight years ago, when much to the surprise of my colleagues, I was able to shorten the hems of a customer’s curtain and sew them satisfactorily.
Although some would argue that my ability to hit a golf ball long and straight (that’s my story and I am sticking to it) has nothing to do with the fact that I can dig a perfectly straight line with my hoe while progressing backwards, I would say that the two things are connected by what we refer to in sports as someone having a “good eye for the ball”.
I received a hitherto private comeuppance earlier this year when, having dug a perfectly straight vegetable bed, I proceeded to plant pea seedlings in a crooked line (the middle bed in the above image). In my equally private defence, I reasoned that I was tired, having already planted quite a lot of seedlings in the right-most bed, after doing quite a few other gardening chores before I started on the peas. I console myself that when the plants have grown to maturity, the squiggly line will not be as glaringly crooked as it is now.
And so it was that my mind turned back to that same grubby stick about six inches long with string wound around it that my father kept with the gardening tools for years and years. I remembered with glee that I had kept two large bolts from the discarded single bed with a wooden frame found at the communal rubbish bins which is now my soil sieve. Thus, my new straight line was born.
My new straight line became my guide in my new “minimum digging” method for vegetable beds in the ground. Fifteen months after my back injury, I now feel confident enough to do a decent couple of hours of hard work in the garden (albeit with my brace on). I focus now on economy of movement. And that is how I got a serviceable bed ten metres long (pictured left in the top image).
The new method involves using the hoe and the line to merely dig the outline of the bed, with the centre part not being dug at all, except to clear the weeds and grass growing on top of the soil. Only the soil where seeds are actual planted is dug a little bit.
Formerly, I used to turn the soil thoroughly with great gusto to a depth of about nine inches, and mix in compost, and so on. Forget it. Not anymore. I figure the soil is aerated enough, and the unearthing of worms too numerous to count during this process bore me out on this theory. Tillage will take care of the rest, and mulching for the next crop in a few months time will augment the beds, as is the case with the one now three years old clad in old roof tiles (pictured right in the top image). Despite rude comments on Facebook mentioning newly dug graves, all I see is little live things growing. If anyone has a body to dispose of that is four metres long, I have just the bed for it!
One advantage of minimum intervention is that bed digging does not take as long as it used to. In one hour, I transformed a patch of long grass into a bed 3.5m long and ready for planting.
Taking the panoramic shot of the feature image reminded me of a friend commenting that I could make my own Paradise out of this bit of ground. A photo of the same plot taken four years ago can be found here. Is it Paradise? Not by a long shot, but it is a good piece of Earth, and it has straight lines.