Saturday, June 16, 2018

Hello to the Springs Gardener

Two years ago at our house, we had a professional landscaper renovate the lawn and shrubbery.  For maybe eleven years or so before then, our lawn, especially the turf (St. Augustine grass) gave a sorry look.   This mainly resulted from a renovation of our house at the start of that eleven year stretch.  We made the kitchen larger, more pleasant and functional - including the installation of a new window over the sink that offers a view of South Florida's gorgeous sunsets.  Off that new kitchen, we built a fourth bedroom with its own bathroom, and we put a roof over the back porch that had simply been "screened-in," as we say in Miami-Dade.  That little bathroom for the fourth bedroom, on the west side of our house, a bit toward the SW corner, required a trench for a service pipe, a trench that went north along the west side of the house, around its NW corner, and headed east until it met the main sewer line that came from Dove Avenue, the east-west street that our house faces.  What a mess all that digging made, not only digging for the trench but also for a foundation that needed to be laid for the  new bedroom and the back porch that adjoined it.  (Don't ask why that porch didn't have a foundation, but, as we discovered, was just a slab spread on the ground.) After the trench was filled in on the west and front sides of the house and the foundation dug and constructed on the south side, we completed the rest of the upgrade.  All that trench and foundation work tore up the lawn, and I did nothing much after we finished the project to make the rough places plain.  I even gave the yard up to a crew of grass cutters of the mow-blow-and-go variety.   I didn't realize how bad the outside looked until, two years ago, the professional landscaper, to whom I gave more or less carte blanche, did his good work, and I saw what a world of difference it made.

But all that good work created a much higher maintenance demand.  Either I had to improve my relationship with the lawn and shrubs (hereinafter referred to as "the garden") or I would see the look slide into mediocrity or worse.  And I was a Springs boy, having lived in this town from a tiny baby, taking absences only for college and law school, a year in New York City, and a year in a duplex east of the Gables, until we bought our first house back in the Springs.  A Springs boy takes care of his own lawn, and makes it at least better than average.  Furthermore, we had invested hard-earned cash with the landscaper, who pulled up all the grass and weeds, covered the ground with rich dirt, and then laid on top big squares of new St. Augustine, adding all sort of plants around the base of the house and along the back border of the lawn, lovingly surrounding those plants with a flatbed worth of 2 cubic feet bags of brown mulch he had trucked in.  This would take a lot of work to keep up, and what was I going to do?

One Biscayne Tower - Thanks a Lot, Joe!
I had learned, however, the secret of good landscaping maintenance from a friend, Joe.  Joe is a building engineer for a tall office building downtown, known as One Biscayne Tower.  It had great landscaping around its base, and I asked Joe if he would give me an insight into how he had arranged to keep it so beautiful.  He drew closer to me, and lowered his voice.  "Paul," he said, "the secret is a crew that shows up at 5AM several mornings a week to pull weeds, trim, transplant and replace the shrubs, cut the grass, water, fertilize, mulch, and pick up the trash.  That's the secret."

Thanks a lot, Joe.

So, this blog post is an introduction to my story of trans-planting Joe's secret to my new garden.  Personally.