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Gardening Articles

Building a Garden

by Joan Reynolds

Late last summer, I finally got another garden put in. It had been a while since I rediscovered why they call it the Rocky Mountains, so I though I'd share my process with you. First off, before you do anything, check to make sure your massage therapist is in town and available. Massage really helps to ease those sore and tired muscles. Next, call Karla Briggs for compost or get LOTS on hand. Get out the shovel, pick, wheelbarrow and tarps. Have a separate tarp or wheelbarrow available for rocks. Find a spot to ditch the rocks.


OK, start digging! Shovel the dirt (or decomposed granite with pockets of clay) onto a tarp. When you start out, you can heave the dirt to the farthest edge of the tarp. I try to remove the larger rocks as I shovel out the dirt- tossing them onto a separate tarp or into a wheelbarrow. This is the hardest and most gruesome part of the job. Be sure to have sunscreen on and lots of drinking water available. I bring out 2-3 bottles at a time as well as the portable phone if I’m expecting a call. This eliminates taking off your grubby shoes (and sometimes socks) when you run out of water or the phone rings before you go in the house.  Keep digging - I try to dig to at least a depth of 2- 2 1/2 feet. Yes feet, not inches! As you shovel, most likely, you will notice that your lower back is getting sore.

My Yoga instructor, Athena Flegas of Body Mind Awareness has just the right stretches for this common problem. She suggests doing them once every hour to promote flexibility, strength and proper alignment of the muscles in the lower spine. It really feels good and is a great 5 minute break. In yoga, the breath is very important. Begin by laying on your back and breathing diaphragmatically to become relaxed. In the following stretches you will attempt to do 4/4 breathing - that means a count of 4 inhaling in, then a count of 4 exhaling out.

  1. Inhale, draw right knee towards chest. Exhale, place both hands on knee and hug knee into chest. Inhale, release stretch. Exhale, extend right leg back to floor. (or ground) Inhale, begin your left side. Repeat 5 times (each side).

  2. Pelvic tilt. This is not a big movement. Begin by bending knees and place feet on the floor. Inhale, arch low back and bring tailbone to floor. Exhale, contract and sink lower abdominals, flatten low back into floor and lift tailbone off floor. Repeat 5-10 times.

  3. Double Leg Lying Twist. Bend knees and place feet on floor. Exhale, contract and sink lower abdominals, draw knees to chest. Inhale, drop knees to right side to twist spine. Exhale, draw knees back to chest. Inhale, drop feet to floor. Exhale, begin left side. Repeat 5 times on each side.

  4. Single Leg Lying twist - extend legs and relax. Inhale, draw right knee toward chest. Exhale, place left hand on right knee, draw knee across body to twist spine. Inhale, release stretch and draw knee back to chest. Exhale, extend leg to back to floor. Inhale, begin left side. Repeat 5 times each side.

These stretches are good whenever you've been bending over a lot - also great way to start your day!

Ok, so you've convinced your neighbors that your spouse and children are only on a vacation and that you are really not digging shallow graves. You've dug out a minimum of 2 feet or more. (really consider the more part - this is your only chance - might as well do it right!) Take your pick or shovel and rough up the floor of your hole. Grab an empty wheelbarrow and mix about 2 parts dirt to 1 part compost. Toss out as many rocks as you can. This is called turning dirt into soil! You may be ready to turn your water in for wine at this point too! Mix the compost in and be generous with it - you can't have too much for most plants! Fill in you hole, watering it down as you go. When you think you';re done, do more and mound the soil up; it will continue to settle a bit. All right, your garden is ready for you to plant! You can feel good that you have provided a wonderful home for your well thought out and perfectly planned garden. (Oops, did I forget to mention that before you do anything, you need to determine the size & contents of this lovely new addition?)


Gazing over, you see the huge pile of rocks and the leftover dirt. What to do? You can start a rock garden with the rocks or use them to fill in a low spot on your property, with the dirt on top. You can use the dirt in your composter or consider a raised bed - yes raised ABOVE ground - a whole new concept ?and another article! Now is the time to call your massages therapist to ease away those sore shoulders and begin dreaming of how beautiful your garden will be??

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