Like many people who move here, we bought a newly constructed house on an acre lot. I will admit that I was not in love with it. The house was fine, but the lot had no landscaping, and no dirt. Just lava rock and crushed lava rock. How was I supposed to continue my love of gardening on an acre of lava rock? The answer, my friends, came in the form of 26 cubic yards (yes, yards) of mac-nut mix base soil, and another 20 cubic yards of bagged compost and topsoil.
Delivery trucks do not offer to spread that dirt evenly, and Home Depot didn’t offer to send an employee home with me to help with the multiple bags of topsoil and compost I had purchased, so a lot of time (and knee cartilage, I am told) was spent turning the giant pile of dirt, soil, and compost into three even rows for the vegetable garden, as well as numerous small piles around the yard for planting trees, flowers, and vines.
Since it was nearly impossible to dig- although in some places I could move smaller lava rocks to create a slight indentation- I had to figure out how to plant here. I drove around my neighborhood several days in a row to see how others had conquered the problem. What I found was that many people plant in planters, or they plant above ground, using rocks to create quasi raised beds for each plant or grouping of plants.
My next project was to gather rocks that could be used to create these raised beds for all the plants, trees, and flowers I was planning on buying. This meant donning thick gloves (Centipedes! Fire ants! Slugs!) and taking the wheel barrel around the yard and rock walls looking for rocks that were big enough to be useful and light enough to move. Beginning a garden is not sexy- it is hard, sweaty, work, but at the end of each day the sense of accomplishment made the muscle aches worthwhile. I was creating my canvas, on which my tropical garden dreams would soon be realized.