Gardening Books Fib

On my bookshelves are a dozen gardening books. One promises a fabulous garden with the investment of only 60 minutes' work a week. Several say that this or the other plant grows in any soil, any light, without any care. Several of them say that organic gardening practices will reduce the need for maintenance, increase plants' resistance to stress, and prevent pests and disease. Others say that companion gardening eliminates bugs and disease. Most say that mulch prevents weeds. All of them say that there is no gardening condition so desperate that cannot be healed by the addition of generous amounts of organic matter.

Steaming compost heapSo emboldened, you dig your composit pit and ply it with leaves and kitchen scraps. You haul loads of horse manure all winter, pile it in steaming heaps, and watch it decompose.

Come spring, you eschew Ortho and embrace your horse and worm manure-enriched compost. You place plants according to their exact requirements for light, water, and bloom time. You carefully loosen the root ball on your azaleas and shrubs and you dig your holes for for them exactly as recommended. You set the plant in the hole so its crown is at the same level as it was in its nursery pot. You backfill the hole with soil, rich in organic matter and of the proper pH. You haul in topsoil for the lawn and seed it with grass recommended for your climate, with clover mixed in to fix nitrogen. You buy a Can-O-Worms and practice vermiculture.

You do everything the way the books say you should, watering only when rainfall does not supply the obligatory one inch per week. You wait, patiently, the way a careful gardener with a joyful heart does. The season progresses. The azaleas attract lace bugs. The rhodies develop black spot and crown rot. The lawn withers. Seeds do not sprout. The soil, once black with compost, turns back to sand. Mulch disappears as fast as it's spread and it does not reduce weeds.

Lies, all lies!