Where Soil Goes to Die

Sandy slopeOur three acres near the top of the Coan River sloped from 26m to sea level in a northeast direction. When we began to develop it in 1985, its interior was covered by the classic greenery of disturbed ground in the agricultural ruins of the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay--Virginia pines, gum trees, greenbriar, and poison ivy. Around the perimeter were several big oaks, tulip poplars, and maples.

The first order of business was to build a pier. We parked Ted's Corrolla station wagon at the public landing adjacent to our property and began to carve away at the jungle. Underneath the scraggly foliage we saw sand and the occasional oyster shell. A promising feature of the site was the complete absence of clay and stones. Gardening would involve easy digging.

The next task was to build a house and establish a lawn. The house happened four years later. The lawn never really got off the ground, er, pile of sand.

FantasyLawns are crappy in Virginia (except for those who pay for lawn services or who employ full-time gardeners). The climate is too hot and humid for bluegrass. Fescue is the grass of choice. At the time, Gardens Alive! sold seed for dwarf tall fescue. ("Dwarf tall." I think that name is hysterically funny.) According to the hype, this oxymoronic turf grass would send roots down 2-4 feet, would thrive under the southeast's nasty humid weather, didn't require mowing as often because it didn't grow so tall as giant tall fescue, and would produce a lawn that looked like this:

That was the stuff for me!