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Roofing-tin gardening 

Out came the sun and dried up all the rain.

The not-well-known third verse to the children's rhyme goes something like "and the itsy-bitsy weedlings took over the garden again."

We were feverishly and last-minutely packing for a week at the beach, throwing things at the car, the chairs, the coolers, the towels, etc. Where were those tie-downs? Those bocce balls?

Walking by the half finished garden, I balked, realizing I had never really finished mulching it. No time now though. Folks were calling, "We've got to go!"

In 20 years on the same land, my wife and I have planted a lot of gardens, sometimes three in one year, sometimes barely just tomatoes. The abundant nurturing energy of spring usually gives way to the humid, buggy lethargy of summer. In July, weeding a row of peppers is no fun.

One good rain while we were at the beach and the garden would be green all right, covered in weeds and vines. The tentative squash and bean sprouts would be consumed. The tomato towers would be ringed with morning glory.

Like most of my neighbors, I accumulate stuff. Maybe it's a rural thing, sure seems like a male thing. I try to be discrete, i.e., hide the good, big stuff from my wife. (She's the unofficial chairperson of "buildings and grounds.")

Grabbing the bike racks from a shed, I had one of those forced-choice, horticulture epiphanies. Why not mulch the garden with roofing tin? Haven't seen it done or written up in any Rodale magazine, but you work with what you have, right?

In my woody realm, I had squirreled away the typical Orange County survival gear: cedar logs, rusting rolls of metal fence, salvageable hose, "good" rocks, an old swing set, a pair of mowers for "parts," some great treated lumber, a stack of barn board, a pile of 2x4s, and of course, half a dozen sheets of roofing tin.

Country sheds, firewood lean-tos and outbuildings come and go, but roofing tin remains.

With not a moment to lose, I spread the roofing tin around the zucchini, nestled it next to the bell peppers, circled the romas, and closed the garden gate.

It was not a pretty sight. Looked more like a post-tornado photo rather than something you'd send in to Southern Living.

But a week later--no weeds. A popular frog habitat, though! I finally finished mulching the garden this past weekend with the correct organic matter. A couple of the beds and mounds look ready to pop. It's--how do you say--"presentable."

But what I'm thinking now is, maybe I need a new shed for my roofing tin.


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