On geometrical tyranny

This is not where the bodies are buried…yet

Sunday was the Big Dig day around here: the day I set up the twelve new garden beds for the new greenhouse. They had to be level, they had to be equidistant from their relations, they had to be…well, they had to maximize the 16’w x 28’l square footage of the new structure.

Of course I say “had to,” when it’s only me who’s wielding the shovel and the level line.

As I grumbled, I thought about what it is I was doing. As an architect, I kind of have to have a huge respect for geometry, even if the architectural fashion of my schooling was antigeometric. And today I get paid to hew the straight line, to worship the 90* angle. So why, I thought, shoveling through the clay, does my work life have to creep into my after-work life? Why does my garden need to pay homage to the vector?

I was looking for an out, I suppose. The devil on my other shoulder whispered things like “Plants have no respect for geometry, you know. You put them in straight lines for your weeding convenience only. Left to their own devices they’d be a chaotic mess.” It was sunny out; I am a huge sun wimp. I was tired. I knew, though, that having (12) 6’x3′ beds in the new greenhouse would be the best use of the space, considering that clay, considering my experience with the first one.

But, in all honesty? Having this rigid geometry of these raised beds in the vegetable gardens is immensely pleasing to me. I suppose I don’t really care what the plants think.

I guess I can’t help myself

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11 responses to “On geometrical tyranny

  1. You remind me of Mrs.Weekendfarmer : ). The precision she used to put the Tulips down amazed and scared me at the same time! I see the stimulus rebate has gone to great use : ) Did you put the boxes together?

  2. How funny, I was just thinking somewhat the same thing last night. How there are people that design beautiful rambling vegetable gardens with a bit of this and a bit of that planted everywhere. And that I am obviously not one of them.

    Confronted with a completely blank slate I instinctively created rows and then planted rows within my rows. And I love every bit of the order that it has.

    Glad I’m not the only one…

  3. I try to think about all the hard work I do today while my body can still handle it will pay off when I’m old and thanking my younger self for making my life easier.
    Your beds look beautiful.

  4. Ugh, you make me feel guilty. 😉 I have so much work to do, and here I am admiring your perfect beds. You should see my pathetically meandering rows that I seed by hand and look anything but straight. I did get my tomato and pepper seedlings in pretty straight, though—finally found a use for all that electric tape horse fencing we took down.

    Need to get out there and start planting again….

  5. Your beds are beautiful and I love looking at them. My beds are a chaotic mess of periodic and occassional lines. Sort of. Mostly. Also, ifyou haven’t seen the pictures, I didn’t exactly hammer the sides together either. I kind of laid them out like a free form playhouse and let them pretend to be beds.

  6. My dad and I have had the same gardening conversation for years,
    “You need to put them in rows to economize your gardening time.”
    “They are more aesthetically pleasing to me jumbled, and I have no desire to economize my gardening time.”
    He rolls his eyes in mock despair and we get on with further garden discussions. That’s how it works with a retired CPA and his totally un-CPA daughter.

  7. They’re beautiful..and I love the symmetry of raised beds, too. In fact, in naturalized settings, I still like a defined border somewhere…maybe I have some sort of gardening OCD? lol

  8. your beds look awesome! what a rewarding backbreaking session. I was wondering what type of wood you use for your raised beds? thanks.

  9. WF: Hah! You see with most plants all bets are off as far as being geometrically arranged once they’re IN the beds! Tom helped spot me with the wood. It’s no fun cutting 12′ boards by yourself.

    Laura: Well, rows certainly make it easier to weed which of course saves time. I tend to put things together in diagonal patterns, staggered to max out the space. Corn and onions, though, go in rows!

    Oh Michelle I do the same exact thing. I figure the better I can make the soil, the more I can do with the veggie beds now, the easier it will be in the long run. But I hope I can lift a shovel until the day before they put me in the ground, don’t you?

    But Danielle my gardens are probably a half or a third the size of yours! And of course I don’t have an herbery or a grain field… You should see my seeded rows too though. Luckily I’m fairly good at recognizing seed from weed.

    Alecto, you’re using 4x4s aren’t you? It would be a bit of work to hammer them together! Just separating “lawn” from “garden” is always the biggest challenge, I think. And don’t you want to think your garden IS a playhouse?

    Pamela, the second year we were here I definitely planted things willy-nilly to make sure that the bugs wouldn’t wipe out a whole row of things. The bugs are smart though so my plan failed miserably but dang the gardens looked great this year. I have moved back to bigger and bigger blocks of things so the crazy quilt has tended to be more a big-block patchwork quilt. And it still makes me happy. But of course we understand where your dad is coming from…

    Thank you Robbyn! I figure my garden is a spot of calm amidst the chaos of everything else around me. Manifest destiny and all that. I wouldn’t call it OCD!

    Hi Molly: it’s untreated 1×8 pine. Had I millions I would definitely use 2×8 pine. As it is, this stuff is easily replaced if it warps too much. Hasn’t yet in the oldest beds and they’re on their 4th season. It helps to predrill the holes but I use regular deck screws too.

  10. I built a raised bed garden for an architect friend of mine. He had to have the first row of beds perfectly in line (square) with the front of his carport which was a good 50 feet away. It’s something in ya’ll. Of course, I shouldnt’ say much, I square my plant rows off the garden fence and pull a line down the rows! LOL!

  11. Ann: Hah! You’re on to us!! But well I don’t square anything but my beds, though 😉 Your friend did have in mind “the grand gesture.” I will readily admit I started my veg beds that way but they’ve long since veered off into the zone of unintended consequences. Oh well…I ain’t exactly expecting Dwell magazine to come calling.

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