The Engineer’s Garden

engineer's gardenI’m not always tinkering with hyperspace or programming or writing. Sometimes I get my hands dirty.

Here’s an example. I recently built a garden for my mom. (I am not a professional gardener, nor do I play one on TV.)

cranesThough I am aware of the beauty that surrounds me (here on the West coast of Florida where hummingbirds flit and Sandhill cranes stroll through our front yard), I cannot claim to be an artist or even a decorator.

Yes, sometimes I may be a bit of an engineer, though my degree was in Physics. A couple of weeks ago my mom asked me to build her a garden, and I found myself approaching it like an exercise in engineering. She had bought four 2×12x8′ boards, but that wasn’t sturdy enough for me, so we got a helpful lady to saw a length of 4×4x4′ into four one foot pieces and picked up four angle brackets and a bag of nails.

My brother James helped me hammer the garden border, using the foot-long pieces and angle brackets to reinforce the corners. Then we planted marigolds just inside the boards (to control nematodes), some Penta flowers in the center (to attract flying insects for pollination) and finally the tomatoes and cherry tomatoes in between (close to the border so that we wouldn’t have to step into the garden to harvest).

tomatoWe fertilized with composted manure, covered the ground with small leaves we raked up for free from the front yard, and began to hope. Sure enough, a few days later we spotted butterflies and some kind of small green bee or wasp coming in to check out the blooming marigolds and pentas. They must have found the tomato blossoms, too, because we soon saw the appearance of future food, in the form of regular tomatoes, like this one here, and then some cherry tomatoes.

I call it The Engineer’s Garden. It is designed to be efficient and low maintenance. Marigolds keep down the nematodes, flowers draw the pollinators, and the leaves cover the ground to prevent weeds from growing. The flowers are nice to look at, and eventually we will have organically grown tomatoes. Because, believe me, this is NOT an exercise in Chemical Engineering. This will grow healthy food. And it is just the beginning.

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