I have, in previous posts, referred to the blessedly blank slate of Fencebroke's existing landscape. This is a little more than something of a misnomer, and a terrific example of how easy it is to overlook little details when performing garden renovation/installation. For you see, a truly blank slate would be to have acquired an empty, dirt lot, at most in need of a quick rototilling before accepting with fresh happy soil whatever seed or root touched ground. In fact, what I failed to distinguish (despite years of experience, which should have better-attuned me to such technicalities), is that the previous owners did not leave the garden blank so much as they planted thousands upon millions of one specific plant of which they were evidently quite fond: grass.
Yes, indeed, the whole vast expanse of Fencebroke Promontory was choked with strong, healthy lawn, which is great if you like lawn, and not so great if you have aspirations to plant anything else, ever. The former case offering very little fodder for gardening, much less blogging, we were confronted with the daunting prospect of extensive sod-removal.
For anyone who has not had the joy of tearing a garden bed from a deadman's grip of thick sod, I invite you to come visit FPG for a hands-on, behind-the-scenes tour of our process. And by “hands on”, I mean here, take a garden fork, and by “process” I mean start ripping chunks from the burly turf with said fork, then use a hori-hori knife to pound off whatever topsoil clings to the roots. Repeat ad-infinitum. (Knocking the soil off is by far the most time-consuming step of this process; if you have bad soil/clay etc. to begin with, there's no great loss in skipping this step, but if you have anything remotely decent, it is important to reclaim as much of this top layer of soil around the root zone as possible, as it is the most ecologically complex and geologically scarce part of your garden.)
Surely, you think, there must be a better way. Well, there does exist a machine for removing sod—no, strike that, “machine” doesn't quite do justice here—there exists a mechanical demon for removing sod. I have employed the services of this great bucking, evil beast on several occasions in my professional career. In my opinion (and if you ever encounter the beast, please don't mention this; it would surely track me down in vengeance) it is an ineffective device, good for jarring loose your bones from their sockets and soul from your body, but generally cutting too shallowly into the sod to completely remove the more tenacious grass roots and deeper rhizomes. Plus, if you want to reclaim any of the topsoil, you still have to go through and manually pound away at the sod strips.
Together with my wife, (and to a somewhat lesser extent, our assistant Daisy) we are slowly but surely chewing away at this great task. We have successfully carved out small circles for the fruit trees, and are well on the way towards excavating a bed which will become our vegetable garden. That's a lot of sod. Where does it all go, you may ask? May I introduce to you the most inadvertent topological feature of Fencebroke Promontory: the ever-growing Mt. Sod!