After dinner, we returned to the back yard. There, next to the haphazard pile of plastic bags of peat and topsoil, Steve paced off the space we needed for the garden.
“That’s even bigger than I thought,” I said. “Are you sure we need all that space?”
Steve swung his head back in my direction. “Plants need space.”
I surveyed the ground, and, suddenly, had a solution to all our problems. “Do we really have to dig a solid area? Can’t we just dig holes in the ground, one for each plant? And leave the rest of the grass alone?”
Steve is a nice guy, so he didn’t laugh out loud. Of course, by this time of night, the whole situation was becoming less and less funny all the time. “Genie. We cannot dig holes in the ground.”
Next thing I knew, he had inserted the tip of the shovel in the grass, and was pressing down on the shovel’s head with the bottom of his hiking boot. A gash opened beneath the shovel, and he lifted up a chunk of sod, exposing the rich, dark Iowa soil underneath.
Another shovelful, then another. Steve quickly turned over sod as I just stood there, watching the pile of discarded clumps of grass and dirt grow and shift under its own weight. “Try to separate the grass from the soil,” he said, gesturing toward the pile with its head.
On that first garden-shopping trip to Hy-Vee back in April, I’d picked out a pair of blue gardening gloves. The checkout clerk pointed out they were two-for-one, so I grabbed a green pair, too, and threw them in with the plants I was purchasing. Now, I grabbed the blue pair and slid them on. I crouched down next to the pile and began to separate dirt from grassroots, as fast as I could, making every attempt to stay ahead of Steve’s shoveling.
We had officially broken ground on our first garden.