Member Garden Stories: My Coronavirus Hardscape Project

From Janet Tice:

Coronavirus? Stay-at-home advisory? Thank goodness for gardening!

With the weather too cool and rainy for digging in the dirt and my garden cleanup completed, I needed a project. I decided to tackle a long overdue task: adding a top “step” to the stairs connecting our side and back garden areas. We built the steps many years ago from rocks found on our property but the absence of the top step left a sloping bit of lawn that is difficult to mow. The coronavirus lockdown coupled with the cool spring suddenly provided the needed time and motivation.

Unfortunately, I was soon reminded of the two main reasons why the project had never been completed: 1) this top step would need to be about eight feet wide, since each step is wider than the one below, and that means lots of suitable rocks; and 2) it’s really hard to find large, naturally-occurring slabs of rock with at least one flat side that are heavy enough to be stable yet not too heavy for me to lift by myself. (And shale, of which we have lots, need not apply – it’s way too crumbly.)

But I was now committed. And so I began, with many search and recovery trips into our woods for the needed rocks, followed by the long and grueling process of fitting them together (imagine a jigsaw puzzle with 60-pound pieces) to create a reasonably flat, level surface free of tripping hazards. In fact, I’m sure I moved each rock at least a dozen times – maybe more. Some days I’d undo everything I’d done the day before and start over. Then, finally, success! And I finished before the black flies started biting!