MOVE THE GARDEN, MOVE THE SOIL, MOVE THE LANDLORD!
I must have earned some BAD ASS landlord karma in a past life ---been a slumlord, gadged my tenants maybe. I have sure paid for it in this one. I rented a fantastic house for 25 years, made it beautiful, gardened, foodscaped. When my landlord died, the family sold it to an Iranian woman who rightfully asked me to move. I asked for the equally rightful and even obligatory five grand moving money that the Law mandates if you have a decade or over in a private home.. I guess she had a bad lawyer. She wouldnít pay it.
So I made the Iranian take me to an eviction court which ate up a good three months. Tenantís rights Law decrees that if a tenant has been there for well 10 or 20 years or more, I forget which, the landlord pays to move them. She didnít know the law, so I lived there rent free for several months, while court dates were being arranged, giving me time to collect a new first, last and security deposit, won hands down in court, also got forgiven all the rent as I could prove certain basic amenities were not there. Windows, heat, plaster, roof tiles. I had photographs of leprotic walls, and live witnesses, not letters, letters donít work. And the good news is, Judges look unkindly on slumlords. I was given five grand to get out of Dodge.
I moved not only with the five grand, but with the entire back yard. See, I had time to lift every plant and tree out there! I put everything in grocery store produce boxes lined with plastic, filled with the plants and their soil. At ten p.m. when the neighorhood watch ended --as they were watching MEDIUM or CSI or the news, -- I was packing dozens of these heavy boxes into a hatchback and carting them to the new house which in a few weeks was nicely landscaped. My jubilation was short. The moment I finished landscaping, the NEW landlady easily sold it out from under me. I hadnít been there more than six months so this was hugely inconvenient. I was furious and tore out the garden Iíd just made, so that the new purchaser didnít get what he paid for but I was not into sparing feelings.
Now, I was getting GOOD at this eviction business. This time, I went into an eviction court loaded for bear: rolls of color photos of this garden, double the witnesses, and stacks of receipts from HOME DEPOT, stressing that the landlord was profiting on my thousands of bucks materials, plants and months of work. The judge said that I could have 500$ credit for having built that garden which covered the time spent planting, but meant I was expected to LEAVE STUFF. So hey, I left the annuals. Not a problem.
In this case, having been paid for the garden, but NOT NEARLY what the stonework, plants and MONTHS OF WORK were worth, I was morally forced to take some plants with me, but also legally forced to leave some. Here is where a knowledgeable gardener can even accounts. I left only showy annuals that had a lot of bloom, --- taking all the much more valuable perennials, boulders, bulbs and fruit trees.
My son had built a raised flower bed edged with a foot high brick wall. We didnít tear down his beautiful brick masonry. I left that one wall, but took the bedís contents, all the soil and perennial plants, stuck a few annuals in its empty 'well'. I took the flagstone paths as they were worth 500 bucks. (He was a landscaper, always got demolition materials.) And I took the huge compost pile which no one would have appreciated, anyway. Took it in trashcans. Rolled them to truck on their bottom like a spinning top.
My son and I moved to ANOTHER house. This time in the VALLEY, the low rent zone of LA Here, the ancient, redheaded Landlady (a career real estate agent who owned 12 rental homes of which this was the runt of the litter,) promised me five years, but said sheíd give me a contractual year at a time, but not to worry. I could stay for five.
So, STUPID here, landscaped yard fantastically well, threw up a huge lanai, bamboo curtain of reeds-roof, redwood poles to set off tables of potted plants and a small orchid collection, (gleened from dumpsters outside florist shops), hung on the walls of my house. The lanai was an outdoor dining room with vines going up its poles, Mexican lanterns hanging from rafters and strings of Xmas tree lights on every edge so that it looked like a Flying Saucer had landed in Van Nuys. And across the driveway, an identical lanai, half the size, as a potting shed with three tier shelf plant collection. The sweetest things are brief.
By now, Iíd decided no landlord was ever going to see the beauty I was creating, as they would of course, covet it, or sell the property to take advantage of its increased value. This next landlady was not allowed in. But one day a YEAR INTO THE LEASE, she forced her way in, screaming that sheíd heard from neighbors I was feeding the wild cat population. This was true. She said she wondered if there werenít a cat zoo in the back yard. There wasnít. Instead she saw a Victorian parterre garden of raised beds where once had lain her brown weed field of a lawn.
She was beauty challenged, saw the garden and evicted me on the spot, saying, -- nay -- screeching that my gardening was too opulent and where in the hell had her back lawn gone? (Iíd torn it out the week I arrived, composted it upside down in a hugamongous compost pile, then used the soil to create raised beds and narrow paths. Well, I was evicted from this lawn free zone but not until after Iíd made her take me to court, too.
Judges are forced to evict you if itís a house and the one year lease is up. You cannot be evicted from Apartments if youíre current on rent, but thatís not true for houses. No matter if there are no complaints, they can get you out. She won a massive judgement against me for court costs only. Not rent. I was forgiven rent as she'd triple gadged me on a carpet fee and I proved it. But now my check account could be attached. No problem. My daughter opened a bank account in HER name marked "OUR SURNAME HOUSEHOLD ACCOUNT". Ah, we are nothing if not wily.
I am now un-lienable and all judgements will go unpaid for the next 7 years. That is because I am freelance, self-employed. If I had a wage job, she could have garnished my wages.
The Gods of PAYBACK served her with a little garnish. The conniving redheaded, ugly high temper Jabba the Hut landlady was left without a tenant, and without a lanai, orchids or yard. NOTHING front or back. Bare mud. Topsoil gone. House is unrentable. ONE YEAR later, sheís still painting, carpeting, fixing it up and itís up for sale and no takers.
My dumb landlady lost 15 grand not letting me stay, turned her property into an overnight dump and I feel no remorse. After all, I suffered. I built Shangri-la only to lose it, and in my weeks of deepest grief, had to rent a U-haul for a week and make 14 trips, (two a day for seven days) with two homeless guys on full salary* for a full week, in order to move every boulder, terrace tile, tree, plant and even the soil. I always take the soil with me, in boxes.
(* regarding the full salary of homeless guys, I get strapping big fellows from the staircase outside the local mental health clinic, where homeless people loiter. I use them for a try-out week at excavating plants and trees. Thatís where you find out if they are too nuts to work. They werenít. These guys were kindly, sweet, gentle, maybe a little doltish but in the main, quite saintly guys.
In that first week, Iíd train them, In more things than just plant removal. One trains them in "salary realities." Hereís how. At the end of a day work Iíd say, ĎOK, Charlie, now youíre living here and eating here, how much salary do you want for the dayís work you just did? Charlie would say Ďwould twenty dollars be alright?í and Iíd put a twenty in his hand, feed them fried chicken and mashed taters for dinner, and he and his pals were in twenty buck ecstasy, zoning out watching the t.v. having beers and chocolate cake.
No worry about workers carrying your auntís teapot away as they were living in the park when they werenít with me and didnít need a teapot! My jewelry was packed in one of the 400, numbered, tape-sealed brown grocery boxes, none of which ever was opened until after the move, and then, only by me.
A life well lived profits all. I made some wonderful new pals, trained them in landscaping. Reminded them how nice it was to have a frying pan. And they all made an easy twenty a day. Well, not EASY. ButÖ.
I almost spoiled things one day when I hired a Mexican from those crowds waiting outside BUILDERíS DEPOT. These guys are canny. At dayís end, he wanted fifty for the straight eight. I had to take him around back to pay him so the others wouldnít see. Jose didnít return. He wanted to. I didnít want HIM around contaminating the others.
Another person would have left the three eviction gardens behind without a whimper. Not moi. I am not a Buddhist. I AM ATTACHED! I am also mostly Scottish, (frugal) English, (addicted to gardening) California Spanish, (nervy) but part Jewish (cunning) and part black, (big on 'get back') (Pio and Andres Pico, last govs of Calif, mulattos, were my grandpop/uncle!) --- and all these races have been walked on ENOUGH! My racial mix is prone to fighting SOB landlords! You might think, Ďwhat can a little single-mother tenant do against a landlord?í A LOT. Where thereís a will, thereís a way.
WHEN YOU ARE EVICTED, fight in court. And in those months, start packing the house stuff first. By the time you've rented a new home, and know your new address, there's nothing in the house itself but taped shut boxes. Take the last precious week to pack up the WHOLE garden to take it with you! Leave the landlord a burnt field. Scorched earth policy! A few extra U-haul trips but well worth it. A truck that costs 19$ a day is not a dealbreaker.
The trick is to get dozens of big grocery boxes, strong ones like for Scotch or apples. Line box with a plastic trash bag, and fill to brim with your most precious creation, your rich, organic soil and some plants on top enjoying the move, green and well fed. Move them dry, move them the day you dig them out. You can water as soon as you get to the new house, because they become three times as heavy the second theyíre wet. I have seen plants in these boxes do very well for UP TO A YEAR. Right now, 13 months after having moved to my new house, a last few plants, snaps, hydrangeas are blooming in boxes with the heat at 106. So a box can really last! The snaps went from one single plant and, as they're biennials, has turned into a multi-armed ANIMAL!!! 8 or l0 snapdragon stalks rising in a tangle, as these plants seem to flourish in boxes!
I also moved a few thousand pots. I always saved all the plastic pots that my plants came in, the ugly but dureable nursery pots of black plastic. Before the advent of sealed trashcans, I used to pick up pots on trash nite.
When one takes a plant collection in a moving truck, fill these pots to the VERY TOP, as the topsoil is important. Replant them at the new house, then put the pots somewhere in a shed until they are needed again. I not only moved every pedigreed plant, I was moving plantain weeds, potted up generously not so much because I wanted the plantain as I wanted the soil.
I came back to the ex house with huge plastic trash barrels every night, filled them with soil, moved them back and forth twice a night, full. Dumped the trash barrel, took it back empty to start over.
Yessir! Always take your topsoil down to the last centimeter. The unlucky landlady who evicted me for cat feeding or because she wanted my garden, inherited an empty garden. A lunar landscape. Death to them who want death.
Now, if youíre lucky, you move in WINTER. You can take even grapes, berry bushes and grown fruit trees with you in winter. Just dig out a few feet all around, then GET UNDER with a shovel and LIFT root ball onto a huge piece of tarp or burlap, and tie well. When you get it to the new house, water, but donít fertilize. You never fertilize a stunned tree or plant. Wait until it settles in well to its new hole.
If a tree is over ten feet, and itís April, forget about moving it. Take branch cuttings, graft onto root stock at new house. You can take rose cuttings. But if itís winter, bareroot ROSES go with you, of ANY size. I moved two tall ramblers and the taller arbor, in April, when they were budding. They withered a bit, then came back twice as strong. Roses regard the setback as a late freeze and take it in their stride.
Summertime moves would be impossible for roses, fruit trees, grapes or berries. As I mentioned, last time, I moved in last week of March, first week APRIL. All my raspberries were starting new growth. I'd installed six plants but they had cloned themselves. Six plants had become fifty in one year! All fifty moved with ease. In the new house, in one year, they've become several HUNDRED.
Only one of my many trees failed to make it in April. The mover's fault. He didn't grab enough roots. Got sloppy. Maybe I GOT sloppy, not keeping my eye on him. Schizophrenics are a kind of LAST stop employee-wise. Drunks are a step better and I think APRIL is a kind of last stop, move wise. The smart thing is to get out before April, or wait until the first freeze, and move then, November or so.
Now in my new rented garden, just one year into residency, the garden is so lush it looks like an Indonesian jungle. Two apricot climber roses on both sides of that arch have been in three houses already. The trick is to move in JANUARY when you cut them back to three feet, and can lift them with a root ball. Ten thousand other plants have gone into the ground here. My LEMON tree has been at four houses, this is the fourth. It was a dwarf so that's why it could be done.
Where there was empty parched LAWN front and back when I came, a year later, the new 8000k sq. feet property has been completely rototilled, all lawn was composted, the yards were "pathed out' with white lime , edged with ALLEY WOOD FINDS and DEMOLISHED CONCRETE PIECE 'dry stacked,' all these techniques are in the GARDEN ARCHIVE .. and I landscaped the place for FOODSCAPING, ass to candlestick. I have been told by doctors to get OPEN HEART SURGERY for new heart valves but this is my gym. I do it, it's easy. Nothing hard here. All the work keeps your joints young. Work until you can't stand up, sure the joints ache, but they're excreting the GOUT when they do that. Hot soak, a massage and you're good to go
Here's what a new property requires. ROTO TILLER one day. Amending SOIL, one day. Digging it in, getting weeds out. A week. Getting your plants into beds, a few days.
Now one thing is true of every property you will move into. The old owner didnít know anything about making soil and you arenít going to find a drop of tilth anywhere unless itís by accident, under some bush or tree that had leaves dropping where Neatnik cement loving property owners couldn't see them because people tend to RAKE properties clean. Their green barrels go out on trash night, full to the brim. No one in middle America knows squat about soil management. So you are forced to tear out the entire lawn, the six inch waffles of sod which go in a pile, upside down, watered daily until they melt. Takes about six months.
Meanwhile youíre forced to buy peat, gypsum, manure, sand which you use to condition the soil but so what? Itís not that much. Sand is 8 dollars for 800 lbs if you buy it at a landscaperís yard, (you must have a truck though, so use the U-haul while youíve got it!) Get manure while youíve got the truck. All those happy chicken farms that give organic eggs to the WHOLE FOODS? Visit them. They'll sell you all the chicken poop manure you can haul away, for pennies. Ask for the stuff they already rotted out in the field. Better. Fresh smells to high heavens. And rent a roto-tiller for a day which requires a truck or VW BUS to haul. You have ONE of your workers roto-till in all these amendments while the rest of your workers are moving boxes and stoves and beds.
So, if you canít win in eviction court, (and those who rent houses, cannot win), MOVE but make the effort to spread your joy around. Some for your ex landlady. Some for the local homeless folk whom you feed, clothe, employ, teach, pay and befriend. Some for your cats, plants and worms who learn to travel from one clime to another, surfing life.
Make the effort to spend a few calories both at the property youíre leaving, and then duplicate the work at the new house where youíre ARRIVING. The payoff: your entire garden moves with you! And in times of grief, thereís nothing like the company of FRIENDS.
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