Victory Garden
1st Chapter

This Chapter of the Victory Garden Project will cover Clearing an Area for Landscaping, Irrigation Plans, Soil Conditioning, Transplanting Seedlings and Gardening Tools

LANDSCAPING - Clearing Problems

Normally Florida's St. Augustine type grass ("weeds" to gardeners up North)can be cut into long 12" - 18" wide strips, using a square tipped shovel, rolled up like a jelly roll and removed.

Within 2 kicks on the shovel came the realization that this Victory Garden Project landscaping wasn't going along with the script.

Large 2" thick roots with a web of tentacles from a Ficus hedge 10' away were lurking just under the surface of shallow topsoil. This pattern continued across the the entire 20' X 30' area with some of the larger roots running very deep into the ground, the reason was discovered later.

Additional tools were needed to clear the nasty root system. An Axe, Machete and long handle Trimming Shears got a real workout on this phase of the project. The projected 1/2 day sod removal ended up wasting an entire 3 day weekend. It was one of the nastiest jobs ever.

While Ficus are common in warmer climates, there are many varieties of hedges and trees in Northern Regions with similar running root systems. As bad as this task was, it was just the tip of the iceberg.

Next up were the Ficus hedges and stumps. In an attempt to regain some lost time, a borrowed chainsaw would surely make short work of some hedges. Wrong!

Never plant Ficus along a line of cyclone (chain link) fence. They will grow into the fence and become one. As for the stumps, they had to be dug out to about 3' deep just to get them to start moving, that's when yet another discovery had the project taking another turn for the worse.

There was a secondary group of deeper roots running throughout the area at about 2'-3 1/2' deep. The complete area had to be dug out to that depth just to remove the heavier roots. In all, top and bottom, 16 - 50 gallon trash can loads of roots had to be removed.

But wait there's more!

Ficus roots are known to run towards water sources. The roots of this plant have been known to grow through the concrete sidewalls of swimming pools just to get a drink. Some of the roots were headed for the pool at the South side of the area. Thank goodness none made it.

I now understand why the last couple of garden attempts in this area were complete disasters. As soon as any plant's roots got past a couple of inches below the surface, it didn't have a chance against the Ficus competition.

But unfortunately the plumbing for the pool and two phases of the 3 phase lawn sprinkler system ran right through the plot.

The roots crushed 2 sections of the sprinkler system, disconnected two junction "T" connectors and one of the big pool pump system returns was damaged. It turns out the 3 day weekend setback was nothing compared to this two week setback.

More on Landscaping next installment.

This turn of events is not meant to scare off any potential gardeners from bigger and better projects. This is a highly unusual example. Just be sure to look at any prospective area very closely before taking that garden leap.

Landscaping a large garden project with major problems usually affects other tasks in the garden plan.


The existing lawn sprinkler system will be modified to create an up and down irrigation process. This portion of the project will put to use a few different water delivery techniques.

Up and down irrigation is the use of both overhead sprinkler and ground level focused drip systems.

As with the Beefmaster Project, the community of South Florida is under Drought watering conditions. This drought seems to be a little worse than the Beefmaster Project. Watering days and times are the same as the Beefmaster.

The Beefmaster depended on the regular sprinkler system and as protective mulch became deeper an additional hose watering was focused on the plant base to insure water made it through the mulch to the root system. The addition of the focused drip system under the mulch will hopefully eliminate the need for additional hose watering.

The unfortunate landscaping clearing event mentioned above, exposed all underground pipes, making irrigation layout clearer and easier to access. Having the pipes visible was good and bad. Marking all the pipes with flags is very important for future work.
The bad part is that the pipes were in all the wrong places, for the garden plan, rendering the initial drawing inaccurate.

Bed sizes would need to be adjusted. Ideally the Irrigation feeds (larger pipes) and pool system pipework should be in the cart paths for easy access so any emergency repairs can be done without disturbing the garden beds.

In this garden we will be using 4" landscape timbers that will be held in place by re bar steel driven into the ground. Mispositioning pipes under the timbers could result in a big problem.

Our next installment will show all sprinkler head positions and ground irrigation feed locations.


Really, it's called soil, but most people call it dirt. Examples: Coming in from a hard day in the garden, is it better to say "you have dirt all over you!" or "you've soiled yourself!"? How about "you'd better clean your dirty tools" or "clean up your soiled tools"?

Now that the point has been made, Soil will, where appropriate, be called Dirt.

The Victory Garden Project had serious dirt issues.

First, normal attrition will reduce the amount of dirt in an area over the years by compaction and erosion. Taking out numerous 50 gallon cans of roots alone would require serious dirt replacement.

Replacement dirt will consist of high grade Top Soil, Marl and crushed Shell Rock (seashells and calcified coral)

Second, the massive Ficus root system has drained the area dry of nutrients. This plot has dead dirt. There is no need to test for PH or Nutrients because there will be a large amount of new dirt added shortly. Then testing and correction can be done.

Finding level for a garden is important. A solid reference point for leveling in this project is the pool deck. In case of torrential rains the dirt will be graded lower away from the pool. this will prevent dirt and mulch intrusion into the pools filter system.

A line level was used for preliminary estimates. After shoveling and raking out the area next to the pool, approximately half of the total garden area is 1' to 2' low. Using basic cubic foot measuring of the general area and adding the area of raised garden, it was determined that 5 cubic yards of dirt will be needed for leveling.

More on leveling and designer dirt composition in the next installment. More dirt info can be found below in the Plant Seedling section.


The seedlings have popped are ready for transplanting and are doing fine.

For those wishing to go to the local garden center and buy their favorite variety, this section may not be necessary. One thing to consider though, is buying heirloom varieties. In the event a favorite is selected, taking seeds from the healthiest plant is always recommended.

You can start your own seed bank with your free vegetable seeds for future Victory Gardens.

Now it's time to transplant our Victory garden seedlings. Seedlings should be started in a very light potting soil, allowing for water and nutrient retention as well as root system development.

Here's a favorite transplanting method.

The dirt mix in this transplant will introduce equal amounts of potting soil, homemade compost, General plot dirt and sphagnum moss. This will allow the plant to acclimate to various conditions when it's finally planted in the Victory garden.

Sometimes uncommon tools become great for specialty tasks. Notice the tool in the transplant pot.

When seedlings are about 2"-3" tall they are the perfect size for this transplant method.

Using a good loose potting soil, the plants should have developed a root base about 1/2" X 1". When transplanting be sure the soil is slightly damp. this will help keep the root base intact.

Remove each Seedling by working the paint can opener down below the root base, cradling the roots on the hook of the opener and gently lifting while leaning the plant onto the exposed portion of the tool, the transplant is gentle and if done properly won't disturb the plant. This narrows down the possibility of casualties. The paint can opener is great for getting between the seedlings without much damage.

As for the perfect size loading hole on the receiving pot, it was done with the oldest tool used in the history of gardening. An index finger!

Here are more tools that make gardening easier.


Tools both old and new will be used in this Victory Garden Project. Some will be used in the Landscaping, others will be used in day to day Victory gardening.

Each installment will feature tools and different uses.

Here are 4 entirely different ways to clip, cut and trim your plants in the Victory Garden.

From left to right they are a Ratchet Clipper, Large Straight Clipper, Leverage Clipper and a pair of Discount store scissors.

The Ratchet & Large Straight Clippers are for the tougher thicker small branches. The Ratchets style clippers are great for individuals with weaker hand strength. The Large Straight style are a little tougher to operate on big stuff.

Leverage Clippers are a smaller version of the Ratchet style clippers. Except, they don't lock at each step of the cut. Both use leverage to make the hand force a little easier. The Ratchets are great in that they lock on. This allows the gardener to take a break during the cut or reposition without loosing the cut. Both the Ratchet and Large Straight Clippers are special use tools.

The Smaller Leverage is the Victory Garden top choice for the "keep with me all the time" garden tool. It performs quick and easy cuts especially in tight places.

The dollar price range scissors are just great for light work. Whether cutting twine, trimming suckers or twisties. A pair of cheap scissors should always be kept nearby. Just don't run with them.

Keep a few around, garden scissors exist in the same realm as missing laundry socks. For the forgetful, it's a great grab another one and keep working tool. The lost ones usually show up under mulch somewhere. Buy them a few at a time when on sale.

For those looking for detailed Victory Gardening information, here is one of the best guides available. The Univeristy of Florida created this guide for starting a Victory Garden.

The guide goes over the complete "how to grow vegetables" process. Gardeners outside of Florida should contact their State Agricultural Extension office for area specific information.

Check out our next installment for more Victory Garden Project.

Victory Garden Chapter 2

Meanwhile here's some

Victory Garden Basics and how to get Staggering Results.