The Clandestine Garden in the Middle of Marietta Ohio

by Mark Wynn

Marietta is a nice small town in SE Ohio where the Mushingum River empties into the Ohio River. They have the recognition of being the first settlement outside the original 13 colonies. George Washington knew they needed a buffer between them and the British who refused to leave Detroit after the war. The first step to hundreds of years of imperialistic expansion one might say.

In this small town is where our story takes place. In fact the pace of this town helped contribute to our story forming and the ideas there in being acted upon. This story involves one lone Character. A man in his late 30s. Growing up in a small town he considered boring he thought it might draw excitement into his life to change his middle name to Adventure, much the way a refrigerator magnet that looks like a $100 bill is supposed to influence your wealth.

Adventure spent his formative years wandering the woods of SE Ohio where he developed an appreciation of nature and the solitude he found there. Good ideas always came to him out there. So when he moved into Marietta close to the Kroger wetland it was natural for him to take walks there. It wasn't long before a good idea came to him.

While walking in the wetland one day he realized all the elements for a great garden were there. Water was one of the most important resources for a good garden. The unlimited water supply of the wetland was a kind of compost tea too. It had to be high in all the nutrients needed for a healthy garden. The decomposing vegetation he assumed would increase the level of carbon dioxide in the air as well. If he could build an island out in it where no one could see, the roots of his garden could grow down into this compost tea. The biggest obstacle to this idea was that the wetland had a path around it and encouraged visitors. So he realized it was a crazy idea and dropped it.

One day he was out bird watching behind his house near the edge of the woods across Acme Street from the Kroger Wetland. He saw a large nest in a tree inside the little wooded area. He decided to enter this wooded area to get a better look at it. The first obstacle was the largest patch of poison ivy he had ever seen. So he walked between the parking lot of a large hardware store and the wood lot until he made it around this patch of poison Ivy. As he approached the nest he had to be careful because there was all sorts of discarded junk like old tires, boards with nails and old beer cans that had collected here over the years. It wasn't the kind of place that attracted visitors.

On the opposite side of the wooded lot next to Acme Street he noticed a large patch of cattails growing. As he studied the spot he realized this was a part of the Kroger Wetland that had been cutoff by Acme Street. It was a little swamp of its own hidden here. It had standing water about a foot deep measuring 50 yards long and 25 yards wide. It was completely isolated by the woods already described as well as impenetrable brush on the side next to Acme Street. He notice a path or two that deer had made through the wood lot that help mask any foot traffic in and out of the area. Even though the spot was partially visible from the drive through of a credit union, it was at the far end of the cattails so he decided this might be the perfect spot for his clandestine garden after all. But he had a lot of work to do and before he did that he had to wait until the spring rains to see how deep the water would get here on occasion of rain storms.

So he patiently waited until the spring and one night a huge thunderstorm rolled through and he decided it was the perfect night to sneak outback and look. So after dark he walked outback and into the wood lot following a deer trail that he had seen earlier. The hardware store parking lot lights bordering the woods cast enough light that he could easily get there without a flashlight. As he waded through the water he noticed it was getting deeper and deeper and had a strong current running under Acme Street and into the main part of the wetland. At one point the water was chest deep and the current was pretty dangerously trying to drag him under Acme Street. But he kept a hold of the many trees and made it to the other side of the woodlot where the cattails were and was happy to find the water was only knee deep there. So at that depth he knew how large the planting boxes would have to be. Perfectly reasonable he thought.

At this point he realized the best time to do the work would be in the winter when everything was frozen. It would be easy to walk into the swampy area with material. And it being winter if anyone saw him they wouldn't automatically suspect what he was actually doing was preparing a clandestine garden for the summertime.

So the spring became summer and turned into winter and as he expected everything froze solid. From this point on he never visited the spot before midnight. He had a pedicab he ran until the bars closed so he would come home full of energy late at night after everyone was in bed and like an ant he would make multiple trips through the woodlot.

First thing was to carry boards and his cordless screw gun out to construct large boxes to hold potting soil. The largest box, of which the were 5, measured about 16 feet square. The rest were about 9 feet square. Next he carried 40lb bags of gravel to layer the bottom with so the soil wouldn't wick too much water and become soggy. Then he Carried bag after bag of potting soil.

It was very clandestine and very exciting. He never walked straight to the garden and he always waited till after midnight. He would walk out his backyard straight away from his house toward Pike Street so if his neighbors noticed it looked like he was maybe going to the other side of Pike Street. About a hundred yards out across this open field was a stream that went directly into the swamp. At this point he would turn at a 90 degree angle and follow this stream for about another hundred yards until it entered the woodlot and passed the little swamp on its way under Acme Street. The little stream had enough trees growing along it he felt comfortable sneaking along it.

So night after night all winter long he made this trip until he had several large boxes filled with soil. He worked on it all winter and when he was done he added up that he had carried fifty 40lbs bags of soil and gravel among other materials into the swamp. He was quite proud of his industry and his patience. He got very used to sloshing through knee deep swamp. It being the kind of place you would see a snake, until he got comfortable he kept telling himself that he was hunting snakes so he was "hoping" he would see a snake. He thought this would keep him from soiling himself in the event he saw one. He also got very used to walking through spider webs face first. In his green rain coat he always wore he looked liked Bruce Willis' character in "Unbreakable". Many nights after a rain fell the lights from the parking lot would light up a fog rising from the little swamp and would paint a scary scene to have to wade through, but he was used to it at that point. And that was the whole reason for picking that spot in the first place. Who in their right mind would be out wading through that?

All he had to do now was wait a few more months until spring. Over the course of the following years he harvested garbage bags out of that spot without carrying a drop of water of fertilizer to them. He finally moved from Marietta and left his wonderful secret garden for someone else to discover. He left hoping the right person finds it someday. As far as he knows it's still waiting to be discovered.

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