Soil-less Gardens
A Case Study in Soil-less Gardening

Retirement was approaching. On Pan's advice, I decided to work until my seventieth birthday, and that was only about a year and a half away. Financially I wasn't ready. When I asked for suggestions on the best use of some extra funds that were eligible for investment, I was told, "Don't be too concerned." I was advised instead to pay down my mortgage. "You will realize a windfall on the sale of your house." (We will return to that one later.)

I dreamed of retiring to a country location where I could garden to my heart's content. For two years or so, we looked at locations in South Carolina, closer to my family, still warm. Nature was guiding the search process, and South Carolina was their choice. Note the sequence of events. In mid-March of 2006, I was advised to give notice that I would be retiring at the end of April, a year ahead of schedule. In the next few discussions with Nature, I began hearing "Virginia" instead of South Carolina. What's going on gang? Is Virginia the new site? "Yes."

That intrigued me. After getting this confirmation from Nature, I went to the Internet to ask for a map of migratory bird patterns. There is a huge sanctuary for waterfowl near the South Carolina location that I had been considering. The first search produced a map with a pattern that I had expected — a flyway right up the Atlantic coastline. But there were two connecting patterns that surprised me, flyways angling in from far to the northwest reaches of the country. One connected to the Atlantic flyway well north of Virginia. The second entered South Carolina at the western corner of the state and dissected the state in a beeline to the sanctuary below Charleston. Okay, Virginia it is.

I decided to set up conings for the various projects and decisions that needed to be made using a soil-less garden. Marti became the name of the deva of the relocation process. What we accomplished still astounds me.

I made a trip to Virginia in May. "There are a couple of houses for rent down this road." OK, let's take a look. Found one, no good. Didn't see the second. "I'll turn around in the next driveway." When I turned into the driveway, I suddenly realized this house was not the typical old Virginia country farmhouse. The house was brick, not frame, built in an L shape with the rear wing just as large and nicely built as the front. Then I spotted the For Sale sign on the lawn. Surely they won't mind if I pull in to look. Nice enclosed sunroom on the back with a deck. Sort of smelled like bed and breakfast material. Okay, this is going to be out of my price range, and I pulled away without even noting the house number.

But I continued to think about that house. I called the realtor. Yes, he said, we have three properties on that road. "This one is pretty old, I think. Big white house." "Yes, we have one — built in 1820." My heart did a few extra thumps. I adore old houses. "And they have just reduced the price." This was the weekend. I walked into the house on Monday, fell in love with it and made an offer on Tuesday, which was accepted on Thursday. I signed a purchase contract on Friday and headed back to Florida. Now I had a house to sell and about a month to do it. There were a few stout obstacles to overcome. The Florida house needed work — a roof replacement, a new kitchen, painting inside and out — that would take months to complete if I were to do it. And then there were the five "For Sale" signs already up on the six-block length of my street. We decided to list the house "As Is," expecting to adjust the price for the work needed.

We listed on a Wednesday, showed the house on Thursday and had three serious buyers competing to purchase on Friday. The competition netted me the full asking price, three and a half times what I had paid for it only eight years earlier. The Virginia purchase would require less than half of the proceeds of the sale, and thanks to Pan's urging, the mortgage was already paid off. Yes, Pan, that was a little more windfall than I was expecting.

Then, I had to have the property tented for termites prior to closing the sale. The first date they could offer me was a week and a half after the closing. Thirty minutes later, the company called back. There had been a cancellation and they could work in three days. Go Marti!

The moving van came and departed on a Thursday. We closed the sale of the Florida house on Friday, and I drove to Virginia on Saturday. We closed on the purchase of the Virginia property on Monday, no financing necessary. Seamless. As I write this, four months later, the same five "For Sale" signs are still up on my old street.

What sold the house? The buyers looked at numerous houses in the area, wanting to be near the school their two daughters, ages seven and three, would be attending. As the parents perused the house, the girls stood transfixed at a huge window overlooking my backyard garden. I could tell they were itching to go exploring. After looking at so many prospects, the parents finally asked the girls which house they liked. Without hesitation, they wanted mine. "What did you like about it?"


— B.S., Bedford, VA