What’s in your garden (dirt)?

Since I started digging in my new garden this spring, I have found old tile, broken bricks, a GM key, the on/off knob of some large appliance, and something that looks like a fuse (the dog found that and was quite hurt when I put it out of reach).

I also keep finding small pieces of china, mostly in plain white, but some with patterns in blue, pale green, and orange. I keep a jar under the cherry tree to collect them.
objects in dirt
I always feel sad about these broken dishes and wonder about their history.  Did a child drop a tea cup or run into a cabinet? Did a mother knock a plate off the counter, upset after a fight?  Why toss the pieces in the garden?

In my old yard in Chevy Chase, I seemed to hit copper pipe in the ground almost every place I wanted to put a tree or shrub.  The original owner, who built the house in 1928 and lived there over 50 years, was a plumber and had installed garden faucets in four spots.  Near the big stone grill he also built, I unearthed iron stakes for a horseshoe pit, three duckpin balls, a lot of beer and Orange Crush bottle tops, and a wonderful old concrete flamingo, which still had some pink paint but no legs.

I picture him relaxing among the well-watered flowers in the 1930s, perhaps expecting guests later and perhaps reading Popular Mechanics on how to construct your own round concrete pond, which could be ornamented with regularly spaced, embedded white quartz stones (oh yes).

The round concrete pond.

What bits and pieces from the past have you found while digging in your garden and what story do you tell yourself about them?  Please click on “Leave a Comment” below.

10 thoughts on “What’s in your garden (dirt)?

  1. Hmm. Do you have any idea how old those pot shards are? Is it possible that these date from a time before trash collection when people routinely buried or burned their trash in the yard?

    I just discovered your blog in the past few days, and I’m very much enjoying it. I do a monthly “Garden Blog of the Month” feature on my blog, Jean’s Garden, in which I highlight some garden blogs that I think my readers would enjoy. Your blog is one of three I am reviewing this month. The post just went up a few minutes ago, and your blog will be featured on my sidebar throughout the month.

    1. Hi Jean,
      Thanks so much!

      I think the blue-patterned pieces are quite old, probably 19th c., but the others with green and orange look 20th c. to me. I have thought that the area with my yard and my near neighbors’ could have been a dumping place before there was a big development of rowhouses (including mine) in the 1920s. I may find more things as I keep digging.

  2. My house was built in the 1880’s, so I am always finding ‘stuff’ when I dig. A lot of china like you, marbles, bones (previous homeowner was a docter who had his practice in the house…yikes), most interesting a leather childs high buttoned boot. How the leather didn’t rot away more, I will never know.

  3. Cindy, before I bought my house in Santa Fe, I lived in a studio apartment in Tesuque, NM. The previous tenant was a jeweler. I found some pottery shards. I wasn’t sure if they were Tesuque Pueblo pottery or not. And I found strands of silver beads, jewelry findings, and some uncut and unpolished rocks that might have been gemstones.

    1. Wow. I would love to find gemstones or jewelry. There is a craftsperson at Eastern Market on Capitol Hill who make charms from bits of broken patterned china. I think that’s the closest I will come.

  4. If you collect enough, you could use the china bits for a garden mosaic. A frame around a mirror, to extend the view?

    We found a glass bottle, medical elixir. And later, I found the matching glass stopper!

    1. That’s a good idea. I have thought of putting everything in a shadow box. (Kilbournegrove’s comment below reminded me that I had also found a few marbles in our Chevy Chase yard; I need to find them.) I still have a lot of plants to put in, so maybe I will dig up more pieces (maybe I can reconstruct a saucer!)

  5. My property was once part of a big estate and served as the dump. We find anything and everything, but a lot of glass bottles, coal furnace refuse, slate shingles, and thicker pieces of metal. Trash collection is fairly recent so before that people just buried their non-burnables including your broken china.

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