I did it – I planted a garden all by myself, and it was pretty successful. I’ve wanted to have one for quite some time, and considering all the time we spent playing and ‘helping’ dad and our grandparents in the garden growing up, it only seemed natural to continue the legacy. Remember how we would hop from furrow to furrow behind dad or Grandpa as they plowed the ground to get it ready for planting? Or helping Grandpa water the tomatoes on summer evenings? How about eating raspberries and grapes right off the plants? Good stuff.
So, having grown up watching and participating in various aspects of raising veggies and fruit, I decided to give it a go. I knew I had a lot to learn about gardening, but I never dreamed my garden would teach me so much about things other than gardening. And now that my first planting season has officially ended due to our first hard frost, I present to you what my garden reminded me about life:
You are so very loved. OK, I know a garden takes work – you have to plow your plot, hoe rows, dig holes, plant your starts, scatter seed, water, weed, prune, harvest… It’s a lot of work. I don’t have a super-huge yard, so my best location was over my finger system – which meant I had to use a tiller to prep my 20′ x 40′ plot because I can’t drive a tractor over it. I had to till it 3 times before it was really ready to plant. It was quite a workout, but I showed that tiller who was boss. And before I even started prepping the ground, I got my seeds started weeks in advance so they’d be ready to plant after the last frost. Just like I wanted to do everything I could to ensure my precious plants’ success, someone (most likely lots of someones) has done the same for you. You are loved. You are important. Your life matters. I am so thankful for those who found me worth investing in and loved me enough to actually make that investment, because I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.
Surround yourself with good company. Companion planting. It’s a thing. Tomatoes hate broccoli. Beans hate peppers and onions. Cucumbers are pretty chill (just don’t plant more than one variety in the vicinity or they will cross-pollinate because bees). Carrots get along with most everybody, too. Who you spend time with matters. While part of being a grown-up means that you are sometimes forced to get along with people we don’t necessarily care to, we need to prioritize the people who encourage to be the best version of ourselves. Don’t let the cauliflower and broccoli stunt your growth, you delicious strawberry – spend time with onions and spinach instead.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Because I was so anxious to have my garden planted, my tomatoes were in the ground in mid-April, and ended up being subjected to 3 hard frosts. Welp. I covered them, but I was sure I would end up losing several of them. I did what I could to nurse them through, and they all ended up making it. They were my little workhorses through a crazy-wet June, dry July-September, and even survived the first hard frost this month. The second one was their curtain call, though; bless their little hearts. We all face moments and seasons in our lives when conventional wisdom says we shouldn’t survive. Find a good support system for those times, and you might even surprise yourself with just how much you can overcome.
You CAN have too much of a good thing. Rain, rain, and more rain. And then even more rain. I kind of gave up on my garden for a time in June because it literally rained all month – if my plants pulled through, it was because of their own strength because there was nothing I could do to save them (such is life). Thankfully, most of my garden survived, but my potatoes weren’t having it. Water is great and vital to pretty much everything’s existence, but too much will kill you. All things in moderation!
Our differences are what make us beautiful. Just like in my classroom (I really need to tell you about my kiddos sometimes), we all grow and learn at different rates. We’re all different sizes, shapes, colors, and personalities, and that variety is what makes life fun. Nothing tastes better than homegrown roma green beans boiled with some bacon. But those same roma beans in fresh bruschetta? How about no. I want some of my pretty red roma tomatoes for that! See? What good would it serve if we were all the same?
To everything, there is a season… Broccoli and potatoes like to get started outside when it’s still almost chilly. Radishes are pretty easy-going, but get fussy when it’s really hot (Who am I kidding? Everything but my peppers got fussy when the temps rose). Tomatoes can be pretty resilient, if you watch them closely and give them a little extra TLC. Rosemary can weather whatever storm or season comes its way. Garlic thrives on cold. We all have different preferences and ways of doing things. It doesn’t make one way right or wrong, as long as you see through to the end of things. Especially if the end involves a pantry full of sauces, jams, and pickles.
…And a time to every purpose. I can control a lot of things in my garden – what is growing in it, how big it is, how bad the weeds get (or don’t get), what fertilizer I use, whether I keep it organic, etc. But I can’t control the weather. Or blight. Or rust. Sure, I can protect against some things, but that’s not a guarantee that everything will be fine. Just like life – I can make plans and work to make those plans a reality, but sometimes it rains for two weeks straight and we go a month without a day of solid sunshine. And all you can do is make the best of what you’ve been given. Salvage what you can, cut your losses, and keep going.
Life is precious. My tomato plants survived three late-spring frosts (and one fall killing frost). They were slow to get started, but once they produced, they worked hard and went out with their boots on. I planted three red raspberries – one is normal, one got peed on by a coyote or fox or something and died, and the last one produced a handful of deliciousness within just a few months of being planted. My green beans… bless their hearts, they tried, but succumbed to the oddball weather and bugs. I thought my beets and snow peas were sure bets – they were the first to go.The fact of the matter is, we just never know. Some live to be a hundred, while others never make it out of the womb alive. Some are the model of health while others battle illnesses and life-threatening diseases day in and day out. Every day is a gift, and nothing is ever guaranteed. Not in my garden, not in life.
Life goes on. I grew up around gardening, just like previous generations of our family. Grandpa put away his tomato baskets about ten years ago. Dad has begun scaling back his half-acre plot. Now it’s my turn to work the land. My garden has since faded brown from the first hard frost, but even in death it will give of itself to strengthen and nourish future generations. I’ll till it under before the ground freezes, and next year it will feed the roots of the plants to come. The cycle continues. Old teaches young and in time gives way to the new. Time stops for noone.
So ends my first gardening season, and I pray that many more follow. It’s been wonderful to play in the dirt again, even without you and Grandpa around this time. It really got me to thinking about the garden of my life, too (obviously or I wouldn’t have written all this). What kind of legacy am I creating? What am I doing to make the world around me more tillable? Am I sowing seeds that will blossom and produce fruit, or am I planting life-draining weeds? I want to be like my cayenne peppers – small, but fierce (with the the cutest little blossoms you ever did see); growing more beautiful with age; and the warmth of their presence is felt even after they’re gone. I hope, anyway.
Well, it’s time for sleep. If the rain holds off in the morning, I need to get my garden turned under and get some bulbs planted. I’ve procrastinated about as long as I can (probably a little too much. OK, a lot too much). Spring will be here before we know it – and with it comes the opportunity of a lifetime: a fresh start.
Hugs to Jessie and Cupcake; high fives to Grandpa.
All my love,