Lessons from the Garden: 2015

Garden gnome.jpg

1. Creation is ruthless. 

I killed slugs en masse this year, though I love the slimy little things. I killed them with my bare hands, dropping them into soapy water and trying to pretend I was doing something else. I killed them like a coward, by sprinkling deadly Sluggo onto the ground to do the dirty work while I slept. I killed cabbage worms, though they are the most lovely shade of green and remind me of the caterpillars I collected and kept as pets when I was in elementary school. I killed Japanese Beetles and sometimes even earth worms by accidentally maiming them with a trowel. I thought unkind thoughts about rabbits.

But I lifted my chin and continued on. For the sake of creation. For the sake of the vegetables, folks.

2. Cute does not necessarily equal delicious.

Man am I susceptible to adorableness. If you tell me that a plant will grow cherry tomatoes that look like itty bitty yellow pears, I will snap that pot up faster than you can finish your sentence. I will jump and clap my hands when the first one shows up, and I will run inside with my treasure. And then I will shake my head in disappointment every. single. time. I bite into their mealy, tasteless flesh. 

3. Memory is for fools. 

If you want to remember which type of seed you used, or which variety of heirloom tomato start you bought from that little local farm sale, write that sh*t down.

4. Try, Try Again. 

My wife said to give up on tomatoes entirely after our last two unsuccessful years resulted in pounds of green tomatoes but nary a red one. But I wanted just one more try. We moved the bed we were using, bought giant sturdy starts from a few different places, and got them in the ground in mid-May, thanks to an early Spring.

Now I can hardly fit anything else into the freezer for the amount of frozen tomatoes we have ready to make into sauce. So many tomatoes. It was really a bumper crop, and I think we know how to recreate it next year.  Of course...

5. Failure is inevitable. 

Gardening is nothing if not a lesson in non-attachment. Do Buddhists garden? They should because I'm constantly being reminded of how little control I have even over the things in my very own front yard. I could list all of the plants that just haven't worked out - melons (two years running), peppers, eggplant, cucumbers the last two years, brussels sprouts. There are more, but you get the picture. I'm always disappointed when something doesn't work out, but I'm slowly coming to accept the garden as an experiment, where some plants will grow beautifully and others will not. I try to build on what I've learned in previous years, but even then, the weather will be weird or different pests will show up. Or a plant will fail for reasons that defy my understanding. I carry on.

6. Nothing is sacred. 

If you lean into the wild mass of green bean vines to snag the perfect bean hanging inside, a Daddy Longlegs will climb into your hair. You will not notice immediately, and when you do, you will scream and drop all of your lovingly-picked vegetables onto the ground and step on a perfect, tiny cherry tomato. Be warned. 

7. Murphy's Law lives. 

I spent countless hours googling and ruminating over exactly what type of irrigation system to put into the garden this year in the hopes of avoiding squash mold and getting better results from all the plants. I went to several different hardware stores to get the different pieces I needed and then spent most of a weekend installing it into the garden. I used it that week with poor results and re-worked it to only cover half the garden. Then no more than 2 days went by for the entire summer without a hefty amount of rain, and I never turned on the hose again. 

8. Dirt is good for the soul. 

Even with all the pests that plagued the garden this year, I still loved walking around among the beds, pulling out weeds and tearing off dead leaves. Washing an afternoon of digging in the ground off my hands feels like being clean and alive in a way I am at no other time. Those plants teach me gratitude and patience and forgiveness. They are of the sweet earth, and they are wise. 

p.s. To see all my garden updates, click here. 

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