It’s hard for a lot of us not to take problems in the garden personally. When following the high-minded organic principles of creating a healthy ecosystem in your garden, it’s easy to confuse good gardening with good character. Mulching becomes a moral duty. Weeds are a sign of lassitude and maybe something deeper…sloth? Then the insect and slug pests step in to remind you that you have not been entirely generous and welcoming to all creatures, or the natural balance of things would have left you at least one broccoli seedling.
Since being a part of Grow Appalachia I have learned so much about how to avoid trouble in the garden—the right kind of fencing, preventative organic sprays, planting disease resistant varieties, proper plant spacing, and so on. Before I became so “knowledgeable” I would have just felt disappointment when things went wrong, now I feel full-fledged guilt. I should have done more!
When visiting our participants, it is striking how quickly some of them point out the problems and how apologetic many can be about their work— even when what I see is a mostly healthy garden with lots of food. I guess it can be in our natures to focus on failures, even if they are dwarfed by other successes.
In his May 2013 blog post, Paul Betz of High Mowing Farm wrote about walking through the farm and surveying the crops:
One of the most important tools that I carry on my walks is some emotional armor. These walks are often where the problems get discovered. My motto is “Detach and Persist” and I know that I need let go of the disappointment and focus on the work. There are times when what I learn from my walks is the beginning of the end for a particular planting. Keeping the emotion around the crop out of the decision making process is a good skill. It’s ok to be upset, but it’s better to move on quickly to the next step when things aren’t going the way they should.
Detaching and persisting, letting go and moving on—good things to keep in mind in August. We’ve already done most of what is to be done for our gardens for this season. With all the things we can’t control—the weather, the neighbor’s cats, the toddler picking the green tomatoes, the far away family reunion during peak string bean harvest time—looking for perfection in a garden could drive you mad.
Let go of the idea that you can completely control a garden. It’s a wild thing that only pretends to obey us sometimes.
Let go of the sickly seedlings and don’t transplant them. They aren’t children, they’re plants, and they’ll make fine compost.
Let go of the need to have Pinterest-worthy photos with every blog while on a mini vacation. (Note to self.)
Now is the time to enjoy what’s working this season and make note of changes we would make for the next. I think it’s healthy to accept that doing the best you can doesn’t always mean doing everything there is.
Let go of the guilt and go eat a green bean. You can find perfection in a green bean.