This month our blog post comes from our gardener Terri, who reflects on the lessons she’s learned from growing up in gardens and now starting her own.
One of my earliest gardening memories is that of my mom’s strawberry patch. In my mind, the strawberry patch was huge, near the back of the yard and just situated so that the shade from the big maple tree didn’t impact its required amount of sunlight. My mom enclosed the patch with a wooden frame, probably to control the spread from taking over our backyard. I remember vividly the green foliage growing from under the yellow straw. We’d wait patiently; first the small white and yellow flowers …then the little green spikey orbs transformed to white speckled, then pink fruits. Every morning we’d check on the progress. Soon, we’d notice a few red dots when approaching the patch…then by mid-summer, the bright red strawberries were everywhere! As a child, it wasn’t a matter of “if they grew” but “when they were ready”. There were no doubts that the patch would be filled with strawberries, and we’d enjoy a summer full of strawberry shortcake and ice cream sundaes.
Now, over 30 years later, I still experience that same excitement as seeds germinate, the first leaves begin to unfurl, and fruits develop and ripen. However, the excitement can be met with worried anticipation. “What if it doesn’t grow?” “Should I plant extra, just in case something goes wrong?” “What if I spend all this time and nothing produces?” “Am I overwatering or underwatering?”
I’ve found this interesting pendulation between control (action) and trust (observation) while tending my garden and it reminds me of a quote by Carl Rogers (American Psychologist, and gardener, apparently), “I can’t make corn grow, but I can provide the right soil and plant it in the right area, and see that it gets enough water; I can nurture it so exciting things happen.”
For my backyard garden, I decided upon raised garden beds because of an abundance of rocks and gravel in the soil. I chose a small area of my yard, between my house and a fence for a couple reasons: I wanted to keep my garden size manageable for a novice gardener and I felt I could control visits from deer and other non-human guests. This space gets morning sun and plenty of sunlight throughout the day. I researched soil mixes and companion planting and mulch. I set up a germination shelf in my guest room, counted down the days until the last frost, and nervously transplanted my seedlings to the garden beds. Then I waited. Any slight change in color of leaves or a droop sent me furiously googling what was wrong. Nothing was wrong. With each new stage in growth, there was relief, but also new worries.
The garden is a lesson in trusting the process. These plants know what to do. I provided the right soil, a spot with plenty of sun, and water. The tomato plants are evidence of adequate nurturing, their unruly shoot system rapidly spreading, little yellow flowers, and then finally green globes. Pruning became a lesson in letting go, removing suckers to benefit the plant, clipping extra leaves to allow more air flow, and keeping it trimmed to prevent other plants from being crowded. I’ll admit I haven’t mastered this by any means; trimming the tomatoes OR letting go. I suppose it really is a process; the garden a teacher, the sweet cherry tomatoes a gift for the student.