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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

5 Things I Learned About Life from Gardening

You know how they always say that you don't have to teach farm kids the facts of life, because they've already seen enough by adolescence to at least grasp the broad outlines?  Well, I was hardly a farm kid, but it strikes me that there are some very important lessons about how life works that one can learn in the garden.  Just looking around my little plot, beds, and containers each year, I'm reminded of the following:

1.  Not everything you wish for is born.
Oh, sure, in the garden, you get to hide this concept a little by talking about "germination rates," but every gardener knows that there will be at least one packet of seeds every year that fails to sprout or that gets washed out in a spring rain or that finally sprouts, miserably, sometime late in summer for some random reason.  Counting on everything always working as you expect is a recipe for disappointment.

2.  Some things fail to thrive.
I have a couple of tomatoes this year that I call the runts.  They sprouted just fine, grew an inch, and that is basically where they have stood since March.  Maybe they're an inch taller, but they clearly aren't the two-foot vines they should be this time of year.  In spite of my best care, they just aren't thriving.  They aren't dying, but they aren't moving forward.  Again, some of the best-made plans in life just don't thrive, regardless what you do.

3.  Your planning is a guideline, not a certainty.
When I first started gardening, I assumed I could grow a salad:  lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, and tomatoes all ripening at once.  In reality, it is more like lettuce ripening in March, radishes in June (or whenever I remembered to plant them), cucumbers and tomatoes in July, and something in the whole mess will fail or will produce spectacularly.  Plans are guidelines and best-case scenarios, not certainties.

4.  Something will surprise you with its success.
Last year, I was disappointed in my tomatoes, but I had so many cucumbers I ate them at every meal and kept the entire family awash in bread and butter pickles for the year.  Maybe I would have preferred a better balance, but I enjoyed the heck out of picking a basket full of cucumbers every day for a few weeks.  You have to embrace your successes where they come.

5.  There's always next season.
As long as you plan to plant again, you have hope for the future.  Gardening is a great lesson in maintaining hope, because you are making a tangible statement that you believe in something that will happen in the future.  No matter how bad things seem, putting a seed in a pot and letting it (hopefully) start is a message to the universe that you plan to be around for a while.
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