Thursday, March 25, 2010

What Makes a Good Gardener? The same stuff that makes us a better person

I follow the blog "You Grow Girl" and find much of the content very inspiring. Today I decided to cut and past this portion of one of their posts because I think the concepts are so true, not only in gardening but also in life in general. If you get a chance visit this great blog and read more

What Makes a Good Gardener?
1. Experience: Gardening makes you a better gardener. Nobody magically wakes up one day knowing exactly what to do in the garden. You learn by doing it and a great deal of that doing is in screwing it up [see Failure, below]. The good news is that you’ve got your entire life to become a better gardener and every new season is another opportunity to get some of the stuff that went wrong right, and reapply some of went right.

2. Consistency and Persistence: Plants need regular care. Unfortunately, growing a garden isn’t like learning to crochet. You can’t put it down and take it back up three months later and expect everything to be right where you left off. Developing a habit of going out there on a regular basis is important. Some of us can’t make it out there everyday, especially when we are growing at community gardens that aren’t right in our own backyards so it is important to give yourself a break when you can’t make it. That said, being in your garden on a regular basis means your plants are more likely to get the care they require. Consistency and persistence also offers you the chance to catch problems and observe changes.

3. Observation & Adaptation: Good gardeners are great observers. They watch for signs of distress so they can catch problems before they get out of hand. Fortunately, the act of gardening teaches us to be better observers so as you spend more time gardening, chances are good that you will naturally pick up all sorts of observations along the way. Give yourself time and space to meander in your garden and just look around and enjoy the little things as they unfold.

As an observer, you will naturally find yourself noticing changes in your plants and the climate. Given more time and experience, you will be able to predict some of the issues that occur with your plants before they happen. This will eventually lead you to a better ability to adapt to whatever the weather or nature throws at you.

The fact is that a lot happens in the garden that is out of our control. You can’t predict a cool, wet season like the one we had last year on the East Coast. There is no way of knowing that all that basil you put in is going to suffer through a wet summer. But you will come to understand the kind of weather that makes basil plants unhappy and be able to adapt to changes in weather that will allow you to do what you can to make the plants more comfortable before they reach the point of rotting in the soil.

No two years are alike so having A WAY TO DO THINGS year in and year out is nearly useless. As conditions change, you will likely need to change and adapt some of your strategies with them. The best gardeners can be flexible and aren’t rigidly locked into a specific way of doing things that is unchanging.

4. Failure: Perfectionism is dead. I should put that in all caps, bold, and then underline it for emphasis. Here you go: PERFECTIONISM IS DEAD. In the real world gardeners kill plants and gardens get pests and diseases. Sometimes life gets in the way and we don’t have the money to buy something we want or the time to commit to making our garden the showpiece we would like it to be. This is not evidence that you have a Black Thumb. More importantly, you learn more when you are willing to take chances & give yourself space to screw up. It’s often in those failures that we have the biggest AHA! moments.

And yes, unfortunately, there’s always going to be that one know-it-all neighbour who’s got a wagging finger and something to say about what they think you are doing wrong in your garden. The only thing I can say to that is that it’s their problem, not yours. There’s a difference between sharing knowledge and shaming others into doing things the way we see fit. It’s a mistake to assume that our way is the only right way.

The act of gardening serves as an excellent life lesson in accepting one’s failures that extends beyond the garden. Over the years, gardening, and later writing about gardening, has helped me to recognize and confront my own feelings of inadequacy, shame and guilt: shame about class, not having enough, not being good enough, not being enough period, and sometimes being too much. It has invited me to indulge and delight in my desires freely, while asking (and sometimes forcing) me to have patience, take things slowly and look for frugal alternatives. Every minute in the garden is about relearning patience and reveling in the moment. Spending hours upon hours nurturing and observing plants has brought joy into parts of my life that I thought were irreparably scarred. It has provided a safe place for that long buried, hurt little kid inside me to play freely and to live the moments of wonder, discovery and self love she had to hide from angry adults.

My gardens have given me permission to experiment, break rules, and foster a rebellious streak that is an important but often pushed aside part of who I am.

Our gardens should be a free space where each of us can find joy, make discoveries, and feel whole. Guilt, shame, and feelings of insecurity have no place there.

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