Gardening is a fascinating pastime. As I dabble in mother nature’s realm, I sense that I’m feeling much as a medical doctor must feel as he/she goes about their craft – essentially, that sense is telling me that although I think I know quite a bit about this discipline, there’s still a whole world’s worth of knowledge that I lack!
And the beauty of not knowing everything is that, occasionally, the discipline itself rises up and teaches you another natural fact – and once again, you are reminded what it means to be human.
My garden is an especially good teacher, and although we don’t communicate in words (Yes, I’m aware that some gardeners swear their plants understand when they are spoken to – I’m not so sure – maybe it’s just the tone of the voice!), we have other ways of communicating. I do things to and for my plants, and the plants let me know if they’re happy – or not. In this way, we have a mutual understanding – it’s a good relationship.
Here’s a short list of some of the things my garden has taught me this year (so far):
No matter how much space you plan for each of your plants in the garden, double it! This is because plants, sensing that you have severely restricted their growing space, will respond by growing twice as large. Ha! Actually, we gardeners always seem to have more plants than we have space for them – so we squeeze them all in anyway – at least the weeds are controlled in this way!
Not all weeds taste bad! I have several lettuce seed blends – I broadcast plant these, especially when intending to use them as mesclun baby greens, and as a result, they come up rather thickly. Wonderful – when they are a few inches high, I just take my scissors and snip off everything except the bottom inch – and in another week they’ve grown back again! After doing this for a month or more, I realized that there were a lot of weeds growing right in there with the lettuces – Damn! We’ve been eating weeds! So, I began tasting each one of those weeds, and guess what? Except for one which was a tad bit bitter (but not really bad), those weeds were just as tasty as all the lettuces were! I’ll be damned! But when you think about it, all those domesticated lettuces at one time were all wild weeds – and then somebody tasted one, and brought it into the garden. So I did a little research and discovered that one of my tasty weeds is Lambsquarters (see pic below), and in fact, it is probably more nutritious than most of anything else I’m growing this year – so instead of throwing my weed pullings away, we’re eating them in salads and as a spinach substitute. So get out there and start tasting those weeds!
Slugs, on the other hand, are not tasty, even when drowned in butter and garlic! However, if you are brave and adventurous, you will get a pet garden duck – they love slugs, and will not touch your lettuce or tiny veggies – and their droppings are a garden plus! Too violent for you? How about just scaring the slugs away – here’s a garden duck decoy.
Cabbage can rise from the dead! Yup – my garden foes, the deer, came through and ate the tops off of every red cabbage in my garden – but I’ll be damned, all of them have survived that attack and regenerated new and beautiful tops – Ain’t nature amazing! (lettuce does the same thing!)
A garden teaches patience! Damn straight. Have you ever waited for that first cucumber? For enough lettuce to make a dinner salad? Or even that first ripe tomato? Gardening is just a long series of patience testing – if you do not have patience, or the ability to develop it, you will not make it as a gardener – try something like catching flies on a pig farm.
But mostly, what my garden has taught me this year is how little I know about plants. And each day that goes by, I become more convinced that the world of plants is much more complex and amazing than we can imagine – some times, when I’m letting my mind simply go wild, I wonder if plants aren’t really in control of life here on earth, and that we -unknowingly- are in their service. (Hey – once we were sure the world was flat!)
Yes, if only we are willing, the garden can make us wiser, more humble, and if we can stop and pay attention, the garden can make our lives richer – and in return what do we do? Why we eat everything it has worked so hard to produce.
Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?