The truth about gardening is that it can feel like a roller coaster ride. Especially the first few years you do it. I’m saying that after doing it for 10 years, and I still feel like I’m on a roller coaster. Gardening has a huge learning curve. And unless you are blessed with learning alongside a master gardener, you will most likely learn a lot of lessons. Like Albert Einstein said, “The only mistakes in life are lessons not learned.” I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes so I guess that would make them lessons!
The first year I grew a garden in California, I grew more grass than I did vegetables. Later, I planted my entire garden under a tree whose branches I didn’t notice were growing over my entire plot so when the tree’s leaves came in, my entire garden was stunted from the shade. Then we bought property that had been dredged in the 70’s so our soil was way beneath top soil level and about 75% rock (not exaggerating – just ask my dad, who helped us attempt to drive in t-posts for my garden fence). Just 4 months ago, when I was putting in my fall garden, I had a massive amount of beetles take out almost all my seedlings. That beautiful, soon-to-be, cabbage in the banner of this page, is one of about 8 that survived. I planted over 40. The beetles had quite a feast.
All that to say, it isn’t always easy. I am not a girl who cries easily, but my garden has definitely caused me to cry numerous times. I get my hopes up so high when I order seeds and start my seedlings. I dream of what my garden is going to look like and how much food I’ll get. When something goes wrong, I feel disappointed and frustrated that I couldn’t do it better.
Now, all is not negative. I wouldn’t still be doing it if it was. Besides the obvious health benefits and just the pure goodness of being outside, gardening is truly fun. I LOVE when my seeds start to come up out of the soil. I know it’s normal, but it feels like a miracle that the seeds that I planted actually work!
I also love gardening with my kids. I don’t involve them in everything. I’ve learned my lesson that there are some garden tasks that are best left to just mom… no helpers allowed. But I do involve them when I can. Two summers ago, my son was 18 months and my daughter was 3. We harvested about 25 lbs of beets. I pulled them out, my daughter shook the dirt off and tore the leaves off, and my son tossed them into our bucket. They were so happy. Our little assembly line worked beautifully. We had grown our own food and everyone was contributing to get it to the table. I love that my kids are growing up in a home where it’s normal to know the names of all the fruits and vegetables before knowing the alphabet.
There is truly no feeling like making a meal that you grew yourself. It’s so self-satisfying and even secure feeling. When I know I’m capable of feeding my family off of our land, I feel like I’ve really accomplished something.
Gardening isn’t for the faint of heart. But everything worth learning takes effort and perseverance. Just like the olympic athlete doesn’t have the perfect technique on day one of training, neither does the novice gardener know everything there is about starting a garden. The key is to start. After that, it’s having a willing heart and dirty hands. If you can see your mistakes as lessons learned, your garden will become a masterpiece.
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