What Gardening Has Taught Me
According to dictionary.com a classroom is defined as follows:
/ˈklasˌro͞om,ˈklasˌro͝om/noun. A room, as in a school or college, in which classes are held. Any place where one learns or gains experience.
And so by definition almost any place where learning takes place can be defined as a classroom. And since I started gardening nearly five years ago, a little patch of earth behind our house has become my accidental classroom. And like all classrooms, the first day can be wrought with uncertainty, fear of the unknown, and invariably at some point you will ask yourself some variation of this question: “What am I doing?”
I have asked myself this question more than once. Call it beginners anxiety or whatever, but it all boils down to this question too, “Am I even qualified to take care of living things?” But to allay your fears, if you can answer in the affirmative to any one of the following three questions, then with a little knowledge and a bucketful of sweat equity you too can be a successful gardener:
- Am I taking care of myself?
- Is the care I provide for myself and my children sufficient?
- Can I take care of my household?
- Do I care for a pet?
Gardening is one of the purest classrooms you will ever enter into because it will teach you how to do things you are already doing better. Funny thing, because I didn’t know my garden, or even suspect, it would or could even be a place where I would refine my observational skills or that these plants and the process of caring for them would tug at my heart. And although I wasn’t prepared for it I wasn’t at all resistant to it either. What started off as something closely resembling an experiment, started to gain more and more of my attention. I began to exude a happy appreciation for being “in” garden mode. From watering the plants, to watching the plants struggle, survive and thrive under “my care” is a tremendously rewarding feeling.
Love Your Garden, It Will Love You Back
Basically, it all comes down to love. Yes, L O V E. Why love? Well, if you love yourself, your children or a pet then you have the capacity to be caring and nurturing to those little green shoots sprouting up through the fertile soil towards the sun. Love brings to gardening loads of affection, and abundance of tenderness and a certain element of disciplined pampering. But there will also be the dirty work. The digging into the cold earth with a trowel and planting fragile seedlings. Setting up sturdy support trellises for your skyward reaching beans and rustic heirloom tomatoes. And be prepared for the two biggest foes to gardeners the world over; nearly constant weeding and combating the nightmare (daymare?) of relentless pests.
At The Heart Of It, All Gardening Is An Endless Battle
Gardening is also means being at war with mother nature. I implore you to choose your weapons well. You have the obvious weapons: the shovel, garden hoe, trowels and twine. But you’ll need a few additional allies. The bugware and the software. The bugware is the small and ever so hardworking minions. Like the old saying goes, “Fight fire with fire.” In this gardener’s case, it is fighting bugs with bugs. And the software, in my opinion, it is compost. Composting isn’t difficult to create and manage, but it does take know how and there are plenty of books and articles to research the topic and assist you along the way.
Aphids, caterpillars, fungus gnats, leafminers, mealybugs, slugs, snails and spider mites, etc. Also, research or ask other locals who and what the bad bugs are and how best to inhibit their presence in your garden.
Bees and wasps, ladybugs, lacewings, praying mantis, and beneficial nematodes, etc. There are many other good bugs too, and they vary by region. Stop in or call your local gardening suppliers for the availability of live bugs and the best way to distribute then in your garden. Reading books on the topic or searching the web is another invaluable resource.
You can also count birds, salamanders, frogs and toads among the good guys. It is always good to see their presence in the family veggie patch.
Food For Thought
In the end, gardening is a great classroom. The practices you’ll learn about putting good stuff into the earth, and getting good stuff out in return is a significant way to approach almost every area of life and living.