Not Quite Gardening 101


“The trouble with simple living is that, though it can be joyful,
rich, and creative, it isn’t simple.” – Doris Janzen Longacre

I understand those of you who love to garden. You love to let the dark earth sift between your fingers and inhale the richness of your endeavours. I understand the desire to watch something grow from a seed to fruition—be it carrots or peas or onions or something more exotic. I understand the satisfaction of placing tiny little tomato plants into the soil and dreaming of toasted tomato sandwiches, and salads with olives and cheese, or just a slice sprinkled with a little salt and pepper. I do….I understand.

I come from a family who tilled the soil—both of my parents came from farm families—though when my father and his brother, my Uncle Louis were asked by my grandfather if they wanted to continue the family tradition, the reply was a hearty “Hell, NO!” (All three were musicians, both at heart and in practice, and played at local dances). My mother more fondly remembered her days on the farm and had a huge garden in our backyard when I was growing up. She had the proverbial green thumb which she passed onto my siblings. I must have been hiding behind the door, as they say, when the gift of gardening was given out. I am proud when I can keep a house plant alive for more than a month, and am quite happy mothering dandelions as they seem to need little encouragement.

That said, I too have had a garden off and on for years—and for the past five or so my eldest son (with a lot of help from his girlfriend, and a little from me) has taken great interest in planting a garden consisting of a lot of varieties of hot peppers, that he likes to dice up and put on all manner of food. But he makes some concessions for me and plants other things too. This year we will be planting about five varieties of peppers (yes we got some mild ones for me), four types of tomatoes, lettuce, peas, Swiss chard and onions. I snuck in a pack of seeds for ornamental gourds, and we are going to try our hand at growing kale this year, as it is, according to the website MindBodyGreen, the “queen of greens”.

As the years have gone by, we seem to be getting this gardening thing under our belts. Last year the garden was a sight to behold—it was kept weeded and watered and produced lots of peppers and tomatoes and salad fixings for the whole summer. I am particularly fond of a variety of yellow tomatoes that we have had some luck with, and they look quite fancy when arranged with slices of the regular red. Add some mozzarella cheese or feta and I have died and gone to heaven.

I remember reading some articles about twenty or so years ago about returning to the land, to the simple life, to our roots. Now technically my deeper roots are in farming though my parents did not practice the art once they married. But if my little taste of gardening has taught me anything, it has taught me that returning to the land is not a simple quest. Merely taking care of a small plot is a lot of work—the earth needs to be tilled no matter what its size before one can plant. And it needs to be nourished. And then the seeds need to be planted and the plants set. And depending on the weather, it needs to be watered. And babied. And weeded. The harvest is of course the reward. But it is not simple. It takes time, and care, and work.

A garden is a good teacher. But “keeping a garden” is also an exercise in optimism. If we did not believe that the work that goes into a garden will produce then why would we bother? We have faith that something will come of our labour. And that is why I understand those of you who love to garden. I am more than a bystander when it comes to our garden, but I am not the one dedicated to make it work. I love to see it newly planted; I love to see the plants grow and produce; and, I love to eat the harvest. But left to my own devices I am pretty sure my garden would be “hot mess”. Thank goodness the trait of the green thumb lives on in my son. I do love me a good garden tomato.



Published in: on May 26, 2014 at 9:05 pm  Comments (24)  

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24 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Smiled all the way through this great posy

    • are you a gardener or a gardener at heart?

      • Haaa damn autocorrect. Post not posy. I am the farthest thing from a gardener

  2. What a sumptuous garden you have! We have a small one….tomatoes,kale, peppers, lettuce….enough for salads and green juices. A lemon tree and a peach tree also bloom. My daughter is the gardener. My father had the green thumb. Mine is a far lighter green I fear, not quite strong enough to produce mighty crops.

  3. Just spent the weekend gardening at the cottage…..the bugs ate us alive even with our protective nets, but we persevered….and the end product is beautiful, just wished the journey was a little less bloody. (Those black flies take chunks of flesh)

    • that is called suffering for your art!

      • Lol!

  4. Usually I would like to plant just a few tomato plants, but this year with spring being late.. or non-existent I decided to forgo planting them… Next year…I hope! Nothing like a tomato fresh off the vine.. Diane

    • you can still buy field tomatoes–I live in the greenhouse capital of the world- but nothing beats a tomato out of the garden or field

  5. I look forward to the garden every year – but this year we have yet to get one in. This weekend, with luck.. It will be scaled way back due to life getting in the way, but there will always be tomatoes, peppers, cukes and salad greens. And we are going to try kale for the first time too. It’s been my favourite new salad green all winter.

  6. I grew up with a garden. My Dad was always so proud of his garden and he tended it well when he was alive. My Mom still does too, along with sunflowers and roses. Though I left those wide open spaces long ago, I find myself wishing for a small garden. I’ve grown tomatoes in pots and had lots of plants when I stayed in one spot long enough

    Like you said, Lou it takes coaxing, nurturing and patience but so worth it as any endeavor that brings forth abundance after “toiling” away.

    I’ve always considered it magical–to think something so beautiful and good can come out of the earth after planting some seeds. It makes me feel kind of safe–like there MUST be something supreme and benevolent to give us that.

    My, my I’m rambling. This was a lovely post. Thank you.

  7. I sometimes think I have a black thumb, and I am not really much of a gardener. However, I do like the front of my house to look colourful and pretty in the summer, so I plant some flowers every year and I even have some perennials now :). I must admit it does give me a warm and fuzzy feeling when I drive down the street and see how nice it looks. Mikey has a veggie garden in the backyard that is the envy of all the neighbours, and he loves to putter around out there after a hard day of work. It’s his summertime hobby :).

  8. I’m terrible with plants and gardening, like you, I count myself lucky if an indoor plant lasts a little while. I always tend to think that gardening is a bit like cooking, you either have the feel for it, or you don’t – both with cooking and gardening, two people can apparently follow the exact same instructions in the exact same way and yet one yields good results and the other not. I sometimes like to get outside on a lovely day and cut the grass or do some weeding, it’s quite satisfying, but actually growing stuff myself? I wouldn’t know where to start! My dad always grew stuff when I was growing up, and it was lovely, maybe one day I’ll give it a go…

    • it is satisfying–my impatience has to take a backseat though with gardening–though I like to cut the lawn once in a while–it makes me feel sort of “back to the earth” and that is all I really need

  9. When I was a kid, I was actually quite enamored by the idea of growing things on your own. That lasted all the way until a school assignment had us take care of a little plant and I struggled to make mine live for a week before it ultimately gave up and died. From that day on, I shunned all things gardening-related because it made me feel like a murderer. Tangent aside, my parents have taken to growing things in our backyard (specifically fruits) and last I heard, the lemon and persimmon trees were absolutely flourishing. I’d be inclined to say gardening is more of an old-people activity (I know I know, being totally age-ist here) but if your son can make it work, that clearly isn’t the case.

    • when I was in university I fed an ivy coke cola–it rusted

      Adam loves gardening–he did not get it from me but I can see how it can be satisfying

      don’t give up because you have killed a plant–I have killed hundreds or lost interest after a while

  10. Your post triggered a contemplation on the concepts of “simple” and “easy” LouAnn. It seems that I frequently mistake one for the other. Something that is simple to me is often not so easy to execute. Conversely, things that come easily to me may not be so simple.

    I do love gardening and attempted the communal kind in our crowded city. This simple concept was far more difficult for me to execute than I’d imagined and the harvest, both figurative and literal, did not satisfy.

    You’ve reminded me that I have a sunny window and maybe it’s time to try again! Thanks, LouAnn! xoxoM

    • I like the difference between simple and easy that you spoke of–I do find some things that are not simple easy and things that are supposed to be easy not so much–I can compose in my head but for the life of me, bookwork and the math that goes with it leave me with a heck of a headache–
      gardening to me is more satisfying when I am only helping out

  11. It seems like your garden is always blooming, what a wonderful hobby. Unfortunately, I have a black thumb 😛

    Choc Chip Uru

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