Monthly Archives: May 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow

It’s spring! Actual spring, not fake calendar spring where we get six more weeks of below-freezing temperatures starting at 6pm. Spring means planting season, which means wearing my shoulders out hauling bags of fertilizer and my knees out grubbing in the dirt, And then taking cool showers immediately after because my skin feels too hot and too itchy and I am covered in dirt, even though what I really want to do is plant my face into my nice soft bed. Hay fever. Endless hay fever and balancing a body designed to be more tanned than I am with the dangers of skin cancer. My boyfriend has it easy and straightforward, he goes out for more than fifteen minutes, he puts on sunscreen. I can actually manage for a couple hours without it. Decisions.

And yet I unironically love spring. Plus it’s not that hard for me to roll the ache in the shoulders out, or stretch and exercise the knees. Even if I hate it. I’ll feel better at the end. I promise.

Pretend for a second here that I’m not talking about a garden, because that’s all I’ve been able to think about for the past couple weeks, as I get everything into the ground or into starter pots. Pretend I’m not talking about a garden for this entire post. It applies pretty well to writing, or even to some other areas.

Gardening is not something I learned how to do as a kid, apart from stick seed in ground apply water and sunlight make sure dirt is not sand or rocks, watch things grow. This whole nitrogen phosphorus plant food pH acidic soil basic soil, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve killed quite a few plants from underwatering, overwatering (okay, that wasn’t my fault, last year we got somewhere near twice as much rain as normal), or simply not knowing what to do. But on the other hand, I also managed to grow quite a few things from seed (until I killed half of them), which I didn’t know I could do. It’s a learning curve! Only with a visible, tangible measure of success or failure, which is more than most of my learning curves have.

Another thing I’ve discovered, or I should say rediscovered, is that once you get into the habit of dumping your coffee grounds into certain plants’ pots or beds, watering every morning between the other chores, pulling off dead leaves and things as you water, it gets moved to the backbrain and requires less energy. Less energy to think about, to remember to do (as long as you keep it somewhere in your daily list of things to do, if you need such things; I do), less energy overall. What was once a hugely daunting task is now part of your everyday life. Water the plants, keep them in the sun, let them do their thing. A lot of things and even people thrive if you let them do their thing, the thing that comes natural to them; micromanaging is a waste of time and energy.

I like gardening. I like growing things, I used to wander out into my friend’s pea patches when I stayed at his house and pick and eat them off the vine. Chewing on mint. I picked some daffodils that bloomed early in the season, before the last spiteful breaths of winter, and stuck them in an old bottle I had lying around and it was really nice, I might do that with some other flowers later. Our front lawn is almost overflowing with grape hyacinths. I like gardening, I like pretty things, and I like the visible reward for my effort, whereas writing and learning languages don’t convey that same type of reward. Diversity of reward is important. We get fulfillment in so many different ways.

And there’s an instinctive aspect that appeals to the pagan part of me. When the weather turns, when the last of the truly biting cold is gone, knowing to start things in peat pots on my windowsill. When the sun shines longer and the air is more warm than not, moving things outside. The physical act of clearing weeds helping to mentally prepare for the garden, and for spring and summer beyond that. Like clearing the winter cobwebs from my mind, and after this winter there are a metric shitload of cobwebs (roughly 2.2 imperial shitloads).

So, pretend I’m writing about writing. Or don’t, maybe you like to garden, too. Partly the similarity in approaches comes from the fact that I approach my garden the way that I approach most other long term projects, methodically and with great bull-headedness. Partly because life is not that complicated, not in the overall, and many approaches that work well in one field work well in others. You’ll go through a learning period where you discover, and many times rediscover better ways to do things. You’ll learn how you work when you do, in this case, gardens. And you’ll get better. It’s much more fun to do that with flowers, though.