January 24, 2020

The gardener’s dilemma


I can’t keep fooling myself any longer. I must conclude that gardening is a form of useless self-torture.

Eric Young is right. What am I growing anyway, tomatoes? I don’t even like tomatoes.

Gardeners are like those politically incorrect conquerors of old, fighting back the ever-encroaching jungle. A moment’s rest and it will quickly swallow up your little victorious square of land. There is no end to the battle — especially when you come up against monsters like the autumn olive or the sweet and innocent-looking but rampaging violet.

By the time you finish tending to one section, the last section will already need to be redone. Especially if you keep having the brilliant idea to add another section.

Then you are in a constant battle against evil swarms, be it mosquitoes, gnats or deer flies. You attempt to find little windows of time when they are “not so bad” — working a full-time job and having other life responsibilities makes that a little difficult — and the rest of the time you are flailing your arms about and hitting yourself, realizing that any observer must think you have finally lost it. Thankfully, when you live out in the middle of nowhere, there are few observers, and those who do see you already know you are completely bonkers — so no worries there.

These creatures are not simply a nuisance, they are literally blood-sucking. Like, vampire blood-sucking. You think you are keeping vigilant when you feel that subtle needle prick on your arm. And speaking of blood-sucking, you mean it wasn’t Bring Your Tick to Work Day? Gardeners generally have strong stomachs when it comes to dealing with creepy crawlies, but ticks go in their own little nightmarish category of violation.

But it’s OK, you won’t generally die of any insect-borne diseases right away.

And shall I go on about the hordes of ridiculously tame deer who seem to think you planted that salad bar just for them? As those with kids can probably relate to, when you politely ask them (possibly flailing your arms crazily again) to please move and not touch your yard again, they first just stare at you dumbly, dithering, wondering, “Do I really have to?” Then when you turn your back they will go ahead and devour everything anyway. Silly human.

This is all besides the fact that the plants you really want to grow are tender and capricious, needing a special, delicate balance of care — each one needing something slightly different. With some things it takes several years of experimentation before you are able to perfect this balance, including the work of fertilizing, mulching and watering. Put yourself in a sterile lab without all the evil hordes and you might not even get it quite right.

As a gardener, you are inflicting upon yourself a constant state of worry over, Will it live? Will it die? Will it get eaten? Will I get eaten?

Then keep in mind that you only have those little windows of time to enjoy the beauty you have laid out, and the fruits and vegetables may not necessarily add up to any significant monetary savings, especially when time and labor is factored in.

You are dirty, itchy, smelly, often overwhelmed with the tasks before you and worried about time, when so many other spring and summer happenings are pulling you elsewhere.

Yes, somehow, it is worth every bit.

Gardening is a glorious, special, fulfilling gift. It is a time of exercise, sunlight, inner reflection, learning, a carrying on of a legacy. On a very basic level it is a satisfying tactile, aural and olfactory experience of immersion in nature, after a long, stationary day at the office. It brings you back to wonderment at creation. It is also looking around and knowing you did this, and it looks gorgeous, or tastes amazing, and it’s your own brand of organic. You simply go out and grab the lettuce for your salad. Fragrant bouquets greet you along the walkway. The birds and the bees love your garden, and you love them. Whatever stands in your way, you are a gardener through and through.

Bring it on.


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