Here’s the totality of what I know about gardening: in order to get stuff to grow, you need sun, water, fertile earth and good timing. The first three are self-evident; by the ladder, I’m referring to planting seasons. I live in Florida, where, in theory, you can plant stuff year-round.
Landscaping (which includes gardening) has textured my life from the start. I’m guessing I was 10, maybe 11, when my big brother, with teenage compassion and grace, conferred the summer time yard duties to me. I was just strong enough to push the big red mower, but was able to negotiate a handsome allowance from my mother for services rendered.
Mowing the lawn took a while as our property at the time was probably an acre and a half. Grass clippings went into a big mulch pile with egg shells, banana peels and whatever other bio-degradable refuse we could toss out there. I weed-whacked the small boulders that made a natural wall between our front yard and the road, along the white picket fence and by the stones encasing the flower garden. I swept all of the dirt that accumulated out by the road, filling the wheelbarrow up two or three times and dumping it out beyond the bike trail that marked the end of our property line.
Once a month during the growing season, I weeded.
I couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 when I had my first crack at it. My father, if memory serves, was in charge of the vegetable garden. He introduced me to the finer points of distinguishing between good and bad among rows of green beans and the tomatoes. He had this way of whistling that was more like humming as the 7 foot- tall sunflowers beamed down on the whole process.
This was back even before I was a skinny little waif, filling up the tin wash tub with the garden on a hot summer day to go for a “dip” (the tub eventually held plants).
Despite all of that early exposure to gardening, I never became as astute as, say, Teddy Roosevelt was about bugs and butterflies. But into my teen years the work continued as I learned to leverage my mother’s love for gardening by extorting larger sums of money from her.
As an adult, I couldn’t tell you the difference between a poppie and a snapdragon. You could sell me foxglove in place of a nasturnium and I’d be none the wiser.
(I do, however, recall seeing tiger lilies growing wild by the roadside.)
And so this week I’ll be planting seeds hoping to reap what I sew at some point in the not so distant future.
I have no delusions, that I can do it alone. I’ll have at least one expert weighing in.
Knowing my limitations, I’ll more than likely be dreaming of metaphors… how making something out of nothing is a truly creative act, not unlike magic. There’s a timeless and meditative piece (peace?) to standing in the hot sun, working a hoe or turning soil over with a spade. That we can produce herbs and vegetables is no less impressive than watching a baby poke its head out of the birth canal.