If you follow me on facebook, you know about my gardening journey. When the year began, I listed gardening as one of my goals for the year. I began with trepidation. It’s not that I lack a green thumb with plants. It’s that I have the thumb of death with plants. And yet, I wanted to do this. To harness a hint of my ancestors who farmed and gardened for centuries. For whom pretty ceramic pots and sustainable living would raise eyebrows of confusion, as growing was simply what one did. And did well. And while growing a handful of veggies and herbs is not even on the same planet as their efforts I wanted to know I could do it. That somehow the planting-DNA was simply in hiding. Waiting to be coaxed out.
So I researched planting. Contacted my gardening Gurus, Susan and Yen. They advised me about what to plant, where to plant, and helped me decide between planting in-ground versus containers. We decided on the latter because I have demonic squirrels in my backyard. I don’t mean that facetiously. There are seriously mentally unhinged squirrels back there. We have a beautiful hawk who lives in our poplar and many a time we’ve seen said hawk on our swing set and squirrels will walk by. Not scurry. Not jump from tree to tree hiding and hoping that their biggest predator won’t notice. No, these squirrels saunter. And the hawk? He sees them and does nothing.
To decrease the risk of the demonic squirrels attacking my garden we planted them on the deck so the fruits of our labor would remain in sight. Cucumbers, jalapenos, banana peppers, sweet peppers and cayenne, cilantra, oregano, mint, and two tomato plants. We planted them in simple pots and a shipping crate left over from the previous owners. We chased off a squirrel or two and beamed with hope that this time, after all our efforts to do this mindfully, we could do it.
Until we realized our pots had no drainage holes. And that you need drainage holes. We remedied it two weeks post-planting, hoping the roots hadn’t all rotted but remained hopeful. And then, later that day, when I sat down with my son ready to plant my beloved specially ordered ‘container variety’ sunflower seeds, I pulled out the soil, looked at the bag and saw the warning label printed on the back: FOR IN-GROUND USE ONLY. DO NOT PLANT IN CONTAINERS. SERIOUSLY. NO CONTAINERS YOU CRAZY CRAZY FOOL.
Six large bags of soil. All used. All wrong. It was one thing to retroactively drill holes. Another to dig up and replace all this dirt. Even if we did, would it send the plants into shock? Leave it, my friend Yen advised. There’s no one way to garden, maybe it’ll work. I appreciated her kind words but watching these pretty saplings with nary a bud in sight, I prepared for them to all turn yellow and brown, my own personal early autumn.
I imagined my ancestors looking down on me and then at each other asking You sure she’s ours?
So I went from disillusioned to dejected. I let my toddler do the watering since you can’t over or under water that which doesn’t stand a chance. And I felt a pang as I saw his excitement– will he only know fruits and vegetables as things sold in plastic bags at flourescently lit grocery stores? Sure we don’t live on a farm, but will his heritage be as tangible as dinosaurs that roamed the earth?
And then yesterday, he walked over to the sunflower pot. And I heard him call mama look! So I walked over. And I looked. And I saw this:
The beginnings of a sunflower. I went to the tomato plants and counted. 15 buds between the two. The jalapenos had four. The banana peppers, three, and the cayenne showing off 9 promising buds. And the cilantro? The cilantro the internet promised me had no fighting chance for even a seasoned gardener? It was positively blooming.
The buds have not blossomed into fruit yet. And I still do have demonic squirrels. But the sight of these blooming buds makes me positively giddy though I can’t fully articulate why. I’m not really going to save significant money or trips to the grocery store thanks to my planting, so why do I feel this incredible sense of satisfaction when I count the buds about to bloom?
Maybe its part of feeling human, connecting with the human experience. After all, I’m not the only one who aspires to garden. And I’m not the only one who has experienced the peace that comes with gardening. But for me, I think its also because I went into this project with a goal: I wanted to prove to myself that armed with enough research and advice I could do what I thought I couldn’t but instead I learned something else entirely: That despite inadequate drainage, demonic squirrels lurking around every corner, and incorrect soil– tiny buds are appearing where just this Monday, there were none. This blooming thing? It wasn’t up to me
My ancestors Believed without question and planted without sentimentality or pretty ceramic pots. Staring at my little garden blooming green against my brown deck, I can’t help but think: My ancestors grew plants in order to live. Maybe I grew them to remember yet again, for the umpteenth time, how.