The 5+ Ws of Gardening
It came to me suddenly this year as I discussed my gardening challenges with my husband.
The amazing alliteration of gardening.
First, there is the Wonder of Spring
In January and February, I start planning the garden. I spend hours researching plants and seeds, dreaming of what the garden could become. Then, just when I think the earth will never thaw, I experience the incredible wonder of those first plants that peak their way through the snow.
Nature and life are incredible.
Then, there is the Watering
Spring brings the rain and I go to great lengths to collect all I can because I know, come July, I will need that water. Not every year, but it does seem that our summers are becoming drier.
We only use rainwater for the plants as that is what they prefer. Annuals, like vegetables, need 1" of water a week. That's 25mm. When you start to watch the weather reports as much as I do, you realize that it is rare for that much rain to fall at one time. The best scenario is a good 10mm 2-3 times a week at night. This July, we didn't have significant rain for 4 weeks.
And so, much walking and watering is needed as I spread the water from our collection tanks around the property.
Then, there is the Worrying
Did I do it all right this time? Why isn't that plant growing? Will anything ever get bigger? How much rain fell last night? Should I water? Am I watering enough? Should I fertilize? Am I pruning the tomatoes enough, too much? What is the best fertilizer? Why did I do this again?
Then, the Weeding
Weeding can be very meditative in the right circumstances. Sitting on the ground, listening to the wind and the birds above you as you pluck out the plants that shouldn't be growing where they are. They say there is no such thing as a weed, simply a plant you don't want or like. Nonetheless, weeding in moderation, when you have lots of time and a good pair of gloves, is fine. Weeding 200 sq ft of a garden path, on a hot, sunny day, I wouldn't recommend it.
Then, the inevitable Waiting
Really, how long does it take for plants to grow?
But then by mid-July comes the unwelcome - WTF! Really? Seriously?
I guess I didn't prune those tomatoes enough. Do we have any more stakes or string to pull up all these shoots? I guess I really wanted coriander seeds vs cilantro because it bolted in the heat.
After all that hard work I now have Cabbage worms, and blossom rot, and bolting spinach. And I love spinach.
In the heat and dryness of July, when it is almost painful to head out to the garden to water the vegetables again, when sunscreen and bug repellent and mandatory, I do seriously question WHY I have chosen this path. Especially when there is a perfectly good grocery store and even organic farm close by.
I don't NEED to grow anything.
Instead of spending hours working in the garden I could go to the beach and read, or I could spend time taking photos, or in normal times, we could travel.
I do tend to suffer from a little gardening fatigue at this point. But gardening, I have found, is something that gets under your skin. Once you have seen a 6 ft sunflower grow from a tiny seed, or a tomato plant produce fruit after fruit no matter how you prune it, it is almost impossible to walk away.
I know I have bitten off more than I can chew with our one acre of land. It is hard to do by myself. My husband does help with the planning and heavy lifting. It works out well that I am the planner and he is the chef - I harvest, he cooks. But fundamentally, the garden was my choice and my project to work on. There are certainly times when I wish it was just a lawn with a couple of trees.
In the end however, there is a lot more Wonder than Worry. To look out over the garden at the end of the day is immensely satisfying. To see the birds nesting in the trees we planted and the bees and butterflies checking out the flowers, does make it all worthwhile.
Plus as a natural problem solver, even when things don't work out I want to know why and I want to discover some new solution.
Once, when I was a young teen, I was frustrated trying to sew a skirt together. I asked my mother why it was so hard. She replied that it was because I was doing it for the first time.
Getting good at something takes practice. Finding the best ways to do things takes practice.
Gardening takes practice.
And so next year, I will most likely go through the same series of Ws.
Hopefully, with some new understanding and new systems, there will be a little less Wailing.