Fighting the “It’s Nothing Like This!”

I get so much joy from my garden that I call it my happy place. If I need a quick work break, I pop outside and do a quick walk through from my garden to pull a few weeds. When the kiddo asks what we’re going to do any particular evening, we usually say, “oh, we’ll probably work in the garden.” Our garden is so large that I can never get a good photo of its scope. I even climbed up on the roof in the hopes of finally capturing a good photo of the entire garden from a loftier vantage point. No dice.

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Rooftop Garden Selfie

 We often receive comments on our garden by pedestrians (even people stopping their cars!) and such comments fill me with pride. After all, we have worked hard (and spent a not insignificant chunk of change) to make our corner-lot garden as attractive to others as it is fulfilling to us. We want our garden to be visually appealing because it is situated on a corner lot. Most of the comments are positive ones about how the garden looks fantastic, is growing well, or something akin to it. Other times, we just see the body language:  the broad smile and the appreciative nod. We’ve only ever received one negative comment, and one of our neighbors complained when we cut down the two large oak trees to make way for our over-the-top garden. He seemed mollified somewhat when we told him our plans to plant fruit trees and garden years ago, and he sometimes now chats with us about our garden or just says hello pleasantly as he walks by.

IMG_20170514_082147453 I do, however, have a type of comment that I hate to receive about our garden. Inevitably, I’ll be chatting with a pedestrian standing near our garden or even a friend somewhere entirely else, and the person will say like, “I have a garden too!” or “my garden is coming along nicely this year,” but then the individual will dismiss their own work by saying, “it’s nothing like this” or “it’s nothing like your garden.” I hate, hate, hate to hear those comments because the person is dismissing their own relationship with their garden. Maybe the person is trying not to brag or trying to be polite, but it always seems self-critical to me. I don’t care if you’re only growing a tomato plant on your balcony:  you are growing something! If you only have one small plot in which to plant something, I’m darn happy for you! You are a gardener! You are cultivating something and hoping for the uncertain rewards that all gardeners face! In my book, you are a gardener!

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All gardening on some level is an experiment in patience, hope, loss, and success. My carrots are doing terribly again this year. My broccoli bolted because the weather was as funky as you could possibly imagine. My chamomile is still not sprouting, and I’m not sure whether to give up on it and plant something else in its place yet. Our garden looks impressive, absolutely, but we have our fails amid the successes just like anyone with any plot (or pot!) of soil.

Recently, one of the replacement postal workers was on our route, and he stopped to ask a couple questions about what was growing in our garden. We chatted about the greens that were in the bed, the bed’s poor placement, how the plants were struggling as a result, and my plans to move the bed next year to rectify the problem. We looked at the problematic oak tree together with squinted eyes and talked about shade. The short conversation was productive and helpful; he was interested in planting a few more plants in his own garden and wasn’t sure the right place to plant them to get sufficient sunlight. Still, I wish, wish, wish, he wouldn’t have dismissed his own gardening endeavors with that defeatist comparison and hand gesturing out over our garden, “it’s nothing like this.”

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The greens are in the far right garden bed. Next year, I’m planning to flip it with the compost bins, which get significantly more light. 

We have a rather gigantic garden for a city lot, so we spend a proportionally large amount of time cultivating our garden. Not everyone has the love of gardening that we do, or the time to commit to it. My husband would probably even argue that we don’t have the time to commit to it and jokes about operating a small farm. If you’re growing anything, even if you kill it because you forgot to water it or think you have a black thumb of death instead of a green one, I’m proud of you. I celebrate your efforts because you’re attempting to grow your own food or beautify a small place with a few potted flowers. We gardeners all start somewhere, and that somewhere is a place to revel in no matter its size or success. Let’s avoid self-defeating comparisons and exchange tips and ideas instead. Let’s talk each other up! Such camaraderie is much more beneficial and fulfilling.

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