Thursday, July 14, 2011

Humility in the Garden

I was feeling pretty good about my ability to grow things in my "kitchen garden," but after picking green beans from my mother's vines this morning I was reminded of the need for a bit of humility in gardening.

With gardening, as with everything else in life,
there is always, always, always
more to learn.

My mother's bean plants put mine to shame.  Mom was gone for the day and as we were coming over to trim the lawn, she asked me to pick two rows of beans for her.  She was planning to give them to me so that I could can them - which is what I am doing tonight.  The canner is steaming along and I'm checking it every few minutes.

I thought my beans were fine until I inspected hers and was swiftly knocked down several notches on the green thumb scale.  Nothing will take a whipper-snapper gardener down like a comparison stroll thru the okra.  I came home with a five gallon bucket full of beans from two small rows.  Her beans must be on steroids.

It takes time and practice to accumulate knowledge about growing your own food.  I am so blessed to have older people in my life who not only teach me, but who patiently remind me of what I am doing wrong.  Every time my mother gives me a start of this or a slip of that, she reminds me of how to care for it.  She tells me what kind of sun, what kind of soil, when to pinch it back or tie it up, to dig it in the fall or leave it in the ground.  My father brought me some tomato cages last week, and he took the time to show me how to spread the wires and angle it properly in the ground.  I could get offended at that, I suppose:  "Do they think I don't remember?  I know that already...."  I realize that someday I will wish they were here to tell me again.  And maybe, if they do repeat it enough, it will slowly sink in and become systemic for me, and I won't even have to think through the gardening cycle.  Someday, if I work at it hard enough, I may be a natural.

I listen to my parents, I listen to the guy at the market stand, I listen to my gardening friends who do a much better job than I do, and I love to talk to Joe at the Flower Shop (which also sells garden seeds/ supplies.)  I never want to leave without finding out what secret they have for me today.

My papa keeps his garden weed-free.  There's no greater gardening sin to my parents than a garden that is left untended, weeds run amuck.  A weedy garden says something about the gardener, to them.  "Not sure I can trust a man with a weedy garden."   I always grab a hoe when they are headed to my house.  I get the biggest chunks and hope that they don't look too closely.  

Once in awhile my dad lets words slip out.  He told me the other day that now, at 86, he has gotten to the point of pulling his weeds on his hands and knees - by crawling thru the garden.  "I'm sure the neighbors wonder what I'm doing out there...."  to which I replied, "It's possible.  But whatever you are doing, it sure is working."  He'll garden until he dies, and that's the kind of person who has a million things to teach me.  It makes us a perfect fit, because I will always have a million things to learn.

Humility in the garden and elsewhere reminds me that there is always, always, always more to learn.


  1. How beautiful! I like this post. We can learn a lot, can't we? It seems so hard to believe that even our parents came from a time of hard working individuals. A lot of those depended on the labor of their hands to put fresh foods on the table.

  2. You have such a sweet, open spirit, Holly. It is a pleasure to know you. :)

    I can recommend Jerry Baker for other, unique gardening tips too. There are links to his websites at the bottom. :)

  3. Holly, I really enjoyed this post.

    Totally off topic - I thought of you yesterday when I turned a couple of cartwheels after many years of not turning cartwheels. My shoulders are a little sore, but it was so worth it just to see the delight on my kids faces. See how encouraging you are? BTW, I also still think of you nearly every time I chop garlic.

  4. Oh yes, Rachel. My parents are elderly now, and they have such stories of hardships. My grandfather (who is dead now for 22 years,) went to work at the age of 9 to support his widowed mother and siblings. Incredible. Unbelievable. There is so much to learn. I hope that I never come to the point of believing that I know it all.

    Vanessa....thank you. I am not always sweet....and you know that too. :) Thank you for the link! :)

    Sara - good for you! Isn't it fun? I can just see your children's faces. :) I still do that, too....after glancing around to see if the neighbor is watching. Thanks for the smile. :)