Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gardening is an Act of Faith

"The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there." 
~George Bernard Shaw, 
The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God

Gardening is an act of faith.

Undoubtedly, gardening is also a science with two rather sprawling and well-devloped branches called horticulture and agriculture. Nonetheless, for the novice, for the hands-off hippie (that's me) who presses a handful of seeds into the soil, gardening requires faith.

When I first decided to garden, I recieved a monthy copy of Mother Earth News. They taught me about organic gardening and heirloom seeds. I priced organic potting soil and heirloom tomatoes. I ran out of money. I planted some greens and two tomato plants...then watched the weeds conquer their space.
Next year, I bought a gardening book. One of those polished, magazine-style guides with long lists of garden designs and infastructure purchases. I got scared again. I dropped a row of okra into the mud behind my shed along with a couple clusters of daisies from the Farmer's Market. They all died. Like the tomatoes. Like last year's greens.

This year, however, something amazing happened. I wandered out behind my shed and noticed wild clumps of lace-leafed plants that looked suspiciously like daisies. I took heart. I called up my friend Rose for gardening advice. After all, she grew whole bucketloads of tomatoes and cucumbers outside her duplex last year. "Teach me!" I cried. "Well," she replied, "You put some plants in the ground and they either grow or they don't." I could have kissed her lotus-annointed, garden-guru feet.

Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and
 freedom of the forest and the outlaw.
 ~Henry David Thoreau
So I tilled. I started seeds inside: zuccini, canalope, basil, and sunflowers. My neighbor gave me tomatoes. My husband took me to a plant sale where I adopted green peppers, watermelon, broccoli, herbs, and bedding flowers. I watched the zuccini flourish. I watched a dozen bright canalope seedlings wither into oblivion over night. I created a garden.

One day I hope to learn more about the science of growing things. I'd like to figure out why the canalope died. Maybe I'll Google 'canalope'. Maybe I'll study my seedling more carefully next year. In the meantime, I garden intuitively with advice from the backs of seedpackets and the green stems themselves. Because knowlege can be a guide, but it can also paralyze. Confronted with the facts, it often seems that success hinges on a host of perfect tools and techniques.

I'd rather play the Fool and step blindly, faithfully into the garden of possibility. A family of half-wild daisies lifted their faces to greet me.


  1. Oooo this is great! Last year was my first for a garden, and it did okay. It was mostly one large experiment, and now I have some experience and self learned tips for this year. I have so many dreams and wild plans for getting it all together, but we'll see. Mostly it's a leap of, "plant, watch, learn". When I start reading too much about testing ph balance in soil and blah blah blah it sounds way too difficult, and I nearly give up, hehe. So I'm just hoping things will grow if I give them a chance and some love.

    Hoping the best for yours! You should totally keep us updated with pictures over the summer of how it's doing :D

  2. Oh I know! We have a huge yard, so I have HUGE plans for things to add over the years.

    And I totally agree about things growing if you give them a chance and some love....and diligently pull weeds. ;-)