Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Imperfect Garden

I recently joined a sustainable living meet-up group. The more popular discussion topics on the group's website all have to do with gardening. I have noticed an interesting thing about the way people talk about their gardens and gardening practices in a public forum like this. . . nervously, defensively, sometimes didactically, and just about always with heavy ego involvement.

Hmm, not unlike writers talking about their writing.

On the above-mentioned site, when I first joined, I was trying to craft a self introduction. I began to write, "I am not a very experienced gardener. . ." Wait a minute, should that be "very amateur"? Or did I really mean "not very good"?

Certainly "not very experienced" is not an accurate description. For I have been dabbling in gardens for more than 40 years, from the time that I first planted my own little flower bed in a corner of my parents' garden (and this is not counting the earlier years of my childhood, standing out in the garden every summer helping my Mom pick raspberries or peas, or crawling along the rows of vegetables learning how to weed). From my initial experiences with marigolds and bachelor buttons, I went on to develop a passion for growing my own vegetables, and, except for a few years in university residences or apartment buildings, I have planted some version of a vegetable garden in every place that I have lived since my early twenties.

Over all of those years, I have managed to grow enough veggies, fruits and berries to put home grown garden salads and other vegetables on the table every summer. I have have made many pies, as well as jars of apple sauce, pickles, salsa, jams, and jellies.

So why is the first self descriptor that comes to mind "not very experienced"? And why do I instantly want to amend it to "not very good"?

Well, there is a lot to learn about gardening. I would have to know much more than I currently do to think of myself as an expert. With my full time work schedule, many activities, and summer travel, I hardly have time to look after my little garden, much less to develop significant expertise.

Mainly though, I think it's because my little weed patch looks quite. . . well, weedy, compared to the beautiful photos of other people's gardens that I see in magazines and gardening books. Rather than long rows of fat, healthy vegetables, in my garden there are dandelions, crabgrass, and the evil invasive comfrey plant trying to take over and crowd out the poor little vegetable seedlings. The raspberries are trying to spread into the herb bed. There are wire worms, slugs, carrot flies, and cabbage worms doing their dirty deeds.

It is an imperfect little garden. But I sure do like it.