Garden lessons

Gardening is all about patience. You plant the seed, water it, tend it, hope for the best. Most of the time you have no idea if all that work is doing any good but you do it all the same. Then, finally, you get a tiny little tomato or a cucumber and there’s a surge of elation—it worked! It really worked!

It’s a bit like raising children, actually. You do what you think is right even though it’s not always clear that your efforts are making a difference. Then, occasionally, you’ll get a glimpse—your son offers his seat on the streetcar to an old lady; your daughter stands up for someone in the schoolyard; out of nowhere your toddler hugs you and says “you’re a good mommy.” It worked! It really worked!

Of course, in gardens, as in parenting, there are times when it doesn’t work. You over water or neglect something that needs more attention, you think you’ve done it right, but on reflection, should have behaved differently.

Last month, I planted carrot seedlings in our veggie patch because I thought the boys would enjoy them. I plopped them in without thinking about it much and they seemed to be thriving with all the rain we’ve had. Then our neighbourhood garden guru informed me (with a bit of exasperation) that I had planted too many plants too close together. I thanked him for his wise counsel and simply dug them up and separated them.

Having never grown carrots before I was shocked to see that the carrots were already there—fully developed if extremely small (see picture). They were beautiful and sweet and—forgive me for anthropomorphizing my vegetables—caused a great big lump to form in my throat.

I guess it made me think about my kids and how even though we can’t always see it, our children (and our carrots) are working hard to become big. They may not always tell you what’s going on and they may even hate you sometimes, but they’re working hard all the same. You give them good, uh, soil and careful tending, attention here, loving there, a dose of benign neglect, and they’ll keep on working away. Those great a-ha moments when you think what you’re doing is actually right may not come very often, but the payoff, the real reward, is the process itself.

[photo by Andrea Curtis]

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