It never fails. Every year there are new folks at our community garden, we get to know them just a bit and maybe marvel at their huge sweet potatoes or stunning quality wood beds. Only a staunch few stick around more than a year or two. I like to think they are gardening at home, or just taking a hiatus, but so many people think they have a “brown thumb” or that they just don’t have time to grow food. They get frustrated with gophers, squirrels, weeds, and insects. They attempt to make too large a garden when perhaps just a few potted dwarf fruit trees is all that time will allow, for now.
This is not a blog about perfection. We live in a perfectionist culture, sharing and drooling over slick photos and posting only what makes us look successful, happy, and talented. You may fall in love with your young plants in expensive organic compost, surrounded by new bark, bursting with the promise of fresh salad and Instagram likes. But do you love your garden when the season is over? When it’s time to clear the weeds, dispose of scarab larvae and get dusty, hot, and crawled on by ants?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge consumer of beautiful food porn. Glossy coffee table books, well produced foodie shows, your Pinterest board of artisan home baked bread, love it all. My family subscribed to Sunset magazine and Country Living, and some of my most treasured memories are of us visiting botanical gardens around Los Angeles and going on upscale home & garden tours. I was raised to treasure beauty and to strive to do things well. Problem is, my nature is not to seek perfection. I can be unapologetically lazy and am, in my middle years, giving less and less shits about what anyone thinks about my accomplishments.
Gardening should be a hobby you stick with for life, like knitting. Knitters don’t just love scarves but hate the knitting part, and lifetime farmers don’t love vegetables but hate the smell of good loam. Imagine a hobby where you can roll out of bed, throw on what you wore the night before, tuck your hair under a hat (and slather on sunscreen, please), get filthy and feel the joy of washing it all off in a long hot shower. A hobby that exposes you to the sun and essential vitamin D, to the wind, to smells, and to the the billions of microbes that are needed for a healthy immune system. A hobby that rewards your patience and dedication to research with food you can cook and share, and a skill that is essential in any post-apocalyptic scenario.
If you are a project starter but not a finisher, stop bragging about your new organic garden and your contribution to global sustainability, spending too much on trendy garden gadgets, and sending friends photos of each precious leaf like it’s a new baby. Just bring them a fat bouquet of home grown garlic (from the pot on your patio, if that’s all you have!) attached to it’s delicious chives. They’ll say, “You grew this? I didn’t know you had a green thumb!” And you do. Because you studied, because you got dirty, because you relaxed and loved your garden in all of it’s states. Then you can all take a selfie with the garlic and post it on Facebook, because you earned it.