Last year, I had extremely high hopes. When we joined with neighbors to create a raised bed community garden in our backyard, I started to lick my lips. Homegrown tomatoes, carrots, radishes, beans, and the like were just waiting to be harvested (after planting and growing, of course). I dreamed of walking out my back door instead of heading to the market when I planned my dinners. I imagined sharing our bounty with neighbors and friends. We even talked about getting chickens or a goat to make the most of our new urban homestead.
The idyllic garden in my head never really came to fruition, however. After months of planning, planting, and hard work, we didn’t have much to show for our backyard farm. We over-watered, under-watered, had too much sun and not enough. Our soil got a fungus or came with one. We found weeds despite our weed-proofing efforts. Ants ate our artichokes and the whole endeavor was a great disappointment.
My imagined bushels of produce amounted to a few tomatoes (I claim it was three, Tim says we had a few more than that). We did have some early radishes and a handful of green beans but NOTHING compared to the blood, sweat, tears, and money, we invested in our patches of dirt. By the end of the summer I was ready to give up on the experiment and never attempt to grow anything again.
The fruitlessness of the garden seemed metaphorical. At the time, I certainly felt discouraged in many other areas of my life as well. The withering and diseased plants were merely physical manifestations of the inner turmoil I was experiencing. Instead of the satisfaction of ripened hopes, I felt a lot of loss.
Out of that time, however, I realized two things. The first is that I have a naturally brown thumb. In general, I am pretty confident about my project skills. I can jump right in and DIY with the best of them. But gardening… that didn’t work out the way I planned. It didn’t come innately. I wasn’t successful (or successful enough) on my own. My ever-trusty instincts didn’t result in healthy beautiful vegetables. “Following my heart” didn’t produce growth. I need outside input to grow a fruitful garden. I need books, articles, and real live people to help; not just me, myself and I.
The second pearl of wisdom I took away from the failed gardening experience is that I need to try again. I think that’s why I started this blog. I’m really interested in trying again in my life. Even though last year was hard (in more ways that just gardening), I’m starting over. This isn’t a pull-myself-up-by-my-own-bootstraps kind of trying (see my great need for help above). Instead, it is an open-handed cautious longing for change, for something new.
I’m not mostly concerned with getting loads of tomatoes this year. I guess I’m more interested in seeing growth in myself than in what I can produce.
But I would also like to eat some homegrown tomatoes.