Of all the great quotes I’ve read about gardening, this one might be the best. There’s a lot of hard-earned truth, and no doubt a few dead plants, behind these words. Above all else it tells us that gardening is about being observant — it’s about learning from our successes and our failures.
As Mary Beth and I have talked about gardening and what to write about in our posts over the past couple of years, we come back to this truth over and over again: our plants and gardens will show us what they need if we just look at what’s going on from their point of view.
Ignore the ads blaring from the TV set telling you to drench your living soil with systemic chemicals that will kill all that’s bugging you in your garden. What it will kill is your soil’s ability to support healthy plants. Do it and you’ll be hooked into an endless cycle of applying chemical cocktail after chemical cocktail to solve the problems you created with that first application. (Never mind what havoc they might wreak on your health and that of your kids, your pets and every other creature that calls your garden home.) These ads horrify us!
Better is to use what nature provides to improve our soil’s tilth and our plants’ health. Natural manure from cows, horses, chickens, etc. is far superior to chemicals. Natural pesticides are better than synthetics if you really need them.
Your plants will tell you if they’re getting what they need. If they are stressed they are more likely to be attacked by insects; or lacking enough sun or nourishment, they’ll fail to thrive. Or maybe a particular plant is just not right for your microclimate so it doesn’t perform up to its potential. On the other hand, you might have had success with a plant that the experts say isn’t appropriate for your area. You be the judge. Take advice, but apply it with caution until you can see that it will work for your garden. (And keep a journal so you don’t have to repeat those lessons next year.)
I was reminded of the importance of being observant this morning when I watched a video of Tom Trantham of Happy Cows Creamery. Tom was on the brink of losing everything when his cows showed him the way to fix his mistakes. His story is nothing short of a miracle, but it took Tom’s willingness to really see and learn from what was happening. Even though his story is about his dairy farm, its basic principles apply to our gardens as well.
So as we embark on another season in our gardens, let’s all take the time to see what’s really happening and to learn from it. Whether you succeed or fail, ultimately you will learn from what you’ve done and your green thumb will prevail.