to garden, you need patience and to just try, not a crystal ball

I run a large gardening group. I founded it, I created it, I nurture it. But it means there are a lot of people and a lot of different personalities.

As someone who is often short on patience when it comes to human beings, that can be difficult for me. Sometimes when you are trying to articulate a point, because it is social media, people think I and others are being short when what we are doing is answering the question. Sometimes, people don’t like the answer to the questions they ask.

Gardening is a long game. It’s not a short game. There are no magic pills, potions, answers. It’s nature and patience.

You don’t need a crystal ball, you aren’t going to get a gardening crystal ball. You need patience. And knowledge.

Gardeners by nature are helpful people who like to share their knowledge. But the knowledge of a true gardener is gained because they have done the work. They have done the heavy lifting. Reading, learning, trial and error in our own gardens.

Patience is something I have had to learn while gardening. I am not patient all of the time. I am not even patient all the time in my own garden. I have grown impatient with things and ripped plants out and moved them and changed things up. At the end of the day, sometimes that’s all you can do. But for the most part, the majority of the time, I have learned to see the long game of having a garden. Even when it drives me absolutely crazy and I want another result immediately.

Some years are better than others. Last year was incredibly wet, and as a result, entering this gardening season I have plants I lost. I have new tree work that has to be done. I am still not sure what survived in the perennial department, versus what is toast. It’s part and parcel of having a garden. And I don’t say that lightly, because two of the things I lost between the wet of 2018 and the spring of 2019 were favorite roses- two David Austin Abraham Darbys.

But sometimes what I find is trying to explain to people gardening is a long game, they don’t want to really play the long game. They want the instant gratification game. I’m sure you can achieve that, if you have other people to do your gardening for you. If that is how you view gardening, that’s fine, but that is not my view.

People always ask how you get rid of thing sometimes like weeds. There is no magic bullet. I am still trying to eradicate the bishops weed from our property, for example. Every year it’s pulling and digging. There is no other way. Well, you can drop a nuclear bomb of herbicides on your garden but don’t expect other things to live.

And by herbicides, I also count in the homemade remedies that include vinegar which are harmful to humans, nature, domestic pets and so on. Those remedies aren’t organic, they’re caustic. In the garden where I am impatient, it includes these homemade remedies for everything under the sun.

Occasionally there are things, that are old wives tales that are actually helpful – like keeping aphids down by throwing your gray water (dishwater from the sink) out into the garden. Of course that works because gray water has the dish soap in it that is diluted enough that it doesn’t hurt your plants. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t take water out of my dishwasher before it drained after washing my dishes because dishwasher soap is more caustic.

Or critters. People get frustrated by them. Like deer. It is possible to manage deer in your garden and have a garden. There are several organic-based products out there that you can spray and sprinkle in your garden that won’t harm pets, children, other wildlife, or the deer. You can plant plants they don’t like, but every gardener knows if they are hungry enough they will eat just about anything. I have a couple products I like to use and I alternate them. And I use them on a schedule. (Plantskydd and Deer Out.)

I find some of the other critters harder to deal with but I just try. I will fill holes in tunnels with gravel. I do not use things that will poison other wildlife or domestic animals or humans. And when you put out poisonous baits you have to think about where that bait can travel. If someone in your neighborhood puts out mouse or pest poison, the critter might not expire on their property. What if it travels to your property and your cat or dog plays with it? They can get poisoned from that and die before you even know what is wrong.

So again, patience comes into play. And also don’t remove those garter snakes from your garden. Don’t start feeding foxes people food and pet food. Both of those creatures are natural critter control. Work with nature. Sometimes it takes longer, but I think it’s a better way to be.

Other times people need to come up with a plan before they remove things from their garden. They might not like a certain plant, for example, but perhaps it is performing a service in the garden, like keeping the soil stable. That is why I always encourage people to do a little research on their own. More experienced gardeners can always provide information, and we’re glad to do it, but part of learning to garden is the learning component.

And with gardening you learn by doing. Part of the doing includes your own research. Books, magazines, Pinterest, walking around other people’s gardens to see how they’re doing it. It’s not just crowdsourcing. If you don’t try to do some of the learning you will never learn. I am not being mean by saying that. Gardening is tactile. It is a form of Kinesthetic learning. Hands on experience, literally.

And that is the other thing about gardening. It can bring you the greatest of pleasure. It is so rewarding to be able to connect with nature and dig in the dirt. It’s good for your head, literally. When you garden, you do things like reduce your stress, anxiety, counteract depression. There is this tremendous satisfaction of something you have done yourself. It’s literally therapeutic. Gardening is positive.

Gardening is one of the best things I think you can do for yourself. And that’s hard to articulate to people at times. But the benefits of gardening are in the doing. Gardening groups can offer you all sorts of advice and plant ideas, but at the end of the day best thing you can do is get out there and try. So go dig in the dirt a little today before it rains. You’ll be glad you did.