The Eternal Optimism of the Backyard Gardener.

In my mind, I am many things, most of which I won’t share. Because I won’t, so don’t ask.

Of all of those things, I can tell you that one of them is “gardener”. The appellation of “gardener” rests most uneasily, because it really not very true. In fact, it’s not true at all.  As much as I might want it to be the case, I’m really all sweet talk, no action when it comes to putting in a garden, maintaining it, weeding it and watering it. I want all the benefits but none of the work. I want to grow prize-winning tomatoes, but I’m too lazy to stake them. I weed sporadically, usually when I’m on the phone. The only remotely successful thing I’ve (correction: We’ve) ever grown were some green bean plants last summer, which provided us with more green beans than we knew that to do with (I lie: they got turned into pickled green beans and all was right with the world, but I digress). I’m still half-convinced that was a fluke.

Here’s what I do every spring: I always, ALWAYS start every growing season by making a grand plan for the garden. After I’ve decided what I’m going to grow, I fantasize about working in the garden with my boys, teaching them about varietals of flowers, showing them how to pick off the runners on tomato plants. We’ll plant three different types of peppers, twelve herbs, four types of tomatoes, some asparagus, and a full butterfly garden full of indigenous wild flowers. And of course,  it will all fit and grow under the branches of the very large tree in my backyard, whose canopy shades all but a three-by-two foot patch of clay-like soil right at the back of the yard beside where my neighbour keeps her garbage cans.  Won’t it?

Some time in June I’ll buy the best of what’s left at the local garden centre and haphazardly throw it into the soil. By August every year, I have to again face the fact that I’m not really any good at this gardening stuff. I mean, I like it. I know what I’m supposed to do to get the green shoots to keep growing and the pretty things to smell good. I’m just unrealistic about what I can achieve, underwhelmed by how much work I need to do to get even half-way there, and just a bit annoyed that gardening is actually, you know, work, and not just a way to get free tomatoes every night. But that hasn’t stopped me from starting to peruse the seed displays at our local Canadian Tire on my way to work and wondering whether we have enough room to grow watermelons.


6 thoughts on “The Eternal Optimism of the Backyard Gardener.

  1. I related to this post completely. I want to be a good gardner. It’s a quiet solo occupation and it should suit me down to the ground but, the talent i want to have doesn’t reflect in the result of flaked out daisys and natives. I have vowed not to go to the garden center this year and so far I have honoured it. I just have to come to terms with my brown thumb and admire gardening books instead. I am good with books.

  2. Start small? If you do one project this year, make it the construction of a wood-fenced rectangle in which to plant herb seedlings — or one kind of plant. Try some mint seedlings. Mint, if it likes where it is, turns into a rampant “weed”, spreads out to fill whatever area you give it and you will have pots and pots of of fresh mint tea by the end of the summer… Much easier than tomatos and low on the interim maintenance – really just requires a bit of water. Good luck – and it’s all about dreaming anyway. Most of us are destined to live out of the grocery store rather than our garden.

  3. So funny. and I can so relate. I just read This Organic LIfe, about a suburban homesteader and want to grow all my own food, except of course that I basically can’t, for all the reasons you mention. I do want to do something though, like you, with my kids, and I have befriended a gardener neighbour a couple doors down and wonder if my boys can charm him enough to make him want to mentor me/us!


  4. I love this post. At least you’re trying, right! I seem to have the opposite problem (not necessarily the opposite result though!) where I get so annoyed at seeing no greenery through the summer by end of January/early Feb I’m planting seeds knowing that I’ll more likely kill any chances. But I just can’t help it.. now it’s got to the point where I’m starting to forget to water them 😦 Hopefully something will come out of it… eventually, but for now I’m just a girl in a town flat waiting for a garden, and some patience!

    Good luck! I’m also looking wistfully at watermelons and you’ve definitely got more space than I do! Go for it!

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