Encouragement for the Hesitant Gardener
I. Am. A. Planner. I love mapping out, researching, sketching etc. These activities are so enjoyable that they can feel like the adventure itself —like getting lost in a good book. But even the traversing reader knows that they’ll still be in their seat when the book is closed. And I know that after I’ve mapped the “perfect” plan, I haven’t actually gone anywhere or done a thing.
No dis to good research. It’s an invaluable tool; as is any knowledge that helps us reach goals. But when planning and research keep us in our seats instead of on our feets, it’s time to back away from the color-coded lists. I get it. “What do I grow? What if it dies? Do I have enough space? We need a lot of supplies. I should budget for supplies!” Classic over-thinker.
Admittedly, my garden plans started with more fretting than is probably warranted for seeds and dirt. But one Saturday morning, it clicked. Planting seasons aren’t indefinite. It was a “start now or sit out the season” ultimatum. After a single google search for what to plant now, I was off to the nursery. The Queen of Planning Procrastination chose to do something that was time sensitive. Oh the irony.
The beauty of gardening is that there are windows for planting, and days allotted for growing that have nothing to do with our readiness.
It imposes nature’s timing into our schedules vs. yielding to our calendars. I don’t know about you; but my schedule needed to be interrupted/imposed upon by nature. It’s a like a gentle shove off the hamster wheel of business. Being outside (even in our small, alley-facing yard) breathing deep, mixing compost into cool soil, and the excitement of finding seeds creeping up is restorative. Then there are times when the exertion of working outdoors is a fantastic stress reliever.
Honestly, even when it isn’t a stress-relieving, restorative pastime —because everything seems to be wilting or dead— there are still empowering benefits. When we set out to grow food and flowers, we’re really deciding to learn how to grow food and flowers. There aren’t a fixed set of instructions that guarantee relative success. So, we are giving our minds new challenges, gaining new skills, and broadening our base of experience. This actually improves brain function, can increase longevity and the fluency with which we form connections between ideas. So even if we don’t haul in mounds of produce, our brains grow and our hearts are happier. ...That’s exciting! What are you waiting for?
I still research, plan, and fret a little more than I should. However, I also procrastinate less and move more in nature’s time. I’ve learned new things and resurrected some knowledge that I thought I would "never need" (Bio & Chem, here’s looking at you.) So regardless of how much grew or died in my first season, all of the personal gain counts as a win.
If you’re hesitant to start because of unpredictable outcomes, or you're caught in a planning loop, just go for it. Get your hands in the dirt even while you don’t know what you’re doing. As a teacher, the garden will not disappoint. And one way or another, something good will grow.