My garden is in ruins. The soil here is poorer than I expected. Next year it’ll be truckloads of manure and wood chips, trying to get a little less sandy of a texture in the soil, better water retention and better quality. Right now everything is dying, between the heat and how quickly the soil dries. Not that the garden ever produced as much as I’d hoped, anyway. We only got a few pounds of tomatoes off of most of the plants, It was a serious disappointment. Part of me is bitter. I put in all of that work for what? Some spaghetti squash and green beans (the only things that seemed to produce with any kind of fervency.) I feel cheated. Cheated!
I look at the ruins of the garden, my little kingdom, dying off bit by bit like the Roman Empire.
I grumble and curse.
Then I remember that I have learned so much. I’ve learned about gardening in the Steppe, which is so very different from gardening in the Midwest. I’ve learned about what kinds of things I can expect to flourish here (beans, squash, corn, hardy tomatoes) and what I can expect to wither and die at the first sign of summer heat (peas and lettuce will never do well here, spinach has a short but boisterous growing season). I have learned to water in the early hours of the morning. I’ve learned to bury my compost to keep the neighbor dogs out of it. I’ve learned that the stakes and tomato cages that worked in the Midwest WILL warp and give way here. I’ve learned that I can start my seeds indoors even earlier than I expected, and that when I plant I need to cover EVERYTHING EXCESSIVELY will bird netting. EXCESSIVELY. My melons produced nada, nothing, zip. But it is because the birds stole the shoots and I had to replant 12 weeks after the original seeds had germinated- those 12 weeks stole my chance at fruit. Next year I will not let that happen. I’ll keep my tomatoes indoor longer and force germinate them to start out with, and I will stake those puppies in hand knotted hammocks nailed to two-by-fours. They will NOT have half their fruit rotting from being on the hot soil. I’ll plant a lot more eggplant so I see a better chance at getting some fruit off them. I’ll fall in love with more varieties of beans.
The garden next year will be bigger. Bigger. A better chance of enough of it surviving my learning curve, a better chance at produce.
Yesterday I was talking to a classmate who confessed to feeling like she’d started out this school year behind. “I’m failing at everything!” She was gritting her teeth in exasperation.
“You need to give yourself permission to fail,” I said, commiserating. “Accept where you are now so you can move on from it. Accept, and keep fighting. Don’t despise yourself and give up.” Our teacher, eavesdropping rather obviously, had a knowing smile.
Ah, yes. Yes. I realized just seconds later that I was speaking to myself, too.
I need to accept where my garden is right now, accept the lessons it has taught me, and move on. I need to plan for success and accept the failures and just keep going.
Because that is life. Bitterness that life has cheated us is just thinly disguised rejection of the true gifts it has to offer.
Having God say, “Hells to the No,” is an answer to prayer, too.
And brown, withering corn produces the wisdom to plant it lower in the ground next year, where the water will pool better around the roots.
Scrawny, underproductive melon vines produce the knowledge to plant them where they have room to spread.
It all matters, even the failures.
Sometimes, especially the failures.
Sometimes the biggest learning comes in the ruins.