By Carol Traulsen
I wasn’t born with a green thumb. I grew up in the suburbs and I didn’t begin gardening until I had my son, who is now twenty-three years old. Our first garden was a rented pea patch in a local park when we lived in eastern Washington. I had no idea what I was doing, but a patient friend who was an avid gardener took me under her wing. She helped me select things that were easy to grow and harvest and that would also be of interest to my son. Preschool kids are fascinated by the idea of gardening, but it’s a long time to wait for something to grow and it’s a delicate balance trying to find the right plants to keep their interest. She helped me select plants like Easter egg radishes and purple bush beans. The radishes come in different shapes and colors ranging from white to pink and purple or any combination thereof. The bush beans are dark purple when they grow and turn dark green when dropped into boiling water. I was giddy with the results and have been hooked ever since.
Our current landlord allows us to have raised beds in the side yard. We purchased good soil and spread it on top of the gravel and hard rock that was there. Our garden had been a source of food entertainment, meditation, relaxation, and pride. I’ve learned many lessons through tending the soil and coaxing things to grow. The biggest lesson and one that I am still learning is patience. Each plant has its own timetable for maturity and harvest. You can’t rush it: it is that simple. It helps to have some plants that grow faster, like radishes and zucchini to balance out the wait for the carrots and tomatoes. Life is full of times when you must wait. Find something productive or entertaining to do with the meantime.
Every year is different. Even if the soil and the plants are the same the results won’t be. Last year we had a bumper crop of tomatoes and not a single edible ear of corn. The broccoli and the brussel sprouts didn’t grow well either. Life changes from year to year that’s okay. We have to learn to adapt. I’m still working on this one too.
Celebrate the successes. My husband taught me this one. I was mourning the loss of the squash starts and sunflower sprouts that had been eaten by squirrels when he pointed out that half the garden had sprouted and I should be happy about that instead of crying over six plants.
The therapeutic effect of playing in the dirt can’t be under estimated. I still remember how excited I was the first time I brought home veggies from the rented pea patch. My hair was a mess, my jeans were filthy, and I even had dirt under my nails. My husband took one look at me, laughed, and claimed he’d never seen me happier. I was thrilled something I planted had grown. It had yielded something I could claim credit for. He was right. There is satisfaction in seeing our hard work come to fruition, and sometimes playing in the dirt is just plain fun. I find more joy in it every year.