Lessons from My First Year of Gardening

One of the nice features of my apartment complex is that it’s got small patches of bare ground in front of each unit that residents are encouraged to use for gardening. Before moving in, I’d never grown anything, but I figured it might be fun to raise some vegetables of my own. 

But even the sweetest kohlrabi pales in comparison to the sweetness of the life-changing lessons I learned. For example, there’s no masculine way to wield a watering can. Even the unadorned gunmetal gray can I bought is about as macho as a muumuu. But it also helped me thwart the toxic masculinity that put artificial barriers on what I could do. It forced me to develop the self-possession I needed to carry myself with dignity in all situations, like scrubbing my patio because my compost bin got knocked over for the fourth time this week, presumably by the wind. 

Plus, something about a watering can makes you super-approachable, so it helped me meet my neighbors. Take Renee, the sweet retired lady who lives right across the path. Renee likes to say her family has deep “roots” in the apartment complex. Renee’s mother lived in my unit before she passed away, and she loved gardening too. In fact, she planted those beautiful daylilies I had to pull up to plant my crops. 

In the days after her mother passed, Renee took a lot of comfort in thinking how her mother was up in Heaven, watching the garden she had planted and knowing that she had made the world a bit more beautiful. She’s still watching now, which makes every leaf of spinach that pokes through the ground seem like a sword stabbing her memory in the face.

Speaking of swords, did you know that blades can break human skin with only 2.5 pounds of force? Renee told me that. Before those mean Albanians forced her to retire, she owned a weapon shop. It mainly sold guns, but it also had a room full of knives, scimitars, rapiers, falchions, and katanas. That mix of weaponry cross-pollinated her customer base and really made sales blossom. It’s a lot like how if you want to grow blueberries, you need at least two different varieties to cross-pollinate each other, or the plants just won’t bear fruit. 

Sometimes I think how much more peaceful the world would be if we all realized how much like blueberries we all are.

I didn’t actually harvest any blueberries this year. One day I went out to water them and the bushes were gone, replaced by a note embedded in the soil that read, “I know where you live.”

But despite these tiny missteps, I think I can make the garden work next year. I’ll need to get some better tools, though. I thought my $9.99 shovel was a bargain, but I learned that cheap equipment costs more in the long run. Within thirteen minutes of digging furrows for some carrots, the shovel had crumpled into the unmistakeable shape of Abe Vigoda’s head. And while I always loved Abe for his warmth, talent, and charity work, a metal version of his face is still a frightening image to come crashing through your bedroom window as you’re going to sleep. 

Apparently, somebody didn’t like how I left the shovel behind the fence that marks off my patio. But I’ll make it up to everyone by installing a wind chime that fills the grounds with healing tinkles every time the tiniest breeze blows.

I shouldn’t have any problem with slugs next year, at least. While I’m filled with love for all creatures, I didn’t realize how slimy they are, or how much they like destroying crops. Fortunately, they don’t like salt, and Renee had an extra bucket of the stuff, so she helped me out by dumping it all over my garden. Isn’t that generous? My kohlrabi’s going to be extra-tasty next year!

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