You are the brilliant process of creating beautiful gardens and healthy vegetable crops, but one that takes much effort, luck, and fine tuning. As with everything in life, you summon a lot of hits and misses.
Gardening has become a yearly routine for me over the past few years. Since we moved to the burbs, we now actually have real yard space instead of a four by four patch of grass. And now that the kids are older, I can actually redirect my motherly duties and extend services beyond my own offspring to that of species in the kingdom Plantae.
Where we live, plants come alive beginning March (if we're lucky) and go into hibernation around October, after which is it just as bleak, wintry, and lifeless as can be. That is perhaps why we take advantage of the warmer weather by diving into outdoor activities and focusing on cultivating our yards and gardens.
People who know me know that I strive to have a green thumb. Last year, I received a gardening tote with tools as a gift. This year, I received many types of ready-to-plant bulbs, young plants, and young flowering trees as gifts. I also got a shiitake mushroom log that will grow mushrooms for 3 to 4 years. And I even snagged a handsome handmade gardening box--on legs so I don't have to bend over--for vegetable gardening in my backyard as a gift (how awesome is that?). Needless to say, now that it's May and warm, I'm ready to cultivate.
So it seems the rest of the world had the exact same idea as I did this past weekend: go to Home Depot. I went there to buy all my Bonnie potted vegetables ready to go into the soil (because I'm not with it enough to start from seed early in the spring). It is probably because it was the hottest day of the this entire month, and the heat prompted people to think about the beautiful plants and flowers that thrive in the summer. Man, the store was so crowded. I picked out my herbs, vegetable plants, annual flowers, and even a perennial bush while I perspired through my shirt and dripped sweat down my face. Dear Daughter and Dear Son were ever so patient in the heat. DD helped me pick out the prettier geranium color, and DS had only one request: he wanted to plant corn. Since there was no Bonnie potted corn, we bought seeds. All I can say is I wish myself luck with that.
Last month, I received a variety of bulbs, berry plants, jasmine, olive, and flowering potted trees in the mail as gifts. I did the best that I could potting them into what I had available at home. The dozen or so strawberry plants went into a large pot with enough potting soil for the time being until I could find a better home for them. They immediately began to grow and sprouted beautiful green leaves, but I knew that they were spaced too close to each other and I needed to replant them, fast. After some research, I bought a strawberry planter, and very gingerly dug the roots out and transplanted them into the strawberry pot. (Picture a well-intentioned and gloved horticulture surgeon at work.) A few days later, all the new sprouts wilted, one by one. Imagine the horror and frustration for me. I'd like to believe it when people tell me that the plants will regrow themselves as long as the roots are buried. But I'm so not hopeful that I bought another Bonnie potted strawberry plant just so that my strawberry planter won't be barren and make me feel guilty about all strawberry plants that I killed.
I also planted the bulbs that came in the mail according to the instructions, but none of them have grown the width of one hair. They're just buried in the soil, dormant, or dead for all I know. Thank goodness the rest of the plants that came in the mail are thriving well, or, at least, not dying. To further illustrate my streak of bad luck, I had bought a beautiful potted hydrangea plant back in April and planted it in our yard on Earth Day. Unexpectedly, the low temperature of the very next night was all of 28 degrees. Fahrenheit. Within a few days, all the blue and purple delicate flowers turned brown and the green leaves wilted. It looked as sorry as neglected and decapitated dolls all sprawled on the wasting ground. So much for celebrating Earth Day.
To watch a live bulb do nothing is disappointing. To watch a live plant die leaf by leaf, flower by flower, plant by plant is devastating. The amount of time I stooped down to seek new green sprouts on those strawberry plants and
But it seems like my thumb cannot make up its mind what color to be. I've had great success caring for my orchids. I have the most beautiful rose bushes on my street because I take the time to prune them a few times a year. I grew tomatoes and parsley in my backyard to supply ingredients in the salads we eat at home. The tulip bulbs I planted last fall unearthed into the most gorgeous beauties, much beyond what I could have ever imagined. And the annual flowers I plant each year flourish all throughout the summer. So it's not like I don't have success with plants. So.
The thing with cultivating a garden is that much of it depends on past experience, some luck, and a whole lotta trial and error. I hauled home five large bags of potting soil for my garden box, and bought herbs, greens, string beans, and peppers, and I just did the best I could given what I know about spacing, placement, and sun requirements. I've no idea how they will grow, and only time will tell. Besides the herbs, I don't even know what the grown vegetable plants will look like, much less how they will bear fruit. I could Google it, but finding out firsthand is one of the most fascinating things about cultivating the vegetable garden (of course, until I run into a problem of some sort). Watching them 'do their thang' will be like watching my tulips sprout, bloom, and wilt earlier this spring; and like a little kid doing something for the first time, I was so excited. And that will give me the knowledge of their life cycle for the next season and beyond.
Whatever does not work this year will get another try next year. In fact, I already have grand(er) plans for next year. I'm going to rip up some grassy area for more planting space. I'm going to start from seeds early, right around spring break. I'm going to have a better idea of what can go into the garden box and what should go into the ground. And I'll know what variety of tomatoes will grow well. For me, the most fascinating thing about caring for plants is that all they need are sunlight, water, and perhaps some plant food or good soil, and they will keep growing and bearing fruit all on their own. Each day there is a change, a measurable growth. Each growth adds to the cultivation of my mind about the natural stages of plant growth and knowledge required for successful gardening.
Now that I know better, I write a note to self for future reference: do not plant in the ground until after Mother's Day, and never transplant anything with thin, fibrous roots. And although I'm not holding my breath for new strawberry plant leaves, I do see brand new buds on my half-dead hydrangeas. There is still hope left in them yet!
So, Cultivation, whether for a beautiful garden or a young mind, you're one in the same. You require patience, work, prior knowledge, and a great deal of experimentation to get it right. You present failures in order to meet success; you demand effort in order to bear fruit. You are indeed an enigma: one that makes me want to get better results with each trial. If nothing, won't you help me sprout a corn plant for DS? We even have the perfect spot picked out for it already. We just sowed the seeds yesterday, so will you work your magic for us, pretty please?