I used to think the worst chore in the world was helping Daddy with his garden, so now, using the rule of what goes around, comes around, I’ve decided this is the year I’ll make a garden of my own.
All these years, I’ve had the tiny required Southern lady small containers of tomatoes, a few zucchini vines (a few is all you need), herbs and flowers, but this year, I’m ready to jump in and make it a real garden.
I estimate I’ll need to buy or rent a tiller to break up the hard ground, or else construct above ground beds of some sort. Seeds, plants, a compost area, water hoses, trellises, and a cute scarecrow. To transport all these things home, I told my husband I’ll probably need a truck. Nothing new or fancy, just an old vintage apple red Ford — Pinterest worthy, should do the trick. Then, I’ll need a few gardening outfits, to match the truck, of course. And on the chance Rhett examines my hands and declares I look like a field hand, I’ll need to schedule a few manicures.
My estimate is that by July, I’ll be eating a fresh, homegrown tomato that only cost me about $25 and an ear of corn that soaked up about $12 worth of materials.
Southerners are linked to our rural past and remember feasting on summertime suppers of fresh homegrown vegetables with a wedge of buttery cornbread. My own granddaddy was a county agent, and several of his brothers taught agriculture at universities with one being a specialist in irrigation. But even with all that farming heritage, I think the main reason I finally want a garden of my own is because I’ve noticed and have begun to admire the amazing personal qualities in every farmer or serious gardener I’ve ever met.
There’s no need for a self-help book this summer, because in addition to tasty produce, farming on a large scale or nurturing a tiny backyard plot gives us plenty of life lessons in both personal and spiritual development. Planting a garden cultivates both food and good character.
A gardener is an optimist who is trained in the art of noticing details. Awaiting the first sign of tiny green shoots pushing through the ground, they find joy in the small things. Flashy shows and noisy crowds can be fun, but gardeners also find beauty and entertainment in the clouds floating by or the sound of crunching of gravel under their tires.
Farming develops the rare and needed characteristic of patience. Waiting for seeds to sprout, and food to ripen are vivid lessons in waiting, watching and dreaming. Learning to plan ahead and anticipate problems is developed based on past successes and failures.
Those who garden understand the truth that although pruning seems severe and painful, it results in better and more beautiful fruit — both on the vine and in our lives.
Seeing the miracle of creation unfold in front of them, gardeners value the artistry and fragility of life and understand that living things require special care. When storms ravage the fields, there’s time for sorrow, but also the knowledge that new growth is always possible. “For everything there is a season” is a lesson relearned every day.
Knowing the best ways to outsmart thieving critters who want to steal the literal fruits of their labor demonstrates the protective nature of the farmer which spills over to other areas of their lives where they also protect and care for their tools, equipment, families and all things they value.
For the next few months, as I toil in the humidity and pull weeds, I’ll try to soak up the lessons growing in front of me, and if I end up spending hundreds of dollars to harvest one beautiful tomato, then I suppose the lesson I’ve learned, is that it isn’t as easy as it looks, and perhaps I should support my local farmer’s market instead. “And there’s no way you’re getting a truck” he said.
This story first appeared in the Press-Register, Birmingham News, Huntsville Times and Mississippi Press. Click HERE to see it on AL.com