In the August/September issue of Organic Gardening there was an article called “The Five Truths about Gardening” by Maria Rodale.  Her articles can always be found on the very last page labeled: “Maria’s Page” and I look forward to them every issue.  When I wrote about going barefoot in the garden, her article inspired it.  Once again her ideas about gardening speak to me.

When I read the title I thought, “You can narrow it down to only 5 truths?  We will see about that.”

1.  You will lose tools.  2.  Your body might feel stiff.  3.  Something will surprise you.  4.  You will confront your fears and gain confidence.                            5.  Nature always wins.                                                                                                                                        

After I finished reading I concluded, “Yep, that about covers it.”  Then I thought about how these truths have played a role in my life as a gardener.

1.  You will lose tools.  I am always losing garden tools.  I thought this was something I encountered more than others because at times I can be absentminded.  However, after working with some of my clients I have been there when they have stumbled upon a lost tool, “So that’s where that is!  I have been looking for that everywhere!” or they are in search of one that is missing, “Now I know I just had those gloves the other day!  Where could they be?”.  I then realized this is just part of gardening.

I actually bought a new trowel after losing the one my mother gave me 13 years ago (more like borrowed it from the garage and then took it with me when I moved out), but then a couple of months later found my old one hidden in the shade garden.  Coincidentally my favorite pruners are missing now, but if the past has taught me anything it’s that they will turn up eventually.

2.  Your body might feel stiff.  On many occasions my body has most definitely felt “stiff” after garden work.  Although, sometimes things have gone way past just “stiff”.  I have had plenty of injuries in my gardening years, but here are the top two.

They both occurred while I was in college working on campus.  We greenhouse workers were required to mix our own soil.  This involved loading the Gator (like a 4 wheeler, but with storage) with large 7 gallon containers full of bark then standing on the Gator dumping out the bark into the soil mixer.  Then we would add the other ingredients (perlite, lime, etc) and hit the “ON” button to mix the soil.  On the bottom of the mixer was an opening, which is where we would refill the 7 gallon containers with the mixed soil and then dump that into extremely large trash cans.  Similar to the ones the janitors use at the mall and push around the food court.  Then with these trash cans completely full of soil, I would have to push them back to the greenhouse, which was not exactly nearby.  I got strong enough to push two at a time (one in front of me, one behind me) because one less trip is worth the effort.  We went through a lot of soil, so we did this often.  One day I was standing at the potting bench when I felt my left cheek (not the one on my face) suddenly have a piercing pain go straight down my leg.  I’m sure many of you have already guessed the problem.  My sciatic nerve was inflamed.  That was almost 7 years ago.  I still have it from time to time, but with the help of yoga it is less.

On the campus there was a beautiful large garden that was always in need of fresh mulch.  I have spread enough mulch for 3 lifetimes.  This makes you want to finish as quickly as possible.  I was using a pitchfork to spread mulch underneath a Redbud tree that was not yet tall enough to walk under.  I should have been on my knees using my hands, but instead I was crouching underneath this tree straining my back.  Then it happened…I had a sharp pain in my back on the right side.  It hurt so much I had to drop the pitchfork.      I could not work in that garden for at least a week or two. I couldn’t even weed.  After laying on the floor for days and visiting my massage therapist twice in a one week in a half, the pain finally went away.

3.  Something will surprise you.  I think this may be what makes gardening a lifelong hobby.  It’s what brings me to my garden every day.  I want to see what new things can be discovered.  Sometimes it is a new flower, a bird call I’ve never heard before, or even a turtle sunbathing in the grass.  I have a dish set with flowers and garden tools on them and it reads “Nature gives us the variety we crave.”

4.  You will confront your fears and gain confidence. Just like everyone else I have been intimidated by gardening.  When my husband and I start laying out the cottage garden in the front yard, I usually get this look on my face that says I am feeling out of my league.  I think, “This is a huge space!  Am I really going to create a garden this big?” One day I asked if we should use the entire area, and he said to me, “Are you doubting yourself?”  As a matter of fact I do, all the time, but I do it anyway.  I have made many mistakes, however, I learn and eventually get it right.  It is always worth the wait.

5.  Nature always wins. I wish more people understood this concept.  Trying to control nature is ridiculous.  A landscape that is perfectly neat and organized is not what I desire or want to see.  There is no need to panic when you see a few holes on a leaf.  You will never entirely get rid of slugs.  They will be there no matter what you do.  The weeds will always come back.  If you can’t get to them right away, no big deal.  When I see a manicured lawn, I see a control freak who probably does not enjoy nature very much or maybe even life.  The best gardens are those that have love put into them.  You can tell the difference.

Before I sign off for now, I would like to leave you with the recent surprises I have found in my garden.

Blue Sky Vine…

Cassia Tree…

Summer Snapdragon…

Louis Philippe Rose…

Gernaium ‘Rozanne’…

Buds of Bolivian Sunflower…

Rosebud Sage…

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