Twenty years ago, I didn’t know the difference between annuals and perennials (hint: the former dies off each year, the latter returns), or how to grow vegetables. Twenty years ago, I was newly married, saving up to buy our first house, a fixer-upper that would exhaust most of our (very limited) time and money. Plaster and lathe, exposed wires, and vintage linoleum, oh my.
But the joy and wisdom that came from cultivating my own little garden? Abundant.
Fast forward to this January, when I’m happily inundated with seed catalogs that arrive by the handful. I’m busy drawing up new crop rotation plans, and since putting last year’s beds to rest, I’ve been scheming how to grow even more plants in a smaller yard. These days, I’m the parent of a tween and I’m also fantasizing about the next season of my own life; hopefully, my days of major remodels are behind me.
Time moves fast. Likely we can each count equal measures of success and failure (aka “learning opportunities”) from the past decade – if your assessment ends up imbalanced, take a closer look. Don’t skip the little moments, like showing up for those you love (including yourself!). Surviving tough experiences. Sometimes, what looks like failure is only the first half of an unfolding story. Sometimes, the roots of success aren’t visible above ground.
As a gardener, I’ve always appreciated the many opportunities to start again – to adjust, experiment, and play, throughout each new year. The leafminer insects that decimated a good portion of my chard last spring? I’ll be sure to plant all Amaranthaceae family in another bed, and diligently apply row covers. Those beautiful heirloom tomatoes, down in my bottom garden? My best yield yet, even if many didn’t ripen. Onward and upward, to a more suitable growing space in 2020!
Certainly, things won’t go perfectly even with our best efforts (for example, I’ve yet to achieve a respectable crop of Brussel sprouts, over a period of three years). However, we’re sure to know more than when we started. Such is our reality in the garden, and in the rest of our lives. As UK gardening expert Monty Don said: “Don’t try to get it right every time. Just try and do it…”
Here’s another fresh take on learning as we go, from the late, great Maya Angelou:
Right now, I’m gazing out the window at my barren garden. I imagine bushels of ripe tomatoes, rows of smiling sunflowers, a bowl of fresh, leafy greens. I dare to dream. A garden fuels hope, even in the darkest days. In those unplanted beds, anything is possible. I can’t wait to dig in.
New Year’s resolutions, too, call for an equal dose of hope, inspiration, and advance planning. A season to lie fallow, if you will; a period of reflection and contemplation.
What do I want to grow, and why? What are my current conditions? What are my strengths and potential obstacles? How hard am I willing to work? How much time, money, or effort can I spend?
Maybe in 2020 we can all start out a little more slowly, and allow our aspirations for the coming year to grow into skillful action over time.