Not Sow Serious

  • I have been sowing seeds over the past couple of weeks.  Our winter was practically nonexistent in the northeast. We had very little snow and the temperatures did not stay in single digit territory for very long. By mid-March, our soil was easily workable so I decided to get out the garden fork and give the soil a good turning over. The dirt looks really good. When I started my vegetable garden, the dirt was very heavy and full of clay. Over the past few years, I have added a lot of compost and organic matter. This was the first year where I didn’t feel like I had to add too much. It’s absolutely full of earth worms which is extremely delightful for the robin family that seems to have taken up residence nearby. It’s also delightful for my gardening efforts. I have refrained from using pesticides in my gardens. I can see how it is tempting to people because it is very frustrating to have bugs eat up your plants that you’ve worked so hard to grow. However, as I get more and more into this hobby of gardening, I seem to be more interested in how these little ecosystems work than I am interested in growing the vegetables themselves. I find it more exciting to try methods like companion planting than simply spraying. I guess I’d ask, what’s the point in that? It seems like taking the easy way out and without getting on too much of a soap box, it ultimately creates more problems because you kill off the very bugs that help improve your soil and so on. There are plenty of organic ways to chase off pests and it’s pretty fun to figure it out. Of course, we all define fun a little differently. I would sure hate to consider gardening a chore because it does require a lot of work and a sort of “go with it” attitude.

    I titled this post, “Not Sow Serious” because I am finding that this is my gardening mantra and it’s starting to affect other areas of my life. Have you noticed how competitive life can be? I belong to an age group that includes many young parents. Many of us are college educated, thirty-somethings that have kids ranging from newborn to five years old. The common goal is to do the best job with parenting that we can but somehow the execution gets lost in insecurity and just plain old competitiveness. It seems like from the minute you are pregnant until well, forever, you are inundated with advice, questions, and well, judgment. How long did you breastfeed? Is your kid doing this yet? Where is he going to school? Etc, etc… Of course our children are a reflection of our parenting efforts but I strive to raise my kids as individuals. I would never want my own identity to be so wrapped up in theirs that they are doing things to make me look like a better parent. My kids are very young-  Olivia is almost 2 and Gavin will be 5 in the fall. My number one goal right now is providing them with a fun childhood. I’m not concerned about teaching them to read earlier than their peers or speak a foreign language. I don’t care if they play competitive sports. They both love books and being read to and they do love playing ball. All of this will work itself out, simply because it will. Kids learn to read. Their talents and interests present themselves and we’ll nurture them accordingly. But for now I find myself wondering, what happened to telling your kids to just go play? Why is everything so scheduled and planned? Why do we feel like our kids have to have a competitive edge even before starting elementary school? It’s funny because having kids actually brought the silliness back into my life. I used to take myself a lot more seriously. Having a successful career was hugely important. While I am still striving to find balance in all of this, I am really enjoying the time I have to just play and have fun. I would hate to think I could possibly rob the silliness from their lives because we’re so concerned with making them more successful than everyone else. If we are too focused on an end goal, whether it’s getting your kid into an Ivy League school, or growing the town’s largest pumpkin or roses without aphids, we miss out on all the quirky bits along the way.

    Playing and having fun should be why people garden if it’s not for the sole purpose of growing food. Yet, I suspect that there are plenty of people out there that aren’t having fun because they feel like they’ll be judged if their garden isn’t perfectly weeded or planted in a uniform order. I remember getting so frustrated when I planted my first garden because I couldn’t get my lines of seeds just right. This year I have to laugh because I truly don’t remember where I planted what. I planted some various greens, carrots, and brussel sprouts but did not take the time to mark them. I am starting to decipher the seedlings as they pop up. I have spotted where I accidentally dropped my package of butterhead lettuce seeds because there is a clump of about 50 seedlings that need thinning! Whoops! Once you realize that it is your space to plant and play, you’ll enjoy gardening so much more. A package of seeds is inexpensive and yields a lot more entertainment (and nourishment) than buying transplants. I plant almost all of my vegetables and herbs from seed with the exception of peppers, tomatoes, and those that require a little more assistance than simply sowing them in the dirt. While it is less instant gratification, I feel more connected to the process and it is more enjoyable. You have a lot more variety to choose from and there is less pressure if a plant dies because you just sow another seed. When I eventually build a greenhouse, I will likely grow all of my plants from seed. One more note on seeds: while the seed packages state they expire, I have been using packages year after year with great success. I’m sure some of the seeds die off but you’ll figure that out pretty quickly. Another great option is to have a seed party and exchange with friends for more variety.

    When I sat down to write this post, I had intended to simply write about the greens I planted. I realize I never even got to those specifics. I don’t know what got me on the tangent of parenting and am not sure you’ll follow my train of thought. I’m not going to delete it, though. We all need to take ourselves less seriously. If you want to start a garden but have been intimated to do so, go buy a package of seeds. Plant some lettuce in the middle of your flower bed and see what happens. If you enjoy it, make a raised bed and plant some more. When picking up your kid from school, and another parent asks you how high your kid can count, answer and then take your kid to the park. Smile when he counts, “21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 20-11, 28” Gavin always thinks 7 is 11. Goofball.

     


    March 26th, 2012 | girl has thyme | 4 Comments |

4 Responses and Counting...

  • Missy 03.26.2012

    Great post, Jenny. You would’ve been proud of me the first time I set out to garden in my condo. I had no idea what I was doing but I picked a few things I wanted to try on my porch – peas, squash, tomatoes and peppers – and went for it. And it went well! I’m currently making a plan for my new garden space…but can’t decide where to put stuff! Love your thoughts on parenting too. I think creative play, imagination and definitely silliness is just as important as (or more so than) book smarts.

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    girl has thyme Reply:

    Glad to hear you are planning a garden at your new house! Are you going to do raised beds or dig into the ground?

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  • Wonderful post, as usual, jenny! I’ve always loved math and can never remember what 7 x 8 equals so if gavin thinks 7 is 11 he’s in company with gramma! I love your philosophy about children and gardening. The structure some parents put their kiddos into at very young ages always astounds me. Maybe it’s changed but i remember ed classes that said a child learning to read at 3 or 4 has no advantage over a child who learns a few years later…maybe that’s not true now but pushing pushing pushing just seems wrong. Kids playing is their work and definitely their right! Reading IS super important, but being read to, learning to love books and seeing their parents read will lead to that

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  • This is my favorite post you’ve written so far! Everyone should take your advice and take life a little less seriously and focus on having more fun! I plan to apply your technique to my summer garden and to my parenting (when that day comes)!

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