growth

Growing as A Garden

Have you ever seen anything more beautiful than a field of wildflowers?   Have you ever driven along a country highway, struck by nature, overwhelmed with the sudden urge to pull off the road and simply enjoy?

Okay, this does happen a LOT in Wyoming, where the mere glimpse of wildlife can send your brake pedal crashing to the floor (hopefully that’s the only thing crashing), but I find a field of wildflowers can stop me in my tracks.   Much safer, too.   Moose and buffalo can be so unpredictable.

But here in Florida, there are no enormous animals to consider, so long as you stay out of the water, only flowers distract you from the roadsides, filling the landscape with the breath of spring. Winter has eased its pinch, warm days and cool nights fill out the month of April. I used to think fall was my favorite season, but now, I’m second guessing that notion.

My garden is chock full of new plantings, my backyard is covered in wildflowers (seeds scattered by myself and the kids years ago but now completely self-proliferating). My jasmine is bursting with blossoms.  Bees literally follow me from garden to jasmine, jasmine to garden. I have blueberries out there and the bees love them as much as they love jasmine!

Throughout my daily travels, it occurs to me that life is in full swing.   The birds and the bees are doing their thing — the birds choosing to “take” from the fruit of my labors (read blueberries) where the bees tend to “give.”  But they’re instinctual little beasts and do as they were born to do.

Much like my sweet children.  As they grow, it’s becoming more and more apparent I will be walking down the path of most resistance, lurking in their shadows as they struggle through adolescence.  Teen boys have it no easier than girls, mind you.

They want to blend in.

They want to be like their friends.

Unlike our conversations of the past, where “standing out from the crowd” and “being your own person” were concepts they embraced, I now see the threads of homogeneous thought weaving silently through their minds.

Sure, it’s okay if that kid’s different, but not me.  Not you.

We can’t be different.  We can’t be unique.  No, no.

“Mom, you’re embarrassing me.”

“Mom, whatever you do, don’t say anything to Coach.”

“Mom, you’re not funny.”

“I’m not?”  I glance around my person, as though expecting to find a lifeline tossed my way.   “Are you sure?”   I plant my hands on my hips.   “You used to think it was fun when I honked at you on the playground, or waved at you during class.” I paused, glancing around the yard.   “Or danced in our field of wildflowers…”

Groan, grunt, grimace.  Arms flail as they reply in unison, “Not anymore.”

Not anymore, I murmur under my breath, then drop my gaze to the ground. Not anymore.

Lifting my head, I look at them more closely.  All legs and arms, long and lanky, smart as whips and filled with attitude I realize, No, I imagine not.  It’s easy to see you’re growing up (way too fast) and duly falling into line with your peers.  I know you can see the beauty in this field as well as I can, but you’re focused on the reds and pinks, the subtle blend of harmony they create when clustered together.

Those little white flowers over there…   Where you can appreciate them, you don’t want to be them.

I understand.  It’s normal.  From the classroom to the playground and everywhere in between, kids are sensitive to the shades of gray.   They’re not ready to stand up to that kind of scrutiny.

Yes, I totally understand.  But as I immerse myself in the gift of spring, this once a year treat, this glorious field of diverse color, I realize the effect is mostly lost upon our youth.  Where I see a gorgeous palette of subtle blends, I also delight in zeroing in on the standouts.  They leap out at me.

But I’m an adult. I’ve had years of practice shrugging off the pressure from my peers, the insatiable need to blend in.  I’m okay being known as the Crazy Garden Lady.  No longer requiring the validation of strangers, the safety of similar, I can dance with abandon.

With time, my kids will get there, too.  Once they’ve had the chance to develop their own identity. It’s okay. I get that not everyone wants to be the Crazy Garden Lady (though I can’t imagine why not.  Think of the fun they’re missing out on!). But one day they’ll come to terms with themselves and see this field as I do; beautiful in bits and pieces, as well as a whole, weeds, bare spots and all.

Carrot Balls?

I always talk about soft dirt. Plants like soft dirt. And I worked very hard to make my carrot bed very soft. However, something has gone awry. My carrots look comfy and cozy in their raised beds…

row of carrots

But alas, when I harvested them this weekend, a few did not fill out as intended.

carrot balls

They look more like carrot balls than finely-tapered carrots! ACK. Ugh. The trials of gardening. I don’t have an answer for this one. Carrots right next to them were beautiful. These were stunted. Cute, but stunted. No worries! I’m going to chop them all in my Cuisinart and make a lovely carrot cake.

light and fluffy slice

At that point, no one will care one iota about their shape when they came out of the ground. Ta-da! Gorgeous, isn’t it? Fluffiest Carrot Cake ever!

Tired of Weeding?

My kids are, most definitely. Me, too. With a garden 40 ft. X 100 ft. the weeds can get a bit crazy. I’ve instituted the use of heavy black paper to cover by beds between plantings, which cuts down on the time spent pulling those rascally weeds, but what about the beds where I’m actively growing?

They still need weeding. The solution? Corn gluten. It’s all-natural and the perfect organic solution to weed prevention–prevention being the key word.

Corn gluten meal contains naturally occurring substances which inhibit the growth of the seed’s tiny feeder roots. This causes the weed seedlings to die before their roots ever have a chance to become established. Also, many products sold on the market contain nitrogen, which makes them a good fertilizer, too. Best of all, corn gluten is safe for children and pets.

corn gluten

The only downside is the solution doesn’t come cheap. A 25 lb. bag will run you around $35 and you must apply liberally to gain the full effect, as shown above. You could even stand to apply heavier than I’ve done, but you get the idea. Liberally means a lot. However, this stuff works.

So if you have established plants in your garden, weed the area well and then sprinkle corn gluten around them as a weed preventer. If they’re only seedlings, I’d wait a bit, continuing to pull weeds by hand until the plants are of decent size. I once had a batch of okra and although I didn’t apply the corn gluten very close to the babies, it still worked to prevent their growth. 🙁

Look forward to hearing about YOUR experience!

New Year’s Resolutions

This year I plan to be more productive.  This month I plan to lose the holiday weight gain.  This week I plan to relax.  (Why not, it’s freezing outside and most of the garden is dormant, anyway — read: dead — including the weeds, so there’s not much to do.)  Today I plan to write.

Wow.  I feel better already!  Talk about productive, I’ve set a plan, followed it for a full week now…why, I’ll have this resolution thing down pat in no time!  Yes si-ree-bob,  I’m on my way. 

 To where, you might ask?  Well, now, wait a minute.  Glancing about my office, I don’t see it.  “Wait–hold on,” I say, with a finger held high.  “I know it’s around here somewhere.”

Maybe the kitchen.  I do seem to spend a lot of time there.  Perhaps I left it with my “to do” pile on the counter by the sink.  I know, I know, my husband told me.  “Don’t put anything next to the sink you don’t want wet.”  Tell me later.  I’ve got a list of resolutions to find!

Ever stop and wonder why we put ourselves through it?  Why we bother conjuring up these grandiose ideas in the first place?  I think the answer is growth.  Much like our plants (we’re talking perennial in nature here, not those annual types where you have to yank them out by their roots after only one season – I mean, what kind of waste is that?  After all my hard work?  Those babies better stay in the ground, as long as possible!).

But I digress.  Back to the issue at hand, I believe we seek growth, just like our plants.  All the better, if our caretaker prunes us, feeds us, and generally tends to our well being. 

Unfortunately in my case, I am my caretaker, so the occasional lapse can be expected, although lists do help in this regard.  If only I could reliably find the thing, I’d be in business.  Big business!  As it stands, I struggle.  Every year, there seems to be something else I need to improve.  And I thought I was making so much progress

But maybe that’s the point.  Progress.  Growth.  Steadily moving ourselves forward, upward, in an effort to reach our greatest heights.  It may be our habits we want to change, or perhaps our outlook, but whatever the goal, it seems to me a clipping back of the dead weight (too much pumpkin pie, in my case) will allow for new growth; the beauty for which we strive, blooming to life from the inside out.  

We nurture our blossoms until they’re fresh and full (Blossoms, not bottoms.  Am I harping?  Go ahead, add it to the list.).  I mean, if we don’t, isn’t it we who suffer?  We who lose the beautiful palette of color in our lives, or the decadent fragrance which escalates our senses, carrying away our imagination on the wings of a glorious spring breeze?

Sort of like an old hedge, left to her own device.  Over time, dead spots can form, growth can be stunted.  In some cases, if the hedge plants herself in the right spot, she can grow wild, maybe even full, but not all growth is healthy.  Without proper attention, it can become host to disease—disease which could have been prevented with a spritz of attention, or cured with an ounce of diligence.

A rose will never reach her full potential without a yearly pruning.  And how about Grand Oaks?  Without proper thinning, they can become over-stressed, thereby susceptible to stormy weather.  Even our vegetables.  Without proper clipping, their production can be greatly diminished, thereby reducing the harvest.

It makes sense we women need the same.  So this year, I say:  embrace the change.  Make those resolutions, write them down (on a list, you know exactly where to find) and follow through to the best of your ability. 

No one’s perfect.  That’s what makes us special; human.  We all have the ability to grow, a challenge that incites action, stirs our very heart and soul, and leads us to a future of abundance and prosperity.

Let’s do it!  And welcome in the New Year and a new dawn. 

(But don’t dilly-dally.  After you’ve rested, pack your bag – we’re going gardening!)

BTW:  I found my list.  It was under my Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, right next to the notes for my next novel.  Like I said, this is going to be a productive year!