Lessons Gardening Teaches

Today was almost a repeat of yesterday. It wasn’t as warm, so I did errands in the morning instead of working outside, visited with a friend who stopped by, and then I picked up where I left off yesterday. Come to think of it, I started at the same time I finished yesterday, which is one of those tidbits that only interests me.

Before the clouds came and darkened the day, I managed to finish feeding and watering my lawn as well as water all the garden areas I didn’t get to yesterday. I visited with a neighbor, then came inside and collapsed.

We’re going into a slightly cooler time, which is good. I am sore and can use the respite.

Despite the hard work, it was fun being outside, and even more fun being able to show off all the plants that are starting to come in. Best of all, it gave me a chance to see the yard from a different perspective. I get so caught up with things that didn’t work out, such as the areas where the grass died, that I forget to look at what is there.

This is one of the lessons gardening teaches us — to see what is there today rather than what the yard was like in the past or what we hope the yard will look like in the future. In gardening, all we can work with is what exists in the present. We can try to recapture what we liked from previous years and can work for what we would like to see in the future, but that’s it. The rest is about what is here now. Of course, as with all lessons, what is taught and what is learned are two different things.

Another lesson I have yet to take to heart is that a garden is not just a work in progress but a work in flux. “Progress” connotes an unfinished project that can be finished. A garden is never finished and never can be. Things are in a constant flux, with seasonal plants coming and going, weeds sprouting and (hopefully) dying, bushes growing, perennials spreading, unknown seeds planting themselves. All sorts of things happen with or without the volition of the gardener, which makes it rather silly to get upset at anything that doesn’t perform the way we want. For example, I was upset last year that a large swath of my newly sodded lawn died from heat stress, but looking at the yard from a different perspective, I see that eventually my small lilac bushes will grow large and take over some of that would-be grassy area. But that won’t happen for several more years, so whatever the lesson I’m supposed to learn, I still reserve the right to be saddened by the demise of any of the green.

Still, the “flux” part of the lesson remains. Things will be changing rapidly in the next few weeks, and all that change will come even before I can plant any flower seeds or vegetable plants. (Around here, May 5th is the earliest date for safe planting. Until then, there will be grass greening up, tulips growing, lilacs blooming, and all sorts of other visual treats to be enjoyed.

Which brings me to perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from gardening: enjoy whatever the day brings. That is one lesson I am taking to heart. Or trying to, anyway.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.