Pay Attention and Think!


When I was a graduate student at Purdue University, my major professor, Dr. Robert Elkin, was constantly emphasizing two important points about how I conducted my work. “Pay attention to what you’re doing,” he would say, “and think about what’s going on.” For me, that meant measuring out animal feed carefully, making sure that I put the correct treated feed into the correct trough, knowing how many test tubes I needed for a particular assay and why, etc.

For you the gardener, Dr. Elkin’s advice also holds true. When you garden, do you know how much fertilizer to add based on the size of your garden? Do you even know the size of your garden? Do you know what you’re planting and why you are planting it? Have you read the directions on the seed packet or the plant tag and do you know how deep to plant the seed or plant, how far apart to space them, and whether the plant requires full sun or part shade?

I’ve said this on many occasions, both in this newsletter and in my classes, but it bears repeating. Gardening is a fun hobby, but partaking in it does not give you a license to let your brain fall asleep. You still have to exercise thought as well as sweat. If you want a successful garden with high yields of sweet, crunchy, and mouthwatering fruits and vegetables, you have to do a little homework. You must think about the previous years’ gardens (better yet, keep a log), and determine what worked and what didn’t so you can repeat the former and learn from (and not repeat) the latter. If using power tools, you must be careful and pay attention so you don’t damage your garden or yourself. You must know what plants (and what cultivars of those plants) work best in your garden. If you aren’t doing all of the aforementioned, then all your toil and sweat will be for naught.

The bible says that faith without works is dead. May I offer a similar directive for gardening? Sweat without thought yields a harvest of nothing.

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