The Lonely Gardener

Photo by Pixabay on

Lonely, I’m Mr. Lonely
Bobby Vinton

The last word in lonesome is me
Roger Miller

As much as we tillers of the soil love gardening, there may be times when it can be a rather solitary activity. As much as we may enjoy it, not everyone shares our passion. And at first glance, gardening doesn’t seem to have a social component built into it. Ask your friends to join you at a bar or a ballgame, and you’ll probably get a few takers. Ask them to help you dig or weed, and your friends will suddenly remember that they already had plans to wash their hair, change the oil in their car, and attend a double feature of Zontar, the Thing From Venus and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Gardening can be a social activity, if you find the right people to do it with you.

For starters, if you have young children, you can ask them to join you. Children are naturally curious and want to join in on whatever their parents are doing. You can assign them simple tasks like planting seeds and seedlings or watering them in after their planted. When they get a little older, you can assign them a section of the garden to be their very own to plant what they’d like. What a great way for a family to spend time together. It also has the benefit of getting the kids away from the electronics and out into the fresh air and sunshine where the digging and planting can give them some much needed exercise. Furthermore, you just may find that at the dinner table, there are fewer struggles in getting your kids to eat their vegetables, because they are more likely to do so if they’ve had a hand in growing those vegetables.

Another way to make gardening a social activity is to take part in the planting of a community garden. Here, the members of a house of worship or neighborhood can join together to turn a formerly bare patch of ground into an oasis of fresh fruits and vegetables. Working together to accomplish this is a great way to build friendship and camaraderie and strengthen the bonds that hold together a neighborhood, synagogue, church, or mosque.

Finally somewhere in your town there is a group of gardeners who have come together to form a club. Why not join them? You can rub shoulders with other people who enjoy gardening as much as you do. You can exchange information, gain knowledge, and maybe even make some new friends. Gardening may not offer the same social currency that attending a concert, going on a bike ride, or attending a sporting event might offer. But there are opportunities a-plenty to join with other human beings and share the joy that gardening brings.


New Year, New You, New Garden

Happy New Year everyone! I hope your holidays were fun and festive, and that you are now well-rested and eager to take on 2023 and whatever it may bring!

Outside, the weather may be frigid and snowy, but inside where it is (I hope) toasty warm, the time is right to begin planning your vegetable garden. Spring will be here before you know it, and you don’t want to be caught with your tomatoes down and the rest of your desired seed stock out of stock.

How did your garden perform last year? Did everything you planted grow vigorously and yield a bumper crop of fruits and vegetables? Or was your garden a miserable failure where hardly anything grew and what did was eaten by the rabbits and squirrels? Or perhaps your results were somewhere between these two extremes? Whatever your results were, take heart. This is a brand new year! No matter how your garden performed last year, it’s all behind you now.

If your gardening efforts in 2022 were crowned with a frowny face, don’t lose hope. You are not a failure as a gardener. As I’ve already stated, this is a brand new year. Last year’s garden is in the past. The slate, or in this case, the plot is wiped clean and you now can start afresh and anew. Now is the time, while nature is sleeping under a bed of white, to take stock of last year’s garden and figure out what you did right and where you erred. Perhaps the heirloom tomatoes you planted succumbed to early blight. Then perhaps it would be better to plant a disease-resistant hybrid tomato instead. Or maybe the deer gorged themselves on the fruits of your labors last year. Well, then this year, you build a tall fence around your garden, one that the deer can’t jump over. With a keen eye and careful review, you can pinpoint where you went wrong and come up with solutions to correct the error, so that you can have a better chance of having the vigorous and productive garden of your dreams.

If last year’s gardening efforts met with success, congratulations! No doubt you are flushed with success and bursting with confidence, eager to turn that soil and plant those seeds and/or seedlings. So why not build on that success? Why not add some new dimensions to your gardening efforts? To be sure, it is perfectly fine to plant the same vegetables and use the same techniques as you did last year. “Don’t mess with success” and “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” are valid schools of thought. But last year’s success is proof positive that you are a skilled and successful gardener. So why not take that success and skill to new heights? If you grew in a raised bed, try adding a second raised bed, assuming that you have the room. Better still, grow vegetables in one raised bed and something like blueberries, which require a more acidic soil, in the other bed. Or how about trying your hand at growing sorghum, harvesting the grain, and then chopping up the canes and extracting the syrup? Or what about growing popcorn instead of sweet corn?

“I don’t know, Mark. I’ve always grown the same vegetables every year. I don’t want to rock the boat. What if the new things I plant fail?” What if they succeed? Think how proud, happy, and even more confident you’ll feel when your new fruit or vegetable cultivar yields a bountiful crop of a new and different flavor for your taste buds. And if it does turn out to be a bust, well, you’ve just learned one more thing that doesn’t work, and you don’t plant it again. Sure you’ll have some regret, but better regret for something you tried instead of something you didn’t. Last year’s garden, failure or success, is history. You are planting a new garden in the new year, and your new success will give you a new confidence for a new you!