Spring has finally arrived here in Minnesota, and while there are still small patches of snow deep in the woods and along the shaded hillsides, it appears like our wonderfully white winter is over. We had a marvelous winter, long and snowy and cold, but it’s time to move the skis and boots to the back of the storage closet and bring out the sandals, frisbees, and lawnchairs that haven’t seen the sun since October.
And of course, the arrival of spring inaugurates the gardening season, a season that begins now and if done well, can send us deep into next winter with freezers and jars full of homegrown goodies. I help manage the community garden for seminary residents, thus early spring has become a time where Caitlyn and I not only prepare our own garden, but help our fellow seminary gardeners prepare and initiate their gardens.
Since seminary residents change from year to year (some move out, graduate, etc.) one of our efforts in the spring is to raise enthusiasm for the garden and encourage new gardeners to use the unclaimed plots. Recently, (at our daughter’s birthday shindig in fact) we started asking people if they were interested in gardening this year, and to our surprise several people were like, “Heck yah, let’s grow some stuff!” Before long, people were leaving the party to go get seed-starter kits (don’t worry, our daughter didn’t hold it against them).
Well, I guess I should back up here. Not everyone signed on without any reservations. In fact, many people responded with something like, “Really? I’ve never gardened before, what do you do?”
And when we told them that the first step was simply to start seeds indoors by getting some seeds and soil from the store, then put them in cups or trays, they were like, “Hmmm…and that works?”
Now, I’m not saying this to make fun of anyone. In fact, my wife and I gardened on our own for the first time two years ago, and in that week or two between the planting and the emergence of the seedlings we walked around wondering, “Are we crazy, there’s no way a couple novices like us can actually grow anything.” But sure enough, after several days the garden was full of miraculous little sprouts, and they just kept growing and growing and growing. It was fantastic!
So I’ve spent a lot of time the last few years talking to people about gardening, and nearly every time I talk to someone who wants to try it for the first time the conversation goes something like, “I’d love to garden but I’ve just never done it.”
“Well, it’s really not that hard, you just put seeds in soil, add water, and things begin to grow.”
“And that really works?”
Of course, I then talk a little about transplanting seedlings, weeding, and harvesting, but the biggest thing is convincing people that they don’t have to hold an advanced degree in agriculture in order to grow a tomato.
Without getting too philosophical here, I think this common reaction points to a larger trend in our society. For the most part, we live in a culture that out-sources everything, so whenever we need something done we simply dial up the available professional or head to the store for whatever product might fix the problem. And this is fine; it means that if you’re good at something you can probably make a living doing it. But the problem comes when we assume that technology and expertise must mediate every process in our lives. So something as natural and simple as growing a carrot becomes intimidating and foreign because we don’t think we’ve got what it takes.
So I say all this to remind us that seeds, soil, sun, and water have been doing their thing for a long time. If you’re thinking about gardening but you’re worried that your thumbs are just so…well…not green, go ahead and give it a shot. Find out what sorts of things generally grow well in your area, and then drop those seeds in the dirt and see what happens.
And for a little added inspiration, here are some photos of our seedlings this year. We planted these about two weeks ago and they are already rockin’! One tray is mostly leafy greens that we can harvest in June (while we still live here), and the other tray is full of flowers to decorate the garden and window boxes. We hope to transplant in about a month!