Garden of Weedin’

Image by Muffet

I have dirt under my nails.

And that’s remarkable for two reasons:

1. I have nails.

I have been a lifelong nail biter.  My nails are usually bitten down to the nub, my cuticles a tangly, scraggly mess.  But the happy occasion of my beloved sister-in-law’s wedding two weekends ago – along with the help of an ill-flavored goo that I’ve been painting on my nails for the past month – prompted me to stop biting.

2. I am an indoor girl.

As much as I appreciate the power and bounty of nature, I have generally been one to prefer the comforts and ozone-depleting properties of central air conditioning.  My fair skin doesn’t take well to the sun and I cower from it under floppy hats and SPF 45.  I am quick to rinse the sand off my feet after leaving the beach.  I prefer hotels to camping.

Forget that: I don’t camp.

Becoming a parent has challenged me in this regard – the indoor one, not the nails one  – because my boys love to be outside.  They love to run barefoot in the grass and dig with sticks in the muddy patches at the end of our street.  They seem happiest when sweaty and coated in sticky sunblock.  So I’ve had to get over myself a bit and spend more time outside.

And I decided this spring – perhaps in a postpartum haze – to go whole hog and embrace the outdoors by starting a garden with Big Brother.

Given that I am descended from indoor people and have a thumb that is decidedly not green and that our backyard is populated by enough deer and rabbits to make it a fitting setting for an animated Disney movie, I decided to start small: with several containers on our deck.

We planted basil, bell peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, eggplant, pole beans, and lettuce on Memorial Day weekend.

And get this, people: we have produce!  Several strawberries and enough lettuce for a large salad every day.  Our basil plants throw a sweet-savory smell over the yard. The tomatoes are green on the vines and the beans, peppers, and eggplant are blooming.

I know I’m not the first to see the joys of gardening and the multiple metaphors it affords.  But I have been pleasantly surprised by the satisfaction I’ve gotten from hunching over our planters, picking out the odd weed and working with Big Brother to lug repurposed milk jugs full of water to pour over our crops.  The sweat feels good trickling down my face, the dirt feels meaningful under my nails.  And I’m not even jumping into the shower when we head inside.

The thing about gardening – I think – is that it is perfectly emblematic of the way I feel most content: not necessarily in achieving a goal, but in working toward one.  Not in eating the sweet, ripened strawberry, but in nurturing the small plant as it grows.

Sure, I will be happy later this summer when I serve my family a meal made largely out of plants grown in our garden.  But the joy will likely come in the experience of growing them with my large hands and Big Brother’s smaller ones.

Do you find more joy in the process or the product?

Do you garden?  Do you know if new strawberries will grow on the daughter plants that are now taking over our container?


36 responses to “Garden of Weedin’

  1. Lovely!

    I don’t know if I could ever decide between the joy in process and the joy in product – the creative experience that goes into the process, the nurturing of whatever it is, is such an intense feeling, but the pride and satisfaction when I have completed that project is so sweet. I have a very bad habit of starting projects and never finishing them, so there is a bit of extra pleasure when I can look at a completed project and know that I pushed through my natural indolence to get here.

    As for the strawberries – I can’t answer you there! One of my dreams is to finally live in a place where we can have even a container garden. It hasn’t happened yet, but I am still hopeful. By that point, I’ll probably be coming here to ask you for advice!

    • You make a great point, Louise, about taking special pride in finishing a project when one has a tendency to quit before the finish – a sentiment I can definitely relate to.

      One of the great things about this garden is that it is demanding my attention: if I didn’t tend to it a little bit each day, these plants would take over my deck. That aspect makes it easier for my attention to stay focused so that I can eventually get joy from the process and the product.

  2. I have moved some and put down roots in several spots. Just as I was getting our home ready for “the garden” it seemed it was time to move on. So, I adored apple orchards and the like where I could appreciate the bounty of others labors.

    Then we got to where I live now. imagine my joy when I picked an apple off my own tree! And was able, albeit feebly, to grow my own tomatoe. I am really still a learning-to-be gardener, but I find I am becoming a whole new person because of the dirt.

    I love it.The becoming. The growing. The greening of my life on a whole new level.

  3. So sweet. What a sense of satisfaction both you and your son must have. I think that it’s important to work toward goals with them. I love this. 🙂

  4. I have to admit, I’ve traditionally been a product kind of person. But I’ve been working so hard to change that and as I have I’ve found myself moving toward the beauty of the process. We’ve been wanting to tackle a garden in our own yard, but we’re simply overrun with the day-to-day care of what we already have (5 acres will do that to you!), but I feel quite inspired by this post Kristen.

  5. We have a similar garden on our deck 🙂 tomatoes, basil, cucumber, lavender and sunflowers… it’s our first “garden” so like you, I wanted to start small. Imagine my surprise when things actually started growing!! It was also a huge lesson in letting go, for me, as even though my children literally flooded the plants at points, they still grew. (seriously, I had to push floating sunflower seeds back into dirt more times than I’d care to admit… and yet they still grew!)

    • A huge lesson in letting go, indeed.

      What is it about kids, soil, and watering cans? I can’t believe how well these plants have taken root despite both boys’ best efforts to flood them. 🙂

  6. Your question of “Do you garden” made me laugh, because Hubby would scoff and mock if he saw it….when we had our old house, I insisted I wanted to plant a garden. I did. I insisted I enjoyed it. But really, I had Hubby dig the holes, put in the plants, do all the hard work. Not purposely, but I did. So he laughs at me when I say I like to garden, because he says “No, you just like to drop a couple of plants in a hole and watch ’em grow.”

  7. We have a container garden as well, with peas, carrots, tomatoes, spinach, basil, sage, chives, etc. Our garden has not fared so well, given the weather, but we’ve had plenty of spinach, radishes, basil, and now we have a few red Roma tomatoes! I love gardening, but more importantly, I love the chaos that ensues when you combines plants, boys, and dirt.

  8. What a delightful post – for so many reasons! Delightful to see how motherhood always challenges us to do more, be more, open ourselves up so we can share a broader world with our kids. And also, for the lovely metaphor you create of your gardening adventure.

    Process versus product? I think raising kids gives us a very textured appreciation for process – it’s all about process. Along with action, activity, playing in the dirt – and then doing laundry.


  9. Oh I am so jealous. I am also a non-camper, non-nature girl and had visions of starting a garden this summer too. I have the seed packets on my counter to prove it, unopened, next to the toaster oven, where they will probably still be next year.
    Great post, this is my first time visiting here, love your “voice.”

  10. Lately I am all about the process because it seems to me that there very rarely is a product. It’s either further down the road than I expected or it comes out different than I wanted. So I think the process is where it’s at!

    Kudos on your garden. I had no luck with the strawbs. I think it’s too hot here. But we had great lettuce in the spring and I’m waiting for tomatoes. This year is my first garden too and it’s been fun even I had no idea what I was doing. Huh. Kind of like parenting.

  11. I am so product driven that usually I complain that I am tired of being between point A and B. I just want to get to the destination. It’s a reflection of my restless spirit. What I am learning is that it is behavior I’ve subscribed to since I was young. Racing around trying to get somewhere. Now, with the help of meditation, writing and reading, I am learning to appreciate the process. It is still pretty difficult.

    • Hi Rudri,

      Your comment has me about the extent to which I am product-driven in other aspects of my life. I know I certainly used to be, but I wonder if becoming a parent – and the accompanying need to focus on the process – has helped me ease up in that respect.

  12. First I want to congratulate for managing to grow nails. I have been a nail biter my whole life and it’s a terrible habit to have…

    Second, congratulations on the garden! I think gardening is a great lesson in humility and patience. So many factors can influence your crop and it gives you more respect for farmers who make a living at growing food for everyone.
    My oldest has been great at helping me in the garden this year and he loves to see how big the plants are getting. We’ve been enjoying some chard and cherry tomatoes so far but have more veggies and fruit coming up, hopefully. My youngest still loves to dig the dirt best, so he’s got his spot reserved, away from our garden. I can’t wait till he decides to use dirt to grow food too!

    • I think I need to make a special digging spot for my two year old. He spends most of his time flooding our containers or dumping the soil onto the deck.

      As for the nail biting, I feel your pain. I think it was the foul-tasting nail polish I’ve been using that finally helped me stop. But I suspect I’ll start biting again once I stop using it. What a tough habit to break!

      • That’s what I’d be worried about too with the nail biting. Take the nasty polish away and you’re back at square one. Well, let’s see how you do and maybe you’ll inspire me to do it. My youngest bites his nails too (including his toe nails!) and he started when he was two and a half. I want to blame my husband for this, who constantly chews his nails in front of him…

        You definitely should assign a spot for your little one to dig in. I do that with my youngest and I can’t wait till he’s past that stage, that’s for sure!

      • Thanks, now I know not to waste my money on the nail polish! I’m sorry to hear about your relapse. I hope it was just a moment of distraction and you’ll be back on track soon.

  13. I like the rewards of a garden. And the concept of gardening seems appealing. But I just can’t do it. More power to you!

  14. Joy in the process is something that I can relate to. I suppose that i relate it to reading but I can apply it to other things as well. I guess that lately I have been engaged in a lot of wool gathering, but I see it as relating to life too.

    I want to enjoy the journey and not race to hit the finish line.

  15. love garderning, but unfortunately, mine is a very tiny one. wish it was bigger. and my girls enjoy it. 🙂

    • To be honest, I wish I had started smaller – mostly so that I would have had a better sense of how much each seedling would yield. I think we’re going to have enough basil for ten years worth of pesto! 🙂

      Thanks so much for stopping by Motherese, Martha!

  16. There is absolutely nothing like fresh basil with homegrown tomatoes. Enjoy your garden! I have a feeling you’re going to enjoy that dirt underneath your (new) fingernails!

  17. Yes my mountain flower—next stop: Composting.

  18. I had that goo on my nails when I was a kid. It was the worst taste. I still remember it. (I still bite, but mostly out of laziness when my nails get too long.)

    Re: gardening. I always think of Woody Allen’s comment: “I am two with nature.”

  19. I can’t wait until the hellish heat subsides (sometime in January) and I can replant my garden. A couple of years ago, we had tomatos, lettuce, onions, peppers, strawberries and a very nice herb garden.

    What I enjoyed more than the bounty of fresh veggies was the sense of purpose to what I was doing. Of watching something grow, caring for it, waiting to see how the decisions you made about it’s care would effect it’s growth. So much like parenting, wouldn’t you say?

    I have some basil in planters due to the extreme sun and heat and attempted to start another garden of herbs now that the summer rains have settled in. Here’s to hoping my thumb is still green.

    • “What I enjoyed more than the bounty of fresh veggies was the sense of purpose to what I was doing. Of watching something grow, caring for it, waiting to see how the decisions you made about its care would effect its growth. So much like parenting, wouldn’t you say?”

      So much like parenting indeed.

      So far, I’ve been pleased by our bounty, but just yesterday I noticed that some bugs have been getting to the leaves of our strawberry plants. Now I feel the need to research what’s going after our strawberries and how to stop it (preferably without spraying chemicals since I’m working with my little guys). And that’s another thing I like: motivation to learn something new. (Again, just like parenting!)

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